Earlier this week, Facebook users posted numerous complaints about a beer selection at MobCraft Brewery named Date Grape.
The craft brewery has a unique business model that invites people to submit via its website original beer concepts that are later pitted against one another in an online competition. The beer that receives the most votes – in the form of pre-orders – is brewed by the MobCraft brewers and sold in the tap room. Date Grape, a play on the words "date rape," was one of this month’s submissions.
CEO Henry Schwartz was quick to issue an apology, remove the beer from the contest and post that the Walker’s Point brewery would donate a percentage of sales this Saturday to a "rape crisis center" in Milwaukee.
"I think this is where social media does some good," says Milwaukee’s Mike Morgan. "MobCraft is a solid local business who made a marketing error and are correcting it."
However, others are now calling for MobCraft to address three of its beer labels that feature racial stereotype caricatures.
Señor Bob, an imperial cream ale, shows a sombrero-wearing Mexican drinking beer on a barrel. Another label, for an IPA, called Sippin’ On G&J (gin and juice) features a guy with a hops bud for a head and braided hair leaning against a vintage convertible. Arabian Date Night features a date, as in the fruit, wearing a turban.
OnMilwaukee reached out to Schwartz via email and social media and asked him if he found the labels offensive. At first his response was unclear.
"Thanks for noticing the changes we've made to build labels that are non offensive," he wrote. "We take user ideas for beers and guide them through creation looking through a socially just lens."
When asked again if he found the labels offensive and if they were going to be used in the future, Schwartz responded, "the labels you referenced are from beers in the past. They have been changed online, and any future production runs of the beers will have different labels."
Ela Perez went to MobCraft during its opening weekend earlier this year and returned recently for a football game. She is not going back.
"While I did enjoy their drinks, I do find it a little disheartening that they did poke humor at a few different stereotypes and it's actually insulting to me as a Latina," says Perez. "It absolutely affects my willingness to do business with them: as someone who is very cognizant about the businesses I support and what they are doing in and out of their communities, why would I support a business that only further continues to promote stereotypes and ideas I’m against?"
Susie Seidelman, one of the first people to call out MobCraft on the Date Grape concept, acknowledged how Schwartz handled the situation and hopes he will now do the same with the labels.
"I appreciate when MobCraft read our concerns about Date Grape, they listened. They didn’t try to say ‘hey, lighten up,’ or ‘we didn’t mean for this to be offensive.’ They listened, apologized and removed the beer from the running," says Seidelman.
"That is exactly the model they should follow with the concerns people have brought forward about racist beer labels they’ve produced."
Seidelman does not think MobCraft intended to offend anyone and hopes the company sees this as a learning experience.
"Racism is rarely intentional. I don’t believe MobCraft produced these labels thinking ‘what a great way to be racist.’ They didn’t think about racism at all, because as white men, they’ve rarely had to," says Seidelman.
Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.
As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.
She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that.
Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.
Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.
In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!
When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.