Popular Utah beer is rejected in North Carolina because it has ‘polygamy’ in its name

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Polygamy Porter is one of the beer brands produced by Wasatch Brewery.

When it comes to poking fun at Utah’s polygamist past, North Carolina just doesn’t get the joke.

A request to sell Wasatch Brewery’s Polygamy Nitro Porter in the Tarheel State was rejected in mid-June, because the name and the label promote an unlawful activity.

“Polygamy is illegal. Therefore these products will not be approved,” states the rejection letter sent to the Utah Brewers Cooperative, which produces and sells beers made by Wasatch and Squatter’s Breweries.

Wasatch officials plan to appeal the decision, said spokeswoman Lauren Boyack. Lawyers will make their case Aug. 14, before the North Carolina state liquor commission.

Boyack said Wasatch wants to sell its Polygamy Nitro Porter on tap at the Collaboratory, in Asheville, N.C. The new brewery and restaurant, owned by Wasatch’s parent company — the CANarchy Craft Brewery Collective — already serves Wasatch Apricot Hefeweizen and Squatter’s Hop Rising Double IPA.

“We are in on the [polygamy] joke here in Utah,” Boyack said. “It’s just a fun beer name and it certainly is not meant to promote illegal activity.”

North Carolina is one of 17 states — including Utah — that controls sales of alcohol.

“The NC ABC Commission always gives thoughtful consideration to each label,” said Kat Haney, public affairs director of the North Carolina commission, “and uses the criteria outlined in the statutes as the basis for every rejection or approval.”

North Carolina laws prohibits certain statements in alcohol advertising and labels, she said. The specific clause affecting the Polygamy Porter request bans any label that “depicts the use of alcoholic beverages in a scene that is determined by the Commission to be undignified, immodest, or in bad taste."

Polygamy Porter launched in Utah in 2001, and now is sold in 19 states. None of them have had problems with the name or the label, which features a drawing of a man and two women lounging in the nude. Arms and fabric were strategically drawn to cover private parts.

While polygamy was a common practice among early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the church abandoned polygamy in the late 19th century as a condition of statehood and now excommunicates members found practicing it.

While it’s not Wasatch’s top-selling beer, Polygamy Porter “has always been popular in large part because of the branding and funny name,” said Boyack. “We sell a lot of merchandise [with the logo]. It’s something that catches the eye for locals and visitors to the state.”