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New Zealand's Maori people blast Funkwerks Brewing's Maori King beer as insensitive

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Beer name changes have become more common as craft brewers try to protect their legal rights (see stories on Oskar Blues, Dry Dock and Bell's breweries). But complaints from the Maori people of New Zealand wasn't something that Funkwerks Brewing in Fort Collins expected when it named its latest beer, an imperial saision, Maori King, says brewery co-owner Brad Lincoln.

The beer, made with Rakau hops from New Zealand, has been served on tap and recently became available in 750 ml bottles.

On Thursday, the New Zealand Herald published an article, "Maori King Ale leaves sour taste," in which several people in New Zealand criticized the brewery because of the name and the artwork on the label, which shows a depiction of a Maori moko face. The Maori are New Zealand's indigenous Polynesian people.

"Essentially, it's about exploitation and in terms of our Maori king, in effect it's misappropriating his mana," public health advocate Shane Bradbrook told the paper. He has asked Funkwerks to stop selling the beer.

Another source in the story said the name was "culturally inappropriate," while a third said he was "deeply offended."

In the article, a Funkwerks representative said the brewery isn't planning to change the name -- at least not now. But Lincoln says no concrete decision has been made and that the brewery owners haven't made up their minds yet on what their response will be.

On Friday, a website called Tangata Whenua: Maori News & Indigenous Views published a letter from Funkwerks co-owner Gordon Schuck, defending the company.

According to the brewery, the beer "bursts with fruity tropical characteristics of passion fruit, mango, and peach from New Zealand Rakau hops. Combined with the pepper and ginger flavors produced by our house yeast, it is a flavor extravaganza."

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