Sabrina Xie / Sun Design Editor

A special edition Samuel Adams IPA will be named in honor of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg '54.

March 28, 2019

Sam Adams Names IPA for RBG, Drawing Discussion of ‘Commodification’

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On Friday, Samuel Adams will release a special edition IPA named for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’54 — which has drawn questions and rebuke from Cornell professors.

The specially prepared brew, named When There Are Nine, honors Ginsburg’s famed declaration from an event at Georgetown Law School. She explained that there will only be enough women on the Supreme Court “when there are nine.”

According to the event page, the IPA will be unveiled this Friday at the Samuel Adams Pink Boot Release in Boston, an annual event centered around International Women’s Day.

Jessica Paar, communications director for the Boston Beer Company — the brewer of Samuel Adams beer — told The Sun that “industry guidelines” have prevented her from releasing more information to undergraduate schools. She did, however, lend some insight into the event.

“Every year, women at breweries across the country team up to brew special beers in March [for] Women’s History Month,” Paar said, noting that proceeds from selling these brews are donated to the Pink Boots Society, an international nonprofit that supports women in brewing professions.

Professors from Cornell’s department of government — Ginsburg’s undergraduate department — had mixed reactions to the release of a beer commemorating a Supreme Court Justice.

Expert on American political development and ideology Prof. David Alexander Bateman, government, told The Sun that he found the “commodification” of “ sitting justices as cultural icons” inherently problematic.

Bateman didn’t think the beer did anything to “undermine the dignity of the court” — “It’s never been a particularly dignified branch,” he said. “But it leads to the pernicious belief that any particular individual on the court is indispensable.” Bateman added that Justices Stephen Breyer and Ginsburg are “aging.”

Bateman emphasized how this ascribed stardom draws attention away from elected branches, and toward the judicial branch, “an intrinsically undemocratic and generally reactionary branch of government.”

Prof. Elizabeth Sanders, government, expressed a similar sentiment. “Does Sam Adams hope to sell more beer to well-educated women?” she questioned.

“Commercial exploitation of important legal achievements is not uncommon, but some may consider it odd, even sleazy,” she said.

Prof. Sabrina Karim, government, noted the apparent social roots of the beer’s creation.

“[The new Sam Adams Beer] seems to be a part of a larger ‘Notorious RBG’ cultural movement that presents Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a feminist and progressive icon,” she told The Sun.

“[Ginsburg] has become a new leader for issuing dissent opinions, which many women and progressives see as a way to fight back against a majority Republican-appointed Supreme Court,” Karim continued. “The release of the beer is perhaps a way to signal that Sam Adams is a part of the movement, or it is simply a way of attracting more women and young people to drink their beer.”

Bateman did appreciate the name “When There Are Nine.”

“I like [the name] enough to almost want to have an IPA,” he said. “I appreciate both the explicit affirmation that we should abolish presumptions of patriarchy and the implied bonus of three extra beers.”

Whether it represents the ‘commodification’ of a American icon or an esteemed honor, the IPA is set to be officially available to customers this Friday at the Samuel Adams tap room in Boston.