One of my articles during Advent was about the transgender properties of various evergreens. At the beginning of November another cross-gender plant hit the UK headlines. This time is was a variety of hops that was used to make what was labelled as the “world’s first non-binary, transgender beer”.
The Scottish brewer
BrewDog launched a new beer going by the name of No Label in November in its newest
pub. Situated in the gay haven of Soho, London, the brewers said that
premiering the new beer in that location emphasised that “just like humans,
beer can be whatever the hell it wants to be, and proud of it.”
What makes No Label beer “transgender”
is that it is made from hop flowers that have changed gender. Just like the evergreens
mentioned last year there are male and female plants. In hops it is usually
only female plants that produce the female flowers that are used in brewing.
This is because they are larger and more developed. Very often brewers remove
all male plants because they have smaller seedless flowers and are sterile.
When female hop plants
start to grow male flowers it is often a sign of distress. Just like the
evergreens it may be a means of conserving energy and nutrients.
The No Label beer is
brewed primarily from the smaller male hops flowers from a variety of hops
called Jester. This recently developed variety was developed and “patented” by
Charles Faram and Company, hop merchants of Worcestershire, who claim Jester is
prone to “altering sex” naturally.
The new beer was developed
with the intention of appealing to the lgbt community, even though some
sections of the community have criticised BrewDog over their perceptions of
BrewDog caused controversy
last September when they began running an advertising campaign which many found
to be transphobic. The ad featured, amongst others, a couple of bearded men
dressed as female sex-workers posing seductively in a window. The criticism
wasn’t universally negative but the boss of BrewDog revealed his less than
understanding nature by criticising his critics online in a less than understanding
manner. He referred to people who signed an online petition as “armchair
When No Label beer was
launched the UK’s leading lgbt charity Stonewall gave it a mixed reception.
They questioned BrewDog’s interpretation of “non-binary” and “transgender beer”.
At the same time they welcomed BrewDog’s intention of donating all profits from
the sale of No Label to a London-based organisation called Queerest of the
Queer. BrewDog had been discussing the beer with Queeerest of the Queer for a
while before it was launched. Naturally, Queerest of the Queer has nothing but
praise for No Label. But things are not quite as philanthropic as it seems.
Queerest of the Queer is
not a registered charity. It is a commercially-run entertainment organisation
which produced festivals for lgbt performers to showcase their talents. In
turn, Queerest of the Queer is a collaborative project involving three other
commercially-run entertainment organisations. I don’t want to sound cynical by
saying that BrewDog’s involvement is purely commercial, being as No Label will be
sold at Queerest of the Queer events, but when you look at the figures lgbt
charities will benefit very little.
BrewDog says that all
profits from the sale of No Label go to Queerest of the Queer. In turn,
Queerest of the Queer says on its website that they donate 10% of their own
profits to the Albert Kennedy Trust, a charity that deals with homeless lgbt
youth in London. They do not mention if they too will donate the 100% they
receive from BrewDog will go to the Albert Kennedy Trust or any other charity. In
effect, only 10% of the profits from No Label will actually go to charity.
Queerest of the Queer hasn’t said where the other 90% might be going.
Whether the No Label beer,
and the controversy, will continue or fade away only time will tell. I’m not an
alcohol drinker, so I have no reason to buy a bottle, but I’m sure many of you
do drink. At the end of the day it’s down to the quality of the beer, even if
only 10% of the profit actually reaches the charitable causes the brewers want
to be seen to support.