Lakeville Brew Crew

Lakeville Brew Crew retracts contentious beer names

Less than a week after Lakeville Brew Crew announced plans to label its craft beers with contentious names, including “Flint Michigan Tap Water,” “Black Beer Matters” and “White Guilt,” owners Jon Duncan and Rodney Chlebek have changed course and issued an apology.

“During this time, we have had numerous conversations about the best way to move forward with the partnership. The first thing that we had to do was accept that we made mistakes,” a written statement from Duncan and Chlebek read. “We neglected to put ourselves in the shoes of other people. As a result of ongoing conversations, the list of beer names has been wiped clean.”

After a Tribune article published Sunday detailed how the not-yet-opened Lakeville brewery planned to name their various brews, the brewery received regional and national attention. Food & Wine magazine published an article about it, as did the Detroit Free Press. As a result, the business saw mixed, but overwhelmingly negative, reactions and reviews on its Facebook page.

“I just read the article about the clever beer names being proposed and I just wanted to say thank you. Satire is the best weapon against the problems of our society and brings awareness to issues people are afraid to talk about openly,” wrote Jasper Crowley of Georgia in his Facebook review. “I respect you for taking that bold initiative regardless of the potential backlash. I can’t wait to find myself in your pub and I hope your beer is successful enough to make (its) way down to Georgia.”

The names, Duncan told the Tribune last week, were originally created to bring awareness and discussion to current issues, such as the Flint water crisis.

“If people can come and talk to us about (the names), that would be fine. … None of this is done out of hate, none of this is done out of making fun of it,” Duncan said July 11. “That was to bring awareness to the issues.”

But fellow brewers geographically closer to the Flint issue have since spoken out saying discussion is simply not enough. The owner of Eternity Brewing Co. in Genoa Township, Mich., which is between Detroit and Lansing, suggested the Indiana owners put action to their words.

“If the intent of Lakeville Brew Crew is to raise awareness of the Flint Water Crisis, perhaps owners instead should encourage patrons to donate to the United Way of Genesee County’s Flint Water Fund,” Dayna Tran, co-owner of Eternity Brewing, told the Detroit Free Press.

Chlebek said the responses catalyzed a reflection on his and Duncan’s part and the decision to change the names was quickly made.

“It was poorly marketed and it was done without considering the impact of what it would have on other people,” Chlebek said. The brewer also said that while there are no plans to make any contributions to specifically assist the Flint Water Crisis as some feedback suggested, they are exploring other philanthropic opportunities.

The business owners want to “wipe clean” the names and move forward with their plans of opening the brewery in the fall in Lakeville.

“We appreciate the honesty of all the responses that we received and we hope that the public will afford us the grace to move forward while keeping a greater sense of community in mind,” the statement read[…]

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