Station 1-1-9. Horham Airfield Suffolk. The original Station 1-1-9. WWII base of the 95thBomb Group. Home to American Airman living in Suffolk. The closest airfield to our brewery. Home to American Hops allied to British Brewing.
We’re story tellers as well as makers of beer we love. We’re proud of our local area and wanted to share its history, so Station 1-1-9 became our company name. Our beers were named after planes that flew. Our labels were a nod to the pin-up art that adorned those planes. Pin-up art; A morale booster, a mascot, something to remind the airmen that were risking their lives they had something worth fighting for. The majority of these aircraft flew from Suffolk.
Last November another brewery called us out on Twitter for being sexist. They didn’t like the pin-up art as part of our brand. They claimed our labels flouted the Portman Groups guidelines around their ‘Sexual Success” Rule. The ‘Sexual Success’ Rule 3.2 states you can’t use strong sexual images or use your labelling to suggest that drinking your product will make you more attractive to the opposite sex.
Did our labels do that?
They tagged the Portman Group. We never heard from them. They also tagged a load of beer gurus who feel strongly about sexism in the beer industry. We did hear from them. Some were measured. Some were rude. Some were threatening.
It’s such a shame that our pin-up art was stigmatised. It was attacked. It was defended. It was met with anger. It was met with adoration. It was met with indifference. It gave us bad press.
Even our local paper reported on the issue. For each person that took exception, there were ninety-nine that adored it. Pin-up art has been around since the forties. It helped with the post-Victorian rejection of female bodily shame. We felt our beautiful, commissioned art work had context, had relevance.
We didn’t want to make people angry. We didn’t want to be threatened. We didn’t feel our brand crossed a line. Beautiful works of art produced in a period style.
Some of the defence of our brand was sexist. That made us uncomfortable. It made us think. If we’re going to move forward in the beer industry. We are going to have to change our branding. We can’t be seen as sexist. Our company is a 50/50 gender split. We have daughters who we have brought up to be strong women. Some of them work in the brewery. We are very much for equality, regardless of gender.
So sadly, in the spring we said goodbye to our beautiful art. Into the archives they went. Now you would have seen our holding branding. We painted over the girls and kept the plane names.
This change was met with just as much anger. People wanted the girls back. We got attacked for being ‘spineless’. But we just want to make great beer and tell good stories.
What are your thoughts? What would you do? Who’s right? Who’s wrong? We don’t want to offend people, we don’t want to be offended. But, we are interested in the discussion.
And we’d like to hear it here.
Call: 0044 1379 882230
AWRS reference No: XGAW 000 0010 9064
Company Registration No: 08864021
VAT No: 199074267