NY Brewery Invokes Slavery In Conjunction With Seasonal Black Lager

In Depth

Oh hey, look: white people doing something dumb and insensitive about race. It must be any day of the week again.

This time it’s New York City’s Heartland Brewery, which serves a Bavarian Black Lager as a seasonal beer during the winter. That in and of itself is obviously fine — the problem is that the drink’s unique glasses (among other promotional materials) are emblazoned with the phrase “you’ll be a slave to the flavor.” Unsurprisingly and understandably, people are none too pleased with this:

Kirsten John Foy of the National Action Network called the beer’s slogan “absolutely inappropriate, offensive and intentionally provocative.”
“At a time when race relations are at the heart of the national and local discourse, Heartland Brewery has decided to evoke the pain and trauma of our nation’s most shameful and hateful legacy and use it as a cheap marketing ploy,” he said.

Given the picture on the glass of a dominatrix and a member of her clientele, it seems pretty clear Heartland’s intent wasn’t to refer to the African slave trade. Let’s just get that out of the way, not because it matters, but because you know full well people are going to start shouting it as if it does.

Look, it really doesn’t matter what Heartland’s intent was; if I accidentally punched someone while stretching my arms in a public park, then stubbornly refused to apologize and insisted I’d done nothing wrong because I didn’t intend to hit them, I’d be an asshole. The decent thing to do at this point would be for Heartland to say “Oops, we fucked up, we’re going to fix it, and we’re sorry.” Heartland, however, has decided to go in a different direction:

Joe [sic]* Bloostein, owner of Heartland Brewery, said the “slave” reference “clearly refers” to the master-slave S&M scene on the glass, nothing more.
“Connecting the world ‘black’ in Bavarian Black Lager to black people is incredibly farfetched,” Bloostein said. “Alleging any connection to racism is ridiculous.”

Employees (of all races, it’s worth noting) also claim “no one has complained about it before,” which might be true, but race relations haven’t been at as much of a national fever pitch as they are now since at least the 90’s, if not earlier. That’s what happens when one cop doesn’t even have to stand trial for murdering an 18-year-old kid (thanks in part to blatantly unethical behavior on the part of the prosecuting attorney in the case), then two others decide to straight-up murder a 12-year-old with a toy gun, to say nothing of the hundreds of other victims of police violence. People are pissed, and they damn well have a right to be. You guys really didn’t think about the greater context here?

Come on, Jon. Don’t go full Dan Snyder with this. Change the glasses, because all you’re doing by huffing and puffing about the “ridiculousness” of the concerns of PoC is making yourself look like a dick. If you need to serve the beer in plain pint glasses because it’s too late to have new ones made, it’s still better than the alternative. It’s not going to lose you business to use plain pint glasses, but it very well could to dig in your heels and be as New York as possible about your boo-boo.

* His name is actually Jon Bloostein; the NY Daily News incorrectly listed it as “Joe.”

Image via Heartland Brewery/Facebook.

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