Here in Connecticut, we’re having a bit of a fracas over Gandhi-Bot, an India Pale Ale from the New England Brewing Company featuring a robotic representation of the iconic Indian leader on the can. It seems that because the Mahatma eschewed alcohol, some of his compatriots have taken umbrage. A lawsuit has been filed in India and some Indian package store owners here in the Nutmeg State have decided not to stock it.
New England Brewing has apologized, but as of now no decision has been made on whether to halt — or rebrand — the popular IPA, which is advertised as “an ideal aid for self-purification and the seeking of truth and love.”
OK, I get the protest. But perhaps a little context, and some modest proposals, are in order.
There’s no shortage of existing drinks that celebrate religious icons, and that likewise extol the moral properties of alcohol. Take, for example, Luther Bier, which features the slogan: “a little can of beer against the Devil with which to scorn him.” Of course, the father of the Reformation was a hearty guzzler, although the story that he invented bier-pong in a Wittenberg stube in 1520 is probably apocryphal.
Not that Protestants created spiritual quaffs. To this day, we’ve got such good Catholic beers as Franciskaner and Augustiner. On the liqueur front, the Benedictines have given us Benedictine and the Carthusians, Chartreuse. And that’s to say nothing of Liebfraumilch, which refers to the sweet vintage that Jesus himself suckled. Personally, however, I think the Catholics will be missing the boat until they start marketing St. John-Pauli Girl.
Turning to America, we know that the Puritans drank beer, so I’m happy to report that the Puritan Brew Co. opened in Fayetteville, Ark. this fall with the slogan: “The driving idea behind Puritan is that we all should go where things are better.” Meanwhile, for today’s Reformed set, might I suggest a glass of Calvin Cabernet — “a lovely TULIP nose…you’re predestined to like it!”
I do realize that evangelicals have quite the history of hostility to alcohol. Nevertheless, it’s important to recognize that the most famous evangelist of all time is not an advocate of teetotalism. As he approaches the century mark, I give you: Billy Grahambuie. As for the Mormons, who’ve learned to live with Polygamy Porter (“Why have just one?”), may I suggest Joseph Smithwick’s and Brigham Yingling?
For their part, the Jews have no problem with alcohol, though kosher wine leaves a good deal to be desired. Rather than a glass of Manischewitz, I propose Schneerson Schnaps for those Chabad House shabbats, and let’s recover with a Moshe Mimosa for brunch. Update: I’m reminded that Maccabee Beer already exists, though it also leaves something to be desired — one bottle lasts for seven days.
Beyond the Judeo-Christian world, there could be Dalai Lager, a well-balanced (not too hoppy) Buddha-brew. And why not toast the founder of Sikhism with combat-ready Guru Nanak Arak? Given what happened after those Danish cartoons were published, I rather suspect we’re not going to be seeing a Muhammad Muscatel any time soon, but perhaps a non-alcoholic Ayatollah Ale?
What about the Nones — those who have distilled religion out of themselves? Let them trot over to their local Christopher Hitchens-post and order some Madelyn Murray O’Hair o’ the Dog. As the agnostic poet A.E. Housman wrote, “Malt does more than Milton can / To justify God’s ways to man.”
In the meantime, those Indians who want to see what all the fuss is about should hurry down to the Krishna Beer Shop on Shivaji Nagar Road in Mumbai and pick up a six-pack of Gandhi-Bot. If it’s not available — and Gandhi-Bot is hard to come by under the best of circumstances — there’s a good alternative available from the Asheville Brewing Company: Shiva IPA.