Beer insulting California utility PG&E brews backlash

SANTA ROSA, Calif. — Anger over devastating California wildfires sparked by Pacific Gas & Electric power lines is coming to a head — in a beer. And an outcry is brewing.

Steve Doty, owner of Shady Oak brewery in Santa Rosa, announced a new beer called “F—- PG&E,” describing it on Facebook last week as “a classic California pale ale, featuring Cashmere and Simcoe hops and a touch of malt sweetness.”

Doty told the Press Democrat that he meant to draw attention to the negligence of PG&E executives and was stunned by the onslaught of critical comments by people who said they are related to utility employees.

One person who said she was married to a PG&E gas serviceman commented on Facebook that she found the label insulting.

“My husband has been working 18-hour days and not seeing his little boys for the past two weeks to help our local community,” the comment said. “Your label is hurting the men and women that work day in and day out for their community.”

Other people attacked Shady Oak by giving it 1-star reviews on Yelp and Google or calling the taproom with violent threats, Doty said.

PG&E has been blamed for a series of destructive wildfires in Northern California in recent years that have killed dozens of people and destroyed thousands of homes.

Its workers have been attacked amid sweeping blackouts last month meant to prevent its electrical equipment from toppling or coming into contact with branches and sparking fires. The state’s largest utility, PG&E faces a vote Wednesday by state regulators over whether to open an investigation into the outages.

Doty posted an apology to those upset by the beer name. As a conciliatory gesture, he offered $1 off a beer for those with an “honest review” on social media and $2 off a beer for PG&E employees.

But Doty said he is still standing by the name. While the brewery typically rotates its lineup of beers on tap, he said he’s considering making an exception because of the popularity of the PG&E beer.

“My general rule for the brewery is that I don’t want to brew the same beer twice,” Doty said. “We had a great weekend. The sales were crazy.”

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