In September 2009, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission banned Flying Dog Brewery’s Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA from being sold in the state, deeming the beer and label (featuring original art by the Gonzo genius Ralph Steadman) “detrimental to the health, safety and welfare of the general public.”
The Supreme Court had long-established that the power to regulate alcohol does not authorize the violation of free speech, so Flying Dog appealed the commission’s decision. It was promptly denied.
With attorney Alan Gura by its side, the brewery did not take this appalling attempt at censorship lying down. It sued the Commission and each of its individual Commissioners. Almost six years later, the United States Court of Appeals ruled that ban was a violation of Flying Dog’s First Amendment rights and that the individual members of the Commission can be held accountable.
The Maryland-based brewery used the damages from the case to establish the 1st Amendment Society, which aims to raise the public consciousness of these rights by advocating on behalf of and organizing events that promote the arts, journalism and civil liberties.