ABAC has determined that one of GABS Top 10 Hottest 100 beers – Hop Nation’s Jedi Juice – breaches its rules relating to alcohol marketing and minors.
The NEIPA features a Princess Leia-style character on the can and an anonymous complainant said that he went to a bottle shop with teenage boys – aged between 14 and 15 – who were very excited when they saw the Jedi Juice packaging and asked if they could have some because it was “so cool”.
Hop Nation argued that Star Wars is a pop culture phenomenon for a wide demographic, and that the average Star Wars devotee is a male aged 18-44.
It also said the reference to ‘Juice’ in the name describes of the taste and aroma of the beer (New England Indian Pale Ale); the image on the can is stencil art of a woman who resembles Princess Leia covered in tattoos holding a smoking gun, with the depiction resembling street art or grafitti rather than a cartoon or animation; the product is clearly labelled as alcohol and would not be confused with a soft drink.
Another point raised by the company was that there are a number of other Star Wars referencing alcohol products on the market in Australia.
Hop Nation is not a signatory to ABAC and not contractually obliged to abide by panel decisions. However it has made use of ABAC pre-vetting service in relation to other beers it sells, including its pilsner The Damned, The Heart Pale Ale and The Punch, a mango gose. Unfortunately, Jedi Juice’s packaging was not pre-vetted by ABAC before going on sale.
The Panel made a final determination that the product name and packaging was in breach of Part 3(b) of the Code.
Hop Nation initially sought a rehearing of this decision, but has since decided to abide by it.
Sam Hambour, co-founder of Hop Nation told Brews News that the brewery understood the importance of the code and would be looking to work with panel in the future.
“The idea is to work through our packaging, we’ve got a year’s worth of packaging to get through and we’ll work with ABAC to change the packaging going forward.
“For us, we use a lot for creativity in our artwork and some people will perceive that as appealing to a broad spectrum depending on viewpoint, you can’t win them all.“
The Crafty Pint interviewed Hambour last year over concerns craft
brewers’ predilection for puns and pop culture references could run foul of intellectual property laws.
He said he didn’t initially think about the connection to Star Wars when the beer was created in 2017 because it was named after a strain of marijuana.
“It had some good feedback at GABS so we decided to make it again, but [it meant] we needed a decal because it was going into kegs and pubs,” he said.
“When we launched it [at the brewery], without even advertising it there were two people who came dressed up: one as Princess Leia and one as Luke. I just went, ‘Woah! This is a can of worms that’s been opened right here.’.”
But Hambour added that he believed the beer’s popularity was due to it tasting good, not because of it’s name.
“I think there is some novelty pop culture factor initially but, from our point of view, the fact that it’s stayed around and has continued to be popular is down to the brewers and the beer,” he said.
At the time of publication, Hop Nation hadn’t heard from Lucasfilm or its parent company Disney.
“I was always thinking we might get a letter and, if we did, we’d just stop making it,” he says. “It hasn’t come yet, people still want to buy and drink it, so we’ll keep making it.”