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Man Sues Brewery After Pink Beer Promotion Made Him Feel 'Forced to Identify as Female'

Thomas Bower told BrewDog that he believed he'd been the victim of sex discrimination.

by Jelisa Castrodale
Jun 18 2019, 6:30pm

Image courtesy Brewdog

One of the most underrated subreddits is r/AmITheAsshole, which does exactly what its not-safe-for-work URL implies: it allows users to write out the details of non-violent arguments and minor conflicts to determine who, if anyone, is the asshole in the situation. After clicking that ‘post’ button, other Redditors will respond with either YTA (You’re the Asshole), NTA (Not the Asshole), or ESH (Everyone Sucks Here), and a brief explanation for why they chose that particular abbreviation.

Although Thomas Bower decided to take a craft beer company to court instead of just typing about it to internet strangers, there’s never been—and may never be—a better example of Everyone Sucks Here.

First, some background. Last March, Scottish beermaker BrewDog swapped the blue labels on its Punk IPA for pink ones and temporarily rebranded it as Pink IPA, because WOMEN’S RIGHTS OR WHATEVER! The so-called “beer for girls” was released in advance of International Women’s Day, and served as BrewDog’s attempt to appear interested in gender equality.

“Pink IPA is BrewDog’s clarion call to close the gender pay gap in the UK and around the world and to expose sexist marketing to women, particularly within the beer industry,” it wrote in a blog post. “This is our overt parody on the failed, tone-deaf campaigns that some brands have attempted in order to attract women.”

BrewDog was still insecure enough about its “overt parody” that it tagged the Pink IPA announcement with #sarcasm and a facepalm emoji. The response to the beer was mixed; although some praised BrewDog’s effort to address the wage gap, they criticized the delivery. “BrewDog is trying to be clever, sarcastic and ironic but I think it may be viewed as a patronising beer from one of the big boys,” Sara Barton, the director of Brewster’s Brewing Company, told The Guardian. “[I]t may be too subtle for people to understand, over their heads and therefore patronising.”

Aaand that brings us to Dr. Bower. For the few weeks that Pink IPA was available, customers who “identify as female”—BrewDog’s words—could get it for 20 percent less than the cost of a Punk IPA. The 27-year-old Bower was apparently so into this promotion, that he went to the BrewDog bar in Cardiff, Wales, and tried to order a £4 ($5) bottle.

The bartender told Bower that, as a dude, he wasn’t eligible for the £4 Pink IPA, but he could still get a £5 ($6.30) Punk IPA—and, again, the two brews are LITERALLY THE SAME BEER. Bower refused. “After a bit of a back and forth with me protesting this, I felt forced to identify as female and was then able to get the drink for £4,” Bower told WalesOnline. “I complained to the company about this and they said it wasn't discrimination because the price difference was part of a national campaign to raise awareness about the gender pay gap.”

Bower wasn’t satisfied with this answer, and he told BrewDog that he believed he’d been the victim of sex discrimination, and that he was willing to take them to court over it. When he didn’t get a response, he did that very thing, claiming damages for “direct discrimination and breach of the Equality Act 2010.”

Yes, Bower dragged this to small claims court, and District Judge Marshall Phillips pretty much agreed with his premise. “In my judgment, it is clear that in this case the claimant has been directly discriminated against by the defendant because of his sex,” Phillips said in his judgment in favor of Bower. “The fact that by identifying as female he was still able to purchase a Pink IPA makes no difference. I accept what Dr Bower says, namely that identifying as female was the only way he could purchase a Pink IPA at a cost of £4."

Judge Phillips also said that Bower had to feel “humiliated” and that it “wasn’t a pleasant experience” for him. Bower—who represented himself in court, because of course he did—was awarded £1,000 ($1,254) in damages, which he plans to donate to a pair of different charities. (MUNCHIES has reached out to BrewDog for comment.)

Yeah, everyone sucks here. ESH, times infinity.

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