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How a Swiss craft beer sparked a diplomatic spat with Nepal

George Mills
George Mills - [email protected] • 26 Apr, 2018 Updated Thu 26 Apr 2018 09:53 CEST
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When a brewery in Zurich decided recently to name a new beer after a former Nepalese king, the result was not exactly as expected.

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The Turbinenbräu brewery in Zurich recently cooked up a beer flavoured with the fruity timut pepper of Nepal. All they needed was a suitable, not-too-tacky moniker for the drink.

After going online, Turbinenbräu boss Adrien Weber came across the name of former Nepalese monarch Birendra, which, as he pointed out to Swiss daily Tages Anzeiger, actually sounds a bit like the word beer.

But when an independent distributor went online and posted an image of the product whose label features a smiling image of the king with beer in hand, the reaction was worthy of a hangover.

Nepalese media said that by using the likeness of Birendra for commercial purposes, the Zurich brewery had damaged the reputation of the monarch who ruled the country from 1972 to 2001. 

As controversy over the beer flared online, there were unconfirmed reports of a small demonstration outside the Swiss embassy in Kathmandu. The Swiss ambassador to Nepal even stepped in, calling on Turbinenbräu to have the online image removed, the Swiss foreign affairs department confirmed. This has now been done.

Not all Nepalese were offended by the beer however, as posts on social media show.

King Birendra was murdered in a massacre that saw ten members of the Nepalese royal family killed. An official inquiry found the gunman was Birendra's son, Crown Prince Dipendra. But many in Nepal believe he was not the killer.

Nepal's King Birendra in 1999. Photo: Devendra Man Singh/AFP

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George Mills 2018/04/26 09:53

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