This year alone, 29,500 individually designed beer labels have been submitted for approval to the Trade Department’s Tax and Trade Bureau. And every single one of those label designs was approved or denied by a single man: Kent “Battle” Martin, a man who is the bane of the beer industry for his power to reject labels for the flimsiest of reasons.
The Daily Beast has posted a fascinating profile of the eccentric bureaucrat. Backed up by only vague regulations, and with no one overseeing his work, Martin exercises autocratic rule over what is and isn’t acceptable in beer label design.
Here are just some label designs that Martin has turned down over the years:
Battle has rejected a beer label for the King of Hearts, which had a playing card image on it, because the heart implied that the beer would have a health benefit.
He rejected a beer label featuring a painting called The Conversion of Paula By Saint Jerome because its name, St. Paula’s Liquid Wisdom, contained a medical claim–that the beer would grant wisdom.
He rejected a beer called Pickled Santa because Santa’s eyes were too “googly” on the label, and labels cannot advertise the physical effects of alcohol. (A less googly-eyed Santa was later approved.)
He rejected a beer called Bad Elf because it featured an “Elf Warning,” suggesting that elves not operate toy-making machinery while drinking the ale. The label was not approved on the grounds that the warning was confusing to consumers.
He rejected a Danish beer label that featured a hamburger, which was turned down because the image implied there was a meat additive in the beer.
He rejected a beer that was marketed as an “India Dark Ale,” a takeoff on the IPA, because it implied the beer was made in India (even though the label had a line with the words “Product of Denmark”).
He rejected an “Adnams Broadside” beer, which touted itself as a “heart-warming ale,” because this supposedly involved a medical claim.
Martin has even rejected beer labels because the companies addressed him as “Mr. Martin” instead of his approved nickname, “Battle.”
“He’s just amazingly finicky on stupid things that don’t really achieve any government purpose,” one brewer said about him. “He’s implementing rules that are totally antiquated. If you do something like 30,000 [label approvals], [perhaps] it makes you feel like you are the law.”
If you want to see how much power one man can lord over designers, check out the Beast’s full profile here.