Third brewery in six months forced to apologise for naming beer after Hindu god

Mishap marks third time Hindu activist has criticised brewers for using deities on labels

Tim Wyatt
Wednesday 27 February 2019 23:45
A man folds his hand in reverence at a statue of the Hindu monkey-god Hanuman
A man folds his hand in reverence at a statue of the Hindu monkey-god Hanuman

A brewery in Virginia has been forced to apologise after it named a beer after the Hindu god Hanuman.

Olde Salem Brewing Company said it was not aware of the religious connotations when it decided to call a new concoction “Hanuman”, intending only to make a musical reference.

The Hanuman beer is a Spanish milk stout which is listed under the “Dark Side (Dark and Dangerous)” section of the brewery’s website.

The beverage is the third in just six months to draw criticism after being named after Hindu a Hindu deity.

Hanuman uses a “variety of roasted malts combined with lactose to produce a sweet base beer reminiscent of milk chocolate”, the firm's website said.

It added: “With the flavors of natillas de leche on the mind and flamenco on the radio, we decided to add vanilla, cinnamon, and dried peppers to come up with a uniquely wonderful stout.”

But Rajan Zed, the president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, said it was “highly insensitive” to use the name of a Hindu deity for an alcoholic drink.

“Lord Hanuman was highly revered in Hinduism and was meant to be worshipped in temples or home shrines and not to be used in selling beer for mercantile intent,” he said.

“Inappropriate usage of Hindu deities or concepts or symbols for commercial or other agenda is not okay as it hurts the devotees.”

Hanuman is a central character in the Ramayana epic and is normally portrayed as a monkey with incredible strength.

A statement from the Olde Salem Brewing Company said that when naming the Spanish milk stout it was unaware Hanuman was a Hindu deity. The moniker was intended as a reference to a flamenco fusion song called Hanuman by the duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, bosses said.

“We are reviewing options to address the situation and welcome Mr Zed to reach out to us directly so we can work together to find an appropriate solution,” the firm added. “We apologise if this inadvertent association has offended anyone in anyway.”

The brewery is the third in recent months to come under fire from Mr Zed for naming beers after Hindu gods.

In August the Tollgate Brewery in the East Midlands was criticised for previously featuring a beverage called Kalika.

The label of the India Pale Ale featured an image of the blue multi-armed goddess Kalika, holding a bloodied head and wearing a necklace of skulls.

Then, in October a microbrewery in Keighley, West Yorkshire, apologised after Mr Zed condemned their lime-infused beer Ganesh, named after the elephant-headed deity revered by Hindus.

“We try to pick interesting one-word names for the most part that aren’t used by other brewers,” head brewer Adam Chapman said.

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“There’s one called Black Jesus by one brewer. Other brewers use the name of a deity in their beers so I obviously never thought anything bad about it.”

Mr Zed said of his requests for name changes: “We have nothing against [the brewers]. We are just requesting this of them and it is up to them to do it.”

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