Olympic brew-haha over plygamy comes to head

05 Nov 2001

Olympic brew-haha over polygamy comes to head

By Nancy Lofholm, Denver Post Western Slope Bureau
Denver Post, November 2, 2001

Friday, November 02, 2001 - Beer has been a troublesome enough issue for Olympic organizers in Salt Lake City. But now along comes Polygamy Porter.

The beer, being brewed by the Wasatch Brewery in Salt Lake City, is making waves in the state's image-conscious Mormon hierarchy with the slogan "Why Have Just One!" And a new billboard with six-packs of Polygamy Porter alongside the message "Take One Home For the Wives" recently proved to be a bit too much.

The billboard was nixed after the Utah Department of Alcohol Beverage Control, a group of five Mormon commissioners, ruled that liquor can't be advertised with religious themes in a state that is 70 percent Mormon.

The commission reversed itself several weeks later in response to complaints that the ban was agreed upon over the phone, violating Utah's open-meetings law. But the owner of the billboard company still refused to allow the ad.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church, condemns polygamy and excommunicates those practicing it. It is staying mum about Polygamy Porter.

"We're asked a lot about ads and books and things about the church and we always have no comment," said church spokeswoman Kim Farah.

The brouhaha has only helped to make Polygamy Porter and its accompanying logo T-shirts popular all over the world.

Since The Economist magazine took note of Polygamy Porter last week and the British Broadcasting Co. put a picture of it on its website, Wasatch has been swamped with mail orders. Requests have been coming in from pubs in other states that would like to put Polygamy on tap.

"It's our hottest seller right now," said Wasatch Brewery owner Greg Schirf. "Because of the wonderful help from the state of Utah, it's a very big seller."

Utah's reaction to the beer surely helped. But an Aspen man is slapping himself on the back over the big sales.

Art Burrows, owner of Ajax Design & Communications in Aspen, is the mastermind behind Polygamy Porter's advertising campaign. He penned the neoclassical-style drawing that graces Polygamy Porter's labels - a young man with one wife swooning into his neck and a gaggle of other women and children in the background. He also came up with the billboard message that some Utah legislators and church officials found so offensive. And he designed the Wasatch website, which shows a muscled man with several skimpily clad babes hanging off his biceps, under the "Why Have Just One!" slogan.

"A lot of influential folks in Utah would just as soon sweep this under the carpet," said Burrows, who admitted that it's nice to sit in Colorado and design an ad campaign guaranteed to draw attention and fire in neighboring Utah, where there are still an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 practicing polygamists, according to a recent Salt Lake City Tribune investigative series. "Here we can laugh about it. In Utah, not everybody can laugh."

Polygamy Porter has made the news at a time when questions are arising about whether a dearth of alcohol will dampen spirits at the Winter Olympics.

Olympic organizers say booze will be available at the Games. The Utah Alcohol Commission continues to tinker with exactly what kind of libations will be allowed.

This week, the commission approved permits for hot-buttered rum at the Olympic park, but nixed Irish coffee and hot chocolate with schnapps.

Polygamy Porter will probably not be found in Olympic venues. But Schirf said it will be sold in many locations outside the boundaries of the official Olympic sites, alongside his brewery's 2002 Unofficial Amber Ale, which is being brewed especially for the Games.

For now, non-Utahans can find Polygamy Porter beer and gear on the Internet at http://www.utahbrewers.com


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