Beer Labels: Normalization of Maleness and Whiteness?

A little grist for the mill, here. A commenter named Aaron posted an interesting link on my Rogue brand post yesterday. It's a sociological take on a particular element of beer packaging by Rachel McCarthy James, a beer drinker from the east coast:
Since I’m surrounded by the boxes all day, I begin to pick up on elements of their design. Namely, that males and whiteness are constantly normalized within the design of the boxes. [series of pictures.]

Excepting the daguerreotype-esque Southern Ale, all of the men above are shown enjoying the beer, usually while engaging in their daily duties or in making the beer. The cottonwood man is not actively engaged, but he is holding the wheat that will make the beer, thus conferring involvement in the beer on him. The Highlands man is somewhat othered by the bagpipes, and I’m not sure how the man in the Rogue ale is constructed, but both are drinking and enjoying the beer they’re intended to represent. They are active and involved – not passive, not just drinking the beer, not just there. They are constructed as dynamic and effectual as they drink the beer. And they are all white: men of color are erased in beer packaging as far as I’ve seen.
(Quick and dirty definition of "normalization" here.) The trouble with this analysis is that Rachel has accentuated certain elements, highlighted purportedly ignored elements, and ignored the overt, intentional elements. This is a problem. (As Rachel earned her cred at the outset of the post by mentioning that she was a beer drinker and that all the examples came from her own collection, I will earn mine by saying that I think her larger point is accurate, even while I disagree with her analysis here.)

Let's start with the obvious: beer is a European drink. If we looked at packages of prepackaged Indian food, we'd see a lot of ... Indians. This hardly suggests that men of no color have been erased. In her photos--which you should click through to study--she offers two examples that are nods to the country of origin for the beer (Scotland, Ireland), and a third is, I believe, King Gambrinus. One is Rogue's socialist, one is a silly pirate cartoon, and three more seem to harken back to American colonial brewing. And so on.

Where Rachel's surely on solid ground is noting that beer packaging is often sexist. (Though here Rogue gets nods for its use of non-exploitative images of everyday women.) I'm pleased that the Northwest would fare better than some regions on this score. Most of the packaging in the region lacks humans (Widmer, Full Sail, Deschutes, etc.), and where there are humans, they don't often exploit women. (Stumptown Tart, for shame.)

I do lament the whiteness of craft beer, though. Although Rachel's examples aren't perfectly illustrative of her larger point, I think it's clear that craft brewing is overwhelmingly white. When I go to pubs and beer fests, they are even more disproportionately white than our already-white city. How one works to change that isn't exactly clear, but I'm not sure packaging would affect it overmuch.

Anyway, go have a look and see what you think. (And let's keep the comments civil--I know this is a slightly controversial topic.)