Funkwerks, a small brewery specializing in Saison-style beers brewed with organic ingredients, opened in December 2010 in Fort Collins, CO. This year, they only expect to brew 500 barrels—a small amount considering that the largest craft brewers brew over 500,000 each year.
Last Wednesday, Brad Lincoln and Gordon Schuck of Funkwerks received a call from The New Zealand Herald regarding the name of their Imperial Saison, Maori King. A few days later, they reported “Maori King ale leaves sour taste.” This article sparked outrage over the naming of Funkwerks’ beer and people demanded a response and a solution.
After several days of criticism, Funkwerks decided to change the name of the beer in question to Southern Tropic. Along with the new name, Funkwerks’ issued a response. Here’s an excerpt, or you can read the complete response.
“Well, in short, the beer turned out wonderful. The unique character of the beer is directly the result of these New Zealand hops so I wanted a name that tied in with that…The Maori King name was meant as homage to the Maori people and their fight to have their own leaders.”
CraftBeer.com Talks to Funkwerks’ Brad Lincoln
The idea for an Imperial Saison had been floating around the Funkwerks taproom for some time. When they heard about Rakau, an organic New Zealand hop, they knew this was the perfect opportunity to give it a try.
“This beer was only supposed to be a taproom beer, but it rapidly became one of our most popular,” said Lincoln. “Prior to the interview [with New Zealand media outlets], we had no idea it was disrespectful.”
Media outlets reported that Funkwerks offered to send a case of beer to the King, which was considered an insult. I asked Brad if those rumors were true. He responded, “Not exactly. We never offered to send a case of beer to the King. We were asked if we would be willing to send over a case, to which we said yes. There’s a difference. We did not speak with the King or his representatives during this situation; we only spoke with the New Zealand press.”
When I asked Brad how he felt about being portrayed as a large, global corporation he responded, “Clearly we’re not a large corporation, there are seven of us.”
Originally, they did not plan on changing the name, but a few days later, Lincoln and Schuck revisited the idea. Ultimately, they decided that the negativity surrounding the situation wasn’t worth it.
Lincoln says that the name change to Southern Tropic “was not a big deal…let’s move on.” They did, and the name change has made positive waves throughout the Maori people, many of them applauding Funkwerks on their Facebook page.
There is one thing Lincoln wants craft beer lovers to know about the recent events: “The name may have changed, but the beer has not.”
Anthony Orig is the current Craft Beer Program Intern at the Brewers Association. He attends the University of Colorado at Boulder and will be graduating in December 2011 with degrees in Environmental Studies and Geography. As an avid outdoor enthusiast, he enjoys craft brews the most after long days of exploring in the mountains. Still new to the craft beer brewing world, he looks forward to learning more about the industry and meeting the people behind the beer. Follow his daily beer and mountain adventures on Twitter.