As a brewer, crowdfunding is a great way to get a finger on the pulse of what consumers want.
But allowing the people to vote on important business or branding issues can also be dangerous, because a lot of people are really stupid—a risk which is compounded when those democratic principles are transposed to the Internet hate machine.
This is something that Henry Schwartz, the CEO of Milwaukee-based brewery MobCraft, learned the hard way this when he let the Internet decide what he should call his next beer. Somehow, the user-submitted name "Date Grape"—described as "a nice English mild flavored [sic] with dates and fermented with grape juice"—found itself among the eight finalists, leading to online protests, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Schwartz quickly addressed the issue in a post on MobCraft's Facebook page. He made it clear that he did not want "rape culture" to be associated with his brewery and that the offensive name slipped through during the name submission and voting process because of a lack of screening process.
"I feel horrible that this oversight happened, the beer name has been changed and we now have a process where our team vets names before they ever appear publicly," Schwartz explained. "We would never promote rape culture, as it is very serious issue never to be joked about. Again my apologies for this."
Schwartz told MUNCHIES that MobCraft doesn't know who submitted the name, but that the account has been suspended and that all orders made by the account have been suspended. "We put a manual checkpoint in our automated system, so all recipes can be vetted before they are ever public-facing," Schwartz added. The original webpage for Date Grape has also been 404'd, meaning that it is no longer in the running for the naming contest.
"In all honesty, we missed it coming through the site, [which] changed the way we vet beers coming through. We're even donating a percent of revenues from the taproom to a local rape crisis center here in Milwaukee. Rape isn't a concept to take lightly, and we're embarrassed and sorry that this beer idea surfaced on our platform."
Sadly, though not entirely surprisingly, this isn't the first time that the "Date Grape" pun has been used. In 2014, a Spokane cocktail bar called the Daiquiri Factory came under fire from both rape survivors and Kraft Foods—maker of Kool-Aid—for inventing a "Date Grape Kool-Aid" daiquiri. Real nice.
Last year, Budweiser decided to ditch their "The perfect beer for removing 'No' from your vocabulary for the night" slogan, as well as the #UpForWhatever Bud Light campaign due to concerns that they promoted rape culture.
A reminder to alcohol producers: Try to recognize how rape-y this stuff sounds before it's too late.