Santa Rosa’s Shady Oak Barrel House announced its newest beer via Facebook last week: a “classic California pale ale, featuring Cashmere and Simcoe hops and a touch of malt sweetness,” as well as a striking name. The brew is called “Fuck PG&E,” a name intended to illustrate the frustration many Californians currently feel with the utility. Though the brewery’s owner says he intended it as a gesture of solidarity for victims of fires allegedly started by PG&E equipment, the beer’s name has also angered many, causing a spate of one-star Yelp reviews for the business.
The post announcing the beer went up on November 6, and Shady Oak owner Steve Doty tells SF Gate that the brew didn’t attract any attention “Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, but then I guess some point on Saturday afternoon some person saw it and misread it and then things exploded.” As of publication time, the post has generated 343 comments, many like this one:
As a wife of a very hardworking, compassionate PG&E gas serviceman who was born and raised in Santa Rosa, I find your new beer label completely insulting. My husband has been working 18 hour days and not seeing his little boys for the past two weeks to help our local community. Your label is hurting the men and women that work day in and day out for their community. They are your neighbors and they were your customers. You will not have our business in the future. Please do yourself a favor and consider all sides and parties before labeling your future beers. Also, do yourself a favor and look up inverse condemnation.
And this one:
Not sure what genius thought this one up. I am a PG&E employee and find this to be very distasteful. There are a lot of beer drinking PG&E workers in the area, myself being one, that as of now will be passing right by your establishment. Hope by the responses you are receiving in this feed you realize what a big mistake this was. Then again maybe not, someone did think this was a good idea to begin with.
Those commenters are getting it all wrong, Doty says. In a response posted over the weekend, he says that “the name was not intended to go after honest hard-working people that have been and still currently ARE helping our community” but instead was “chosen in some contempt for the corporation itself,” due to its alleged role in several recent NorCal fires. “What inspired the name of this beer is how the corporate bigwigs at PG&E chose to line their pockets and ignore their responsibilities in their role that led to the destruction of communities across California,” he said, adding that there were no plans to change the beer’s name.
Doty’s lack of repentance appeared to inflame some Yelp users, who posted so many one-star assessments of the brewery that reviews on its page were suspended. Doty tells SF Gate that angry people have also been calling the tap room and making “violent threats” against employees, which he says is unfair since the beer’s name was his decision, alone.
Despite the controversy, Doty’s standing firm, he says. “It’s really strange when it’s a company that is known at fault for killing people, destroying lives and communities and people have a problem with me calling them out,” he tells SF Gate. “No, they deserve it.”