Testing the old adage that any publicity is good publicity, a new Galt business called Special Ed’s Brewery attracted immediate condemnation for a “tongue in cheek” marketing strategy that makes fun of people with special-needs conditions and once tagged an IPA with the line, “’TARD TESTED, ‘TARD APPROVED.”
The business has yet to officially open its doors, said owner Ed Mason, who told SN&R he got the nickname “Special Ed” back in 2002 from his construction coworkers. When he decided to take his home-brewing operation to the next level, he says someone suggested he name the start-up brewery after his nickname.
“I mean, everyone is taking this way out of context,” he said. “We have a couple adults in our family like that and we love them dearly. They have an extra chromosome and they’re right—that’s the love chromosome.”
As for the IPA label, Mason said that was an unfortunate joke among family members that won’t be featured on any beers for sale.
“We said, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not right,'” he said.
The business also tried to explain its approach on its Facebook page:
“Brewing award winning homebrew with a twisted take……We do everything tongue in cheek so don’t take offense to anything we do or say….”
But that qualification did little to dispel the outrage expressed in 61 (and counting) one-star reviews, the lowest permitted by Facebook.
“I would give zero stars if I could,” wrote a Facebook user identified as Janelle Perez.
Another Facebook user condemned a Special Ed’s Brewery t-shirt featuring a cartoon short yellow school bus embossed with flames and a screaming person in the window.
“This is just wrong!” wrote a Facebook user identified as Amy Theile Sigl. “My son rides the ‘short bus’ and it is the highlight of his day. What makes you think it is ok to make fun of people that are in special education?! My husband and I love visiting local breweries and this will be one that we will make sure NOT to visit!!”
Mason said the school bus illustration was another outside idea, inspired by old dragster cartoons. He said he has received a few calls about the questionable material, both supportive and less so.
Seven Facebook users posted five-star reviews, and some came to the business’ defense.
“We love you Ed and your beer,” wrote a Facebook reader named Becky Lee. “Screw these over sensitive cry babies. How about this if you don’t like it don’t go. You don’t have to be a troll. Only thing is you’ll miss out on some great beer.”
“Amazing beer, amazing sense of humor. Definitely a must if you aren’t an up tight dickhead!” wrote Facebook user William Paisano.
But those types of posts were in the minority. Most harangued the business for its seemingly tone-deaf sense of humor.
“Making fun of children with special needs and then calling it ‘tongue in cheek’ doesn’t make it ok,” wrote one user. “Try a name that mocks black people (or any other protected class) and see how well that ‘tongue-in-cheek’ little joke goes over.”
“Like back of the bus brown ale?” replied another user. “Yeah… They went there too.”
Galt city officials could not be reached on Sunday.
Mason, who still needs to submit his architectural plans to the city before opening for business, said he has been staying out of the social media controversy.
“Let them have their day,” he said. “I just want to concentrate on the beer.”