SALEM, Va. – A Salem brewery is apologizing for what some call a racist beer, named after a Hindu god.
The controversy is about Olde Salem Brewing Company's Spanish milk stout called Hanuman. That word means something much different for 3 million Hindus in the United States.
“He's highly revered by Hindus," said Rajan Zed, Universal Society of Hinduism president.
Hanuman is a Hindu god known for incredible strength. Zed was incredibly offended when someone from southwest Virginia contacted him about the beer.
"When you associate Hanuman with an alcoholic beverage, that is highly disrespectful," Zed said.
Olde Salem Brewing Company released the following statement to 10 News:
“Olde Salem Brewing Company strives to foster an inclusive, welcoming atmosphere in which all patrons can enjoy our craft beer. When naming our Spanish milk stout "Hanuman" we were unaware of the Hindu deity referenced by Rajan Zed. This name was purely a musical reference and had no other intent. We are reviewing options to address the situation and welcome Mr. Zed to reach out to us directly so we can work together to find an appropriate solution. We apologize if this inadvertent association has offended anyone in anyway. “
The explanation falls in line with the listing on the brewery's website comparing the beer to "flamenco on the radio." in fact, many of their beers have names inspired by music, including Chain of Fools, We Are Family and Bittersweet Symphony.
"It’s just ignorance," Zed said.
Zed doesn't fault the brewery, but is still calling on them to stop making the beer or change the name.
"As I learned, they are doing a great job in the upbringing of downtown Salem and helping other businesses and doing a lot of other good things. We have nothing against them. We are just requesting this of them and it is up to them to do it," Zed said.
He hopes the controversy will become a teachable moment for others.