9:15am Wednesday 6th December 2006
Santa's Butt is being kicked in the United States after an Oxfordshire brewery fell foul of concerns about mixing Father Christmas and alcohol.
Generations of British children know that Santa likes a tipple of sherry with his mince pie, but in the state of Maine liquor chiefs are unimpressed with a beer label showing a merry Father Christmas with a flagon of ale, pictured.
They have banned Santa's Butt - the latest seasonal ale from Ridgeway Brewing based at South Stoke - from being sold to thirsty New Englanders because of fears it would appeal to under-age drinkers.
A legal battle is now brewing, with the Maine Civil Liberties Union (MCLU) going to court on behalf of the importer to allow the sale of Santa's Butt.
Butt is a brewery term for a barrel, but in the United States it has a different meaning.
The state of New York had also told Ridgeway Brewing that the beer would be banned because of fears the label would lead young people to drink it.
After the beer's American importer Shelton Brothers, based in Massachusetts, challenged the ban in New York, it was lifted - but Maine then refused permission for the beer to be sold.
Peter Scholey, of Ridgeway Brewing, called the decision "ridiculous".
He said: "They said the label is attractive to children but you cannot go into a shop there that sells alcohol until you are 21."
According to the Maine Bureau of Liquor Enforcement the label was considered "undignified and improper", but civil liberty campaigners say the ban is a violation of importer Daniel Shelton's right to freedom of expression.
Last year, the state of Connecticut told Shelton Brothers that it had a problem with its Seriously Bad Elf ale.
Daniel Shelton from the company said: "Last year it was elves. This year it's Santa.
"Maybe next year it'll be reindeer."
He has filed a lawsuit supported by the civil liberties group to get the ban overturned.
Zachary Heiden, staff attorney for the MCLU, said: "There is no good reason for the state to censor art, even art found on a beer label."
But the state says it is within its rights.
Maine State Police Lt Patrick Fleming said the label with Santa might appeal to children.
He added: "We stand by our decision.
"At some point it will go through the court system and somebody will make the decision on whether we are right or wrong."
US states have the power to regulate alcohol through the 21st Amendment, which repealed Prohibition in 1933.
Mr Shelton said: "I don't know where they get the idea they can ignore the rest of the Constitution."
© Copyright 2001-2013 Newsquest Media Group