Sightlines — Stillwater Recalls Kanye West Beer

Austin Ray

THE GIST
No one brand should have all that power. I Miss the Old Kanye, an Imperial Brett Porter recently released by Stillwater Artisanal Ales, has earned loads of food and music media coverage thanks to a label that parodies both a Kanye West album cover and a Kanye West song. But now, the beer's been recalled by the brewery following correspondence with "a firm that claims to represent the merchandising rights to Kanye West."

WHY IT MATTERS
“It’s not just a marketing scheme,” Stillwater owner Brian Strumke tells All About Beer. “Everything I do I kind of envision as an art project.” And while that may be true, his Pop Culture series—which has featured a couple other beers inspired by rappers, Moneytree$ (Kendrick Lamar) and Hopvine Bling (Drake)—nevertheless benefits from the cachet of those superstars. And especially in the case of the Drake and West beers, Stillwater also benefits from the appropriation of their imagery.

But maybe this is something bigger, a unique moment where a label is disassociated from a beer. Does I Miss the Old Kanye's label become a cultural statement that turns the beer into a canvas for something that has nothing to do with the actual beverage itself? Is the beer a cultural vessel for something much bigger than itself, a conversation starter? Is it really any different than Andy Warhol borrowing Campbell's Soup cans for his creations?

For now, we wait and see, while Stillwater benefits from the artwork and its subsequent controversy. “I hope that it’s cleared up because [the beer] made a big splash and got a lot of attention,” Strumke tells AAB.

—Austin L. Ray

READ MORE
Stillwater Recalls Kanye-Inspired Beer Over Legal Trouble [All About Beer]