The 2001 American invasion of Afghanistan only made this issue worse. The ruling Taliban had a lot of really, really shitty ideas, but one of their better ones was "zero tolerance on opium production." When the regime fell, poppy production and exports skyrocketed, despite a multi-billion-dollar effort by the U.S. to curtail it. Technically, the practice is still illegal in Afghanistan, but the government knows how much money it rakes in for the country and how well poppy farmers, uh, "tip" the authorities.
Every Beer Brand In The U.S. Is At The Whim Of One Obscure Bureaucrat
Each of the hundreds of American beer brands -- from Coors on down to the craft brew your hipster uncle whips up in his basement -- has its own unique name and label. And every single one of them has to be individually approved by one single bureaucrat. Also, he's a lunatic.
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau's Malt Beverage Labeling Specialist is the title given to the one person in charge of approving or denying the name and label design of every single beer that is sold in America -- an industry that grossed $252 billion in 2016. Until his retirement in 2015, that person was Kent Martin, who demanded that people refer to him simply as "Battle."
Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau
That's not the crazy part. That's the awesome part.
Battle was feared like a dictator for the decade that he worked as the TTB's chief beer dude. Since there are no clearly defined regulations on what can or cannot appear on a beer label, Battle was handed the power to approve or veto the designs of one of America's biggest industries based on little more than his intuition ... and how much he likes puns. Because beer brewers seem to love them.
Battle was renowned for being irritatingly pedantic. Among those beers he vetoed, one was called "Liquid Wisdom" (rejected because "the name contains a medical claim" -- a medical claim to ... wisdom?), one featured a King of Hearts playing card (any image of a heart apparently implies a health benefit), one had a picture of a hamburger (supposedly misled customers into "thinking the beer includes a meat product" -- how ripped off would you feel if you bought it and it wasn't Baconator-flavored?), and one had a picture of Santa Claus, but according to Battle, Santa looked drunk. And Santa doesn't get drunk. That's an official government opinion.
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Other labels should have been banned for implying the beverage contains alcohol.
Brewers knew that his word was law, and in all his time in office, there was only one known example of someone winning a battle against Battle. A California brewer wanted to market a beer called Weed Ale, which Battle vetoed because of the marijuana implication. But the beer was brewed in the town of Weed, CA, named after Civil War hero Abner Weed. It took an intervention from the ACLU, a senator, and goddamn Congress before Battle agreed to back down. Turns out his name wasn't just bravado -- the dude would fistfight God himself if the Almighty dared to put a Whopper on a Pilsner label.
Adam Koski took a big step toward secretly running the world when he wrote half of a fantasy book. Nathan Kamal lives in Oregon and writes there. He co-founded Asymmetry Fiction for all your fiction needs. Ryan is currently a medical student at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the host of the Penn Health-X Podcast, which focuses on healthcare management, entrepreneurship, and technology. Check out https://soundcloud.com/pennhealthxpodcast for more info!
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