The Gandhi-Bot flap: New England Brewing Co. agrees to name change

On January 18, we posted an update on the Gandhi-Bot controversy, noting that Connecticut State Representative Prasad Srinivasan was planning to meet with the brain trust at New England Brewing Co. “I think they must take it one more level — to reconsider and rename that brand of beer,” Srinivasan said. “ I find it despicable that they should use the name of Mahatma Gandhi.”

On Friday [1.23],  this entry appeared on Srinivasan’s website:

New England Brewing Co. agrees to rename “Gandhi-Bot” beer

Dear friends and neighbors,
I am very glad that New England Brewing Co. heard the concerns of the Indian-American community. Our sensitivity on this important issue has been addressed and I am looking forward to the early release of their renamed and re-branded product. Please view their response below:
Over the course of the last few weeks, New England Brewing has met with local Indo-American business owners, temple, and community leaders, as well as with State Representative Prasad Srinivasan and other state leaders. We learned of their support for our small business as well as some of their concerns regarding our Gandhi-Bot beer name and label. After careful consideration we feel that renaming Gandhi-Bot is the right move (the beer will remain the same). We have begun the process of renaming and rebranding this beer which may take up to three months. Taking these steps will allow us to express our support for the Indian-American community while also limiting any economic losses. We are grateful to have State Representative Srinivasan’s support in the continued success of our small CT business. We thank our supporters for standing by us through this transition.
New England Brewing Co.
Woodbridge, Connecticut

The statement from NEBCO has not been posted on their Facebook page, which is where news of the flap came to light when they made their first statement on January 3.

Any suggestions for a new name? Post ’em here, and we’ll forward them to NEBCO.

A Gandhi-Bot follow-up; NH may be ready for Breakfast Stout; beer made with whale testicles; and more

The people must have something good to read on a Sunday.  — The Clash, from “The Leader

In a follow-up to the Gandhi-Bot controversy, a NBC News story reported that Connecticut legislator Prasad Srinivasan was scheduled to meet with reps at the New England Brewing Company on Wednesday [1.14]. Srinivasan said, “I think they must take it one more level — to reconsider and rename that brand of beer. I find it despicable that they should use the name of Mahatma Gandhi.” There have been no updates since Wednesday. Also, NEBCO has removed the apologies they had posted on their Facebook page on January 3 and 7; you can read those entries here. And a post on the Beer Advocate “NEBCO whats on tap thread” on Saturday [1.17] night noted, “Had sea hag and #14 on tap today. Chalkboard said coming soon: g of the b..a good sign.”

foundersstout Belly up, baby! NH mulls change to alcohol labels, by Rik Stevens of Associated Press via the Concord Monitor [“Murphy says it’s misguided to suggest a chubby baby eating breakfast would lure an underage drinker to a specialty beer that sells for a comparatively pricey $12 for four, 12-ounce bottles.”]

Do you live in beer country or wine country? These maps will tell you, by Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post [“The number of American wineries has increased by about 260 percent since 1998. Breweries are up 175 percent, with almost all of that increase happening since 2010.”]

Icelandic Brewery Debuts Beer Made With Endangered Whale Testicles, from Inquisitr [“The beer, Hvalur 2, utilizes the testicles of fin whales, which are first smoked in a traditional fashion using dried sheep dung.”]

And as a cheeky commentary on the trademark infringement flap between Lagunitas and Sierra Nevada, Stone made this post on their Facebook page on Saturday:

In light of recent news, perhaps it’s the right time for us to release a special new IPA?


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The Gandhi-Bot controversy isn’t funny anymore

gbotThe New England Brewing Co. is widely regarded as one of the best beer makers in Connecticut [they top the list at Beer Advocate, discounting the two places with only one review]. Two of their offerings are insanely good and ridiculously hard to find: the double IPA Gandhi-Bot is snapped up within hours of its arrival at local stores, and the yearly release of Imperial Stout Trooper inspires frenzied searches. But outside of beer geek circles, the Woodbridge brewery [about six miles of northwest of New Haven] was not a household name.

Last week, they suddenly became a household name after a petition was filed in an Indian court, claiming that the use of Mahatma Gandhi’s name and image — he appears as a dancing robot on the 12-ounce cans — was “highly condemnable and punishable, according to Indian Laws and amounts to offence under Prevention of Insults to National Honour, Act 1971, and Section 124-A of IPC.”

On January 3, the folks at NEBCO posted this entry on its Facebook page:

“We apologize to any Indian people that find our Gandhi-Bot label offensive. Our intent is not to offend anyone but rather pay homage and celebrate a man who we respect greatly. We take great care in creating a product we hope will not be abused in the manner that Mahatma Gandhi spoke of when referencing alcohol. So many Indian people here in America love our tribute to him. Gandhi’s granddaughter and grandson have seen the label and have expressed their admiration of the label. We hope that you understand our true intent and learn to respect our method and the freedom we have to show our reverence for Gandhi.
-Sincerely, NEB”

And this postscript:

“We also ask our supporters and fans to refrain from arguing on our page with those who may be upset by our label. We want to do our best to be culturally sensitive and respectful. Thank-you everyone.”

On Saturday [1.5], news of the flap began to spread, with reports on the BBC, the Associated Press, and media outlets throughout India. Initial reaction largely made light of the situation, with comments about political correctness and comparisons to the flap over The Interview; on Twitter, we needled the petitioner’s assertion that Gandhi-Bot was “one of the popular beer brands in the world, including the USA and India.” On Monday, Conan O’Brien’s monologue included this joke: “A US brewery has apologized for using Mahatma Gandhi’s image on its beer. The beer is so strong, after one beer you look at Gandhi and say, ‘Who’s the hot bald chick with the glasses?’ ”

But on Wednesday [1.7], this post on NEBCO’s Facebook page made it clear that the controversy isn’t funny anymore:

“For nearly five years we’ve been brewing Gandhi-Bot. In those five years we’ve proudly served it to people of all backgrounds. Until this week we’ve never received a single negative comment regarding the label but after a recent article it has come to our attention that the artwork has clearly offended some people. We are a very small company that is passionate about brewing beer and have never had any intention to offend anyone but rather share what we do with anyone interested. Our intentions come from a positive place. In this case we simply wanted to include the things and people in the world that have inspired us and find a way to incorporate them into the work we do. If the ideas and the growth of beliefs could only be inspired by individuals that we agreed 100% with, then the truly great ideas would never have been passed down throughout history. We have a great appreciation for the non-violent benevolent ideas that Gandhi taught. The fact that we consume or make alcohol in no way negates the value we find in what he taught. After threats and some truly hurtful assumptions about the incredibly caring people that work for New England Brewing Company we are working on finding the best way to amend this situation in a manner that both is respectful to those who are offended as well as a way that is manageable for our small company. Thank-you for understanding.”

In the wake of the threats, the brewery has removed the “Our Team” page from its website. The Associated Press reached out to NEBCO, but noted that “a brewery representative did not immediately respond to an email seeking more information.”

Here’s hoping for a swift — and peaceful — resolution to this imbroglio. A quote from Gandhi provides valuable perspective: “Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.”

And assuming a name change is imminent, what are your suggestions for a new handle for the beer [which will likely be harder to find than ever]?