Sunday, January 07, 2007

Santa's Butt Winter Porter

Portland, Maine - The state's beer sellers are now free to put Santa's Butt Winter Porter on their shelves.

The brew, along with two beers with labels depicting bare-breasted women, had been off shelves after the Maine Bureau of Liquor Enforcement blocked a beer importer from selling them.

State officials worried the Santa's Butt label might appeal to children. It has a rear view of a beer-drinking Santa sitting on a "butt," a large barrel brewers once used to store beer.

But the state's actions were reversed after the state attorney general's office determined beer importer probably would win the lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union filed on its behalf last month.

A court probably would find the beer labels to be protected under the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech, Chris Taub, an assistant state attorney general, said Friday.

The other previously banned beers feature paintings of bare-breasted women. One painting hangs in the Louvre - Eugene Delacroix's "Liberty Leading the People" - and the other was commissioned by the importer.

The importer has challenged similar bans in other states, and its owner said Thursday he has no plans to drop his lawsuit in Maine because state law still allows officials to deny applications
for beer labels that contain "undignified or improper" illustrations.

About a dozen beer and wine labels, out of 10 000 to 12 000 reviewed, are rejected each year on such grounds.

"You can't have a law based on propriety and dignity. It's too vague," the owner, Dan Shelton, said.

Taub said his office is reviewing the rule but declined to comment further.

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