Heartland Brewery receives backlash for ‘racist’ slogan
The beerhouse is drawing criticism for its Bavarian Black Lager, which promises customers will become ‘a slave to the flavor.’ Several people, including Kristen John Foy of the National Action Network, say the slogan is racist and inappropriate.
By Thomas Tracy
Heartland Brewery is drawing some bad buzz over a slogan that for many invokes slavery.
The boneheaded beerhouse’s Bavarian Black Lager promises customers will become “a slave to the flavor” — sparking a brouhaha among customers who believe the seasonal suds’ saying smacks of racism.
“It’s just wrong,” said one white patron as he stared up at the sign at the brewery chain’s Union Square location.
“It’s actually crazy,” added a 42-year-old man who would only identify himself as Ryan.
“There’s a better way to express what they’re trying to express without eliciting that mindset.”
The beer slogan’s racist interpretation wasn’t lost on Ryan’s father-in-law.
“I can see that people will find it offensive,” said the 70-year-old man, who only gave his first name as Russ. “It doesn’t bother me, but I can see that it will bother someone else.”
The brewery has also been criticized on social media.
“Hey a-------,” Drew Cerria wrote on the company’s Facebook page on Nov. 12. “In case you’re not aware, that’s totally racist and f----- up!”
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.
At Heartland’s Midtown location, drinkers were stunned by the tasteless tease — once it was pointed out to them.
“Now I feel bad that I didn’t recognize it before,” said Astoria resident Natalie King, 31, who is white. “I think these days people are immune to the word slave.”
The dark, slightly bitter lager has ruby highlights, chocolate and caramel malts, and 6.5% alcohol. The glass it’s served in has a picture of a white dominatrix balancing a pint on a leather-clad submissive’s behind, hinting at a different explanation for the word “slave.”
Employees said the Bavarian Black Lager has been part of the pub’s winter menu for years and is poured at all of its locations. The beer is tapped right after Halloween and is always served in the “slave” glasses, employees explained.
No one has complained about it before, they said.
“I really haven’t heard that about (the beer),” said Anna Anderson, the manager of the Union Square location, who is African-American.
Many black customers and employees shrugged off the questionable undertones.
“It’s a beer,” said Taryn Harris, 40. “I didn’t interpret it that way. People are slaves to whatever they like. They’re a slave to their addictions, be it food or sex. That’s how I interpreted it, as an addiction, not anything else.”
Maquino Sylvester, 21, a waiter at the Union Square location, also saw nothing wrong with the beer’s logo.
“It’s supposed to be something hot,” he said, looking at the picture. “I’m not offended, but I’m no racist. Why should we focus on black or white? We are all going to the same place one day.”