Back in the winter, when Vladimir Putin was still more famous for his homophobic remarks than invading neighbors, it seemed like a natural move: an Estonian craft beer importer, James Ramsden, put in an order for a shipment of a double IPA called "Hello, My Name is Vladimir."
But when it arrived a week before the Olympics, Ramsden found that the authorities in Estonia weren't easy-going about the beer, which is made by Brewdog, a Scottish brewer with an anti-establishment ethos.
Even though a disclaimer on the label suggests it may "contain traces of sarcasm," the shipment got held up at the Alcohol Register and Ramsden isn't allowed to sell it. With the beer on sale (or sold out) in 45 other countries, according to Ramsden, including Finland, that appears to earn Estonia a unique distinction of being the first country to blacklist "Vladimir."
Social media wags have had a field day, with most seeing the case as a comment on humorless bureaucrats. But Ramsden also said in an interview with Õhtuleht that perhaps the decision was made out of concern of inflaming tensions with Russia.
Of course, Brewdog hasn't exactly held back on the elements on the label. If one subjected Estonian legislation to a strict reading, "Vladimir" would fail in almost too many ways to count - there's a likeness of Putin, a long macho-man epistle purporting to be Putin's words, and finally even a signature ("Vlad").
The Consumer Protection Board spokeswoman Kadri Paul told Õhtuleht: "The Board has given the Putin-named beer its assessment based on the Advertising Act." The law says an ad is not allowed to refer to an individual in any way without that individual's consent. There have been somewhat similar cases in the past, such as when a men's magazine made a salacious board game claimed to be based on the life of actress Eve Kivi, without permission.
The Alcohol Register did not comment.
Ironically, the beer is more than a marketing stunt, said Ramsden - 50 percent of the proceeds of this beer "go to support oppressed minorities" worldwide.
Viral Pulse is an ERR News column devoted to the talk of the town (and social media).