Sunday, October 24, 2010

“I like beer,” Ms. Noble said, a pagan of the Wiccan community and as a practitioner of religious traditions that revere the earth and women’s special powers, she also feels a special connection to brewing. “It was the women who brewed beer from ancient times right up to the Reformation,” she says. She thinks some were burned as witches to destroy “the ancient traditions of shamanistic medicine, which in every indigenous culture includes the brewing of medicinal fermented beverages.”

But one does not have to agree with Ms. Noble’s interpretation of history to share her offense at a picture on the label of Witch’s Wit, a limited-edition pale ale — “wit” means “white” in Dutch — produced by Lost Abbey, a division of the Port Brewing Company of San Marcos, Calif.

Plain and simple its a painting of a witch being burned at the stake.

Ms. Noble went home and wrote to her e-mail list, “Can we stop this brewer from their hate imagery?” read the subject line, and next thing you know friends and followers of Ms. Noble began sending complaints to the brewery.

“We have been accused of inspiring violence against women, and we have been compared to the violence in Darfur,” said Sage Osterfeld, a spokesman for Port Brewing. “It has run the gamut from people saying politely, ‘This is offensive to pagans,’ to people saying we are responsible for all that is wrong in the world.” And far from being an attack on women, Mr. Osterfeld said, Witch’s Wit is in a line of Catholic-themed beers, like Inferno Ale and Judgment Day, conceived in the spirit of gentle satire by Tomme Arthur, another of the brewery’s owners. Mr. Arthur says he is “a recovering Catholic.” Mr. Arthur said the board would meet after Halloween to determine exactly how to decide on that new label.

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