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Hey Bud Light boycotters: Did you know you’re imitating a Jewish LGBTQ+ activist?

Harvey Milk’s campaign against Coors for discriminatory hiring practices massively impacted the company’s bottom line

You may associate Bud Light with tailgating or frat parties. Maybe you just think of it as mildly alcoholic, beer-flavored water. In an era of craft IPAs, it seems like a relic of the past.

That’s why the company paid Dylan Mulvaney, a trans influencer, to do a sponsored post on her Instagram page last week — as a way to reach the online, youthful and, yes, liberal audiences who might not otherwise be drawn to the blue cans and their dudebro associations.

This decision, however, did not go down well with said dudebros. Comments under Mulvaney’s video slammed Bud Light’s decision. “Lol great way to kill a brand ? #cancelbudlight” wrote one user.

By Wednesday, Seth Weathers, the CEO of “conservative lifestyle brand” Freedom Speaks Up, had launched a video bordering on self-parody, advertising an alternative product for those boycotting Bud Light: “Conservative Dad’s Ultra Right, 100% Woke-Free American beer.” (With shipping costs, the Ultra Right light beer will run you $33 for a six-pack.)

Weathers and his ilk might be surprised to learn that in boycotting a beer brand because of ethical disagreements, they’re following in the footsteps of gay Jewish leader Harvey Milk.

In the 1960s, Coors required applicants to take a polygraph test, asking them invasive questions about their personal lives, sexual orientation and political beliefs. Some alleged that the company discriminated against Black and Hispanic applicants, as well as women.

Local advocacy groups in Colorado, where Coors is based, were trying to initiate a boycott with limited success when Milk got involved. Milk was confident he could convince the gay community to stop stocking Coors. But he needed more mass buy-in than that. 

So he brought in the Teamsters union, noting Coors’ use of non-union labor.

This resulted in a much wider boycott. The Teamsters had already organized San Francisco distribution workers. Working with an openly gay trucker and Teamster brother, Howard Wallace, along with Milk, the group managed to keep Coors out of the entire Bay Area. 

The Teamsters also began trying to unionize the Coors’ factory, a big problem for the notoriously conservative Coors family. They attempted to block the unionization, further galvanizing the powerful labor group.

As a result of the anti-Coors movement, the beer’s market share in California dropped to under 20%. Even in the beer company’s home state of Colorado, they lost over 20% of their previous market. There is still bad will against Coors throughout the gay and progressive community, and the company has been working since 1997 to attempt to repair the damage and court the LGBTQ+ market.

Budweiser can take comfort from the fact that outrage over a single spokesperson isn’t likely to lead to organized action on the scale of Harvey Milk vs. Coors. An additional source of reassurance: a group of Satmar rabbis who told their followers in 2018 to only buy Bud Light. 

The company distributing Bud Light’s competitors in New York, it turned out, was owned by a Jewish man who had “sold” the company’s beer supply to a non-Jew for Passover, as religious law requires. 

But the rabbis discovered that after signing the kosher paperwork, that owner continued working on Passover — leading them to tell their followers to refuse to drink any beer he distributed. Budweiser came from a non-Jewish distribution company and was thus exempt from those rules.

So perhaps any market share Budweiser loses to Ultra Right will be made up by its Hasidic customers. But just like the dudebros will almost certainly forget they’re mad at Bud Light in a few weeks, the Satmar rabbis have probably forgotten their grudge against Brooklyn Lager and Modelo.

Update, April 21: Bent River Brewing, the company contracted to produce the Ultra Right beer, has refused to manufacture the beer. “We were initially approached to possibly contract a beer for a customer,”  the brewery said in a statement. “Without our knowledge our name was listed on a website for a brief period of time. When we were made aware of the marketing for the product, we chose to pass on producing it.”

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