"We are not violators of the law," Mr. Issleib said. "In some instances, we feel there has been a witch hunt. I can assure you, we do not associate with dope. We are not that desperate."
Mr. Issleib's comments came less than a week after John Magaw, director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms told the National Beer Wholesalers Association's annual convention he was dismayed by some beer advertising and promotional materials (AA, Oct. 3).
Some brewers have used strength claims to sell products and others used "symbols recognized only by youth gangs and terms to refer to illegal street drugs."
The mention of drug terms was apparently a reference to ads from Olde English 800 that use the term "eight-ball," also a slang term for an eighth of an ounce of crack.
Mr. Issleib said Olde English was dubbed "eight-ball" by consumers long before crack came into common use. The company has used the term in its advertising materials for more than 10 years, he said.
"Why would we want an association with dope?" Mr. Issleib said. "Eight-ball was developed way before crack cocaine. This is not fair. I even have an [old Olde English 800] ad of a girl playing pool."
He also said BATF's charge was another example of the agency treating his company differently than other brewers and cited several other examples.
Nearly two years ago, Red Oak, Calif.-based S&P applied to BATF to market a product called Iceman but was turned down because "they said ice is a new dope coming out of Hawaii." Less than a year later BATF gave ready approval to a range of ice beers.
In another instance, S&P applied to market a Falstaff Private Stock Green Lightning brand that displayed two lightning bolts. Mr. Issleib said the agency turned the packaging down as an appeal to power, reversing itself only when he pointed to a Stroh Brewery Co. Silver Thunder brand that used one lightning bolt and had won approval.
"They are hurting the little guys," he said of BATF.
S&P in 1991 was required by BATF to abandon it's theme line of "It's the power" for Olde English and now uses "It's the tiger" in advertising from Asher/Gould, Los Angeles.