Nepal/Switzerland: Craft brewery offends Nepal with new beer

Turbinenbräu, a small brewery from Switzerland’s financial capital Zurich, inadvertently triggered anger and protests from Nepalese citizens after one of its beers, which is brewed with Timut pepper, a spice associated with Nepal, was named after King Birendra, whose legacy is still hotly contested despite the overthrow of the monarchy ten years ago.

“I was looking for a Nepalese name that does not sound trite, like Everest,” Adrien Weber, the managing director of Turbinenbräu, told Swiss newspaper Tagesanzeiger. Finally he chose the name Birendra, because it is unique and it sounds similar to beer, he said.

Birendra Bir Bikram Shah was the King of Nepal from 1972 until June 1, 2001, when Birendra and eight members of the Royal Family were massacred at a royal dinner. According to the official version, mentally disturbed Crown Prince Dipendra committed suicide after gunning down almost all of the Royal family. One of the few survivors was Birendra’s brother Gyanenda, who took the throne but had to step down in 2008 thus ending 240 years of Nepalese monarchy.

“King Birendra is an immortal figure capturing millions of Nepalis’ hearts. Depicting him as an alcoholic beverage consumer and using his name for commercial purposes by a beverage company is highly condemnable,” said Mohan Shrestha, spokesperson for Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal.

“The ambassador told me on the phone on that there are currently tensions against foreigners in Nepal, and that he had to increase security because of our beer,” Weber said. And he added: “The fuss in Nepal has no impact here, as most people in Switzerland don’t know who Birendra is. We shall sell the whole batch within two to three months, then it is done. It is just a seasonal beer.”

Turbinenbräu was established in 1997 by former employees of Hürlimann, the last remaining brewery in Zurich, which was closed the same year. It is today the biggest brewery in the Canton of Zurich and belongs to the founders and about 400 minority shareholders.

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