A Seriously Bad Decision

OK, take a look at the label to the right. It shows an elf taking aim at Santa's sleigh with a slingshot.

If you think its mere presence on a beer bottle is going to lead underage kids down the road to degradation you fit into one of two categories:

• You know only really stupid kids.
• You work for the state of Connecticut.

The Nutmeg State is trying to block sales of a British beer called Seriously Bad Elf that uses the label. Not because of any implied violence or mischief, mind you, but because officials claim the label might entice children to drink.

State liquor regulations bar alcohol advertising with images that might appeal to children, and the regulations specifically mention Santa Claus.

"There are certain symbols and images that appeal more strongly to children and this regulation includes the most obvious among them," Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said. "The state has wide discretion to regulate the sales of alcohol."

Perhaps it's only a matter of degree that got the state Liquor Control Division's attention. Shelton Brothers, a Massachusetts distributor that sold the seasonal beer in Coinnecticut when it was called Bad Elf and then Very Bad Elf, never had a problem in Connecticut before. In fact, it sells its imports in 30 states with no special restrictions.

"We even had a beer called Santa's Butt last year," said Dan Shelton, co-owner. "They didn't notice Santa's Butt, but they notice this one. How can you miss that big red thing? Minors are not going to be looking to buy beer because Santa Claus is on the label."

If you're interested in trying it, it's a bitter winter ale brewed at the Ridgeway Brewery in England. You just might not be able to sample it in Connecticut unless Shelton's case, being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, turns out in his company's favor. It has a lot of money riding on the final decision because Connecticut has given strong indications it also will prohibit Shelton Brothers from selling another seasonal brew, Warm Welcome Nut Brown Ale, which also has a picture of Santa Claus on the label.

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