Swiss brewery halts production of ‘Birendra' beer

Kathmandu, May 1

Following the controversy arising from naming its seasonal beer after late king Birendra, the Turbinenbräu brewery in Zürich has corresponded with Swiss Embassy in Kathmandu that production of the beer named ‘Birendra' has been halted.

The Swiss Embassy in Kathmandu has informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) that the brewery in Zürich will not use the name of late king Birendra on its product.

A craft brewer in Switzerland had caused a furore in Nepal as the brewery was accused of ‘commercialising' the legacy of king Birendra. Because the seasonal beer had been manufactured using Nepali spice, Turbinenbräu brewery had decided to name it ‘Birendra' without taking consent from Nepal government or concerned royal family members.

Bharat Raj Paudyal, spokesperson for MoFA, informed that the chapter of Birendra beer is now closed as the brewery in Zürich has already stopped its production as per the communication with the Swiss Embassy in Kathmandu.

It is reported that the brewery was contacted by the Swiss ambassador to Nepal with an urgent request to take down all online advertisements for the beer following a furious reaction in the country. There were demonstrations outside the embassy and political forces close to the monarch had threatened to launch protests for misusing the name of the deeply emotive figure.

The Swiss brewery gives different names to its seasonal beers. But the name it chose to represent a beer manufactured using Nepali spices brewed trouble for the company.

The Swiss embassy, based on the talks with the brewery in Switzerland, had said the brewery never intended to offend anyone and it was not about commercialising the legacy of late king Birendra.

Mohan Shrestha, spokesperson for Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal (RPPN) - the political force which was close to the monarch - said they have dropped their protest programmes as the Swiss embassy took assertive action to stop the production of ‘Birendra' beer. However, he said the brewery should issue a public apology for hurting sentiments of Nepalis.

While there were speculations about possibly raising the issue in the international court by tying it with intellectual property rights, Yam Kumari Khatiwada, secretary at Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, said the issue cannot be challenged from the aspect of protecting intellectual property. She said the government would have to handle the issue through diplomatic channel.