The never-heard-before, Swiss brewery Turbinenbräu has suddenly got into controversy in Nepal for naming its beer after ex King Birendra (Birendra Beer).
While cooking at home, one of his employees cracked an idea of using Nepalese pepper timur in beer. They started to work on it; and after three trials, they concluded with the right combination of ingredients which resulted a beer that kind of sets your tongue on fire like the timur does if you have tasted it already.
Pretty cool. What could have gone wrong, eh?
After the product was ready and the team decided sell around 12,000 bottles as a special spring season beer; and now they had to come up with the name. Weber after doing some research on Nepal, he finally came up with a name and it was ‘Birendra’ with a tag line This Beer Is King.
He decided to name the seasonal beer after late King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah. “I thought he was an important figure in Nepalese history, I was worried that he might have had a bad name, but my research showed that his legacy was positive rather than negative,”, he told a Swiss portal swissinfo. “I would never have anyone with one bad reputation on one of our beers.”
And when it came to design the label for the beer, Weber instructed the graphic designer “to make him look more sympathetic”, as “the main problem was that he looked so reputable on all the photos” and the brewer “could not find a picture of him laughing.” And also, they added a beer in his hand.
According to swissinfo, a Nepalese saw the beer in Zurich and wrote a blog entry about it. This was then taken up by others, which led to online petitions demanding the discontinuation of the sale of Birendra beer.
“They thought we were making fun of their former king, but that’s not the case at all”, said Weber.
On April 20, Weber received a call from Elisabeth von Capeller – the Swiss ambassador to Nepal – asking him to remove the advertisement from his distributor’s website. “She said that there are protests against Switzerland, and I need to do something to improve her security, and she asked me to stop advertising”, Weber told swissinfo.
Although Weber did accept the request, he doesn’t feel that he did something wrong as the portal quoted him saying, “The Swiss ambassador told me that the former king did not like drinking a beer, but I do not know what the connection is supposed to be. In Nepal, there are two breweries producing beers called Everest and Gorkha, that’s why I am a little bit alienated that they are against it.”
“The hustle and bustle in Nepal will have no impact here as most people in Switzerland do not know who Birendra is, we will sell the entire batch in two to three months, then it’s done, it’s just a seasonal beer”, he further said.