Controversy brewing over beer billboard

Grand Rounds Brewing Company is defending a beer label it says has a bigger meaning than what first meets the eye.

Posted: Dec 15, 2017 7:20 PM
Updated: Dec 16, 2017 1:47 PM

ROCHESTER, Minn. - Grand Rounds Brewing Company's "Easy A Minnesota Blonde" is a partial reference to company CEO Tessa Leung's favorite movie.

"The 'A' is red in reference to the 'Scarlet Letter' by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the name 'Easy A' is a reference to one of my favorite movies with Emma Stone, and the artwork is inspired by Roy Lichtenstein," Leung said. "What they have in common is that the perpception of women is not what it seems." 

Leung said the label is meant to be empowering and has the full story behind the label here

"I'm really sad and a little disheartened, that our story as women and where we can focus our energy is being side-stepped by a beer label," Leung said. 

Katy Lee is a local pastor who says Grand Rounds is one of her favorite breweries, but is making a point to stand up against the label she finds offensive. 

"I just saw the image of this woman who looked like she was leaning back and sort of in a position of kind of weakness, um, with a man kissing her and sort of all the #metoo words kind of stuck in my head and just made me feel like this was not right," Lee said.

Unlike Lee, Leung views the artwork as the woman kissing the man, and emphasizes art is often controversial and interpreted in different ways. 

Lee also said in today's day and age, it's important to be sensitive to others. 

"I think it's just a time to be really, really sensitive and to be careful. I just don't think the way they were intending this artwork to be is coming across to the community," she said. 

But Lee said it's not the label in the brewery, it's the placement on the billboard that upsets her. 

"I think the billboard itself is particularly offensive and problematic because people, you know, 16-year-old girls are just driving by this and aren't allowed to go into the brewery and get the explanation," Lee said. 

Leung gave a written statement which reads in part:

"I am strong female business owner who has worked in this community for over 10 years. I work with a very strong, confident intelligent and predominantly female team. I have and always will work to support and mentor women in business, in the board room and in the classroom. 
Even the tech sheet about our beer references that women are strong on their own in spite of being blonde or a woman. It is ironic that a label so many women saw and understood as empowering, as a wink and nod to the real meaning, is now being called out for being exactly the opposite. We cannot and should not allow ourselves to loose sight of the real issue and problem at hand, sexual abuse and harassment of women in the workplace. We need to address and fix that problem. Not focus on a beer name and label. "

Lee said even though the brewery's intent was not meant to be offensive, she believes the billboard should be taken down. 

"Sometimes our intent and the result of our intent are two very different things," she said. "I think that matters especially when we are community leaders or people who are in power, we need to pay attention to what people's initial reactions are to something."

She plans to start a petition to ask Grand Rounds Brewing Company to take down the billboard if they do not do it on their own. Leung said she has no plans to take it down. 

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