Intention versus interpretation

Posted on Oct. 26, 2018, 2:35 p.m.

Astute lovers of Winter Grind may have recently noticed a small, but curious, anomaly to our usual six pack carriers. On the bottom, where we place the brand copy, you may find what appears to be an egregious printing error, rendering part of the text unreadable. Despite appearances, this is intentional.

The affected phrase read ‘slaves to the bean and to the barley.’ After a period of reflection, long after the order and delivery of a season’s worth of carriers, we grew uncomfortable with that language. We ordered stickers with revised verbiage to affix to carriers on future bottling runs. The phrase now reads ‘devotees to the bean and to the barley.’ But while the stickers are being printed and shipped, we opted to strike the phrase on the six packs heading out for distribution by inking over the text in our carrier erector.

One word. That’s the entirety of the difference. But it is a difference that we feel deserves an explanation. Both words suggest enthusiasm or obsession. But the former also carries a darker connotation. ‘Slave’ suggests a lack of agency that ‘devotee’ does not. This perhaps could be written off as merely semantic hairsplitting were it not for two factors. The first being our own nation’s bitter history with the institution of slavery. And the second being the indisputable existence, even in this ostensibly more enlightened age, of modern slavery in the global coffee industry.

We have elected, as a brewery, not to invoke the shadow of slavery, past or present, in the marketing of our beloved coffee stout. We work with our local coffee providers to use the most ethically sourced coffee beans available. We are proud Americans who cherish freedom, individual rights, and equality. And we are loath to imagine being seen as celebrating, even inadvertently, the inequity of a global commodity market of which we are a part. We choose to exercise the same care in our language as we do in brewing our beer. It is simply the right thing for us at Mother’s Brewing Company.

Language can be a tricky thing. Each individual brings a unique set of circumstances to the words they speak, write, or read. Intention versus interpretation is a continually developing exchange. This fact is nothing new. And it is nothing to fear. There is no growth without change. As we grow as a brewery, we will change. In this instance, it meant changing but a single word. A small thing. But the right thing. 

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