of PowerMaster Malt Liquor
In June of 1991, the G. Heileman Brewery, announced the creation
of a new malt liquor called PowerMaster. While malt liquors
typically contain about 4.5 percent alcohol and other beers
contain 3.5 to 4 percent, PowerMaster would have an alcohol
content of about 5.5 to 6. The target market for PowerMaster
Knowing that PowerMaster was scheduled for release in Chicago,
two clergyman from Chicago, Reverend George Clements and Father
Michale Pfleger of St. Sabina Church went to the Heileman
brewery office in La Crosse, Wisconsin to meet with the brewery's
president, Thomas Rattigan. The clergymen contended that the
new PowerMaster malt liquor with its high alcohol content
was being targeted to African American communities.
When the clergymen were advised that the president was out
of town and no one else would meet with them, they refused
to leave, resulting in their arrest for trespassing.
In court, Rev. Clements and Father Plfeger were released on
an $85 signature bond and advised by the judge that further
protest could land them in jail. They were also ordered to
return to La Crosse in August to answer the trepassing charges.
The clergymen vowed to return to the brewery and continue
fighting against the marketing and selling of PowerMaster.
Nationwide, a campaign of black leaders, then Surgeon General
Antonia Novella and representatives of anti-drinking groups
that were also fighting against PowerMaster had caught the
attention of Washington, resulting in action by the Bureau
of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
In early July 1991, the BATF informed Heileman brewery that
they were pulling approval to the PowerMaster label. They
cited a passage in the laws established by the Federal Alcohol
Administration Act of 1935 that forbade the labeling or advertising
of beer as being "strong, full strength, extra strength
or high test," all words that could be construed as indicators
of a product's alcoholic strength. The BAFT also stated that
the word "Power" violated federal laws. Heileman
was allowed to sell its existing stock of PowerMaster for
the next four months but would have to stop any advertising
of the product. Father Pfleger was overjoyed by the BATF ruling.
"When we are spiritually strong, there's no problem we
cannot overcome. We have a serious alcohol problem in the
African American community,and this means that something worse
won't be added to it," said Pfleger, then added, "Big
business better watch out if it's doing something wrong."