Banned Ralph Steadman beer label headed to court

Regulators in North Carolina found artwork by famed artist Ralph Steadman, on Flying Dog's Freezin' Season beer, somehow objectionable. Naturally, Flying Dog, who has a history of winning these arguments, has them headed for court.


The offending label—like all Flying Dog beers—contains a distinctive cartoon image by illustrator Ralph Steadman, whose work with the Maryland-based brewery dates back to its roots in the gonzo-lands near Aspen, Colorado. It's not clear exactly what the state's regulators object to—though the naked, humanoid figure on the beer's label does sport a small appendage between its legs. Caruso says he suspects that "tail-like thing" is what triggered the ban.

Officially, however, all Flying Dog has been told is that the label is "inappropriate" and "in bad taste." That is all it takes for North Carolina to prohibit the beer from being marketed, sold, and distributed. The North Carolina ABC did not return requests for comment on Tuesday.

"The regulation is, on its face, in constitutional 'bad taste,' as it is in clear violation of the First Amendment," attorneys for Flying Dog, including veteran First Amendment lawyers Greg Doucette and Marc Randazza, argue in court documents. They say banning the beer label is an unconstitutional viewpoint-based restriction on speech, similar to restrictions that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly struck down.