Cover Careful where you handle a can of Bloody Carol, a pale ale crafted by Young Master Brewery and named for a domestic violence survivor (Photo Courtesy of DDB Group)

Could beer actually help reduce domestic abuse? The Pink Boots Society of industry women is tackling the issue with provocative brews that feature stories of survivors

You know the Bloody Mary. Now the Pink Boots Society wants you to know Bloody Carol, Bloody Joanne and Bloody Irene, pale ales named for survivors of domestic violence in Hong Kong and produced by Young Master Brewery. The cans feature quotations and illustrations of body parts that are sometimes jarring; when you grab a can of the Carol, you easily grasp her neck.

The launch is timed to the UN’s International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25). “The issue of domestic abuse is one that often remains a nasty secret, hidden in the shadows,” says Stella Lo, Pink Boots Society chapter lead. “It’s a shocking statistic that approximately 1 in 7 women in Hong Kong—and perhaps even more than that—have suffered from the trauma of domestic violence.

A disturbing side effect of Covid-19 lockdowns has been a rise in abuse; globally, domestic violence is as prevalent as 1 in 3 women, and alcohol is often a contributing factor, as Lo readily admits. So is this campaign an appropriate way to raise awareness, or shocking in its own right?

Lo and her collaborators believe Bloody Women beer can be part of the solution by sparking conversation. “In a social setting over a drink is when people usually open up about problems with their close friends,” says Christel Chong, creative director of DDB Group which designed the materials with BlueCurrent Hong Kong. “We’ve seen a lot of graphic, in-your-face domestic violence campaigns; this was us trying to give it a different take.” 

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The beer campaign has already sparked criticism from Puja Kapai of University of Hong Kong’s Women’s Studies Research Centre. She told Hong Kong Free Press it was “misguided, unethical and dangerous,” adding it was unclear if the campaign would emphasise alcohol is never an excuse for violence. 

Hongkongers can size up the initial batch for themselves over the next two weeks at about 20 locations, including Varga Lounge in Soho, To Be Frank in Kennedy Town and The Ale Project in Mong Kok and The Mills. Ask for a free sample, and you can expect an “unapologetic and unafraid” medium-bodied pale ale from master brewer Jessica Hanson of Pink Boots Society.

Come January, a wider release will feature a recipe inspired by the taste and colour of a Bloody Mary—and beer can designs in Cantonese as well as English. Those beers will be available for purchase at bloodywomen.co with a portion of sales donated to Rainlily, which provides counselling and crisis support to victims. The website also has a donation function coming soon. 

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To create this beer brand, Pink Boots Society and DDB Group worked with the Hong Kong Federation of Women's Centres to interview survivors and how they ultimately escaped, finding help and hope. When Joanne was pregnant, her sweetheart’s jealousy became obsessive; Irene’s doctor husband seemed perfect but her co-worker spotted signs of violence; and Carol endured a 28-year marriage before reaching a turning point. You can hear more about these women's experiences online and find resources on signs of verbal and physical abuse and getting help. 

“We don’t think beer is the cause, the abuser is the cause; we want to highlight that,” said Lo at Monday’s media preview, as if anticipating blowback. “We work in beer, we love beer, so drink responsibly and beers can lead to many good conversations.”

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