Apology over 'bad taste' Famine beer

Paul Ainsworth

TWO Australian breweries have apologised for producing a beer labelled with an image of Irish famine victims.

The ‘Famine and the Crown’ beer was brewed for St Patrick’s Day, and above an image of a malnourished mother and child is described as a ‘caramel choc Irish cream ale’.

A joint project between the Shark Island Brewing Company and craft ale producers Willie the Boatman – both based in Sydney - sparked anger over linking the beverage to the 19th century famine.

The product has now been pulled following complaints, and the beer will be rebottled with a new name and label according to the breweries, which said in a joint statement they were sorry for the “obvious offence” caused.

“This truly was not our intention,” they said explaining how the name and label was inspired by the lyrics to folk ballad The Fields of Athenry, which tells the story of a man convicted of stealing food to feed his starving family before being sent on a prison ship to Australia.

“When we decided to collaborate on a Saint Patrick’s release we were conscious of not delivering a cliché-Irish themed beer but wished to express something a little more genuine.

“It was never our intention to trivialise this terrible piece of history for the sale of a few kegs, but to acknowledge the resilience of the people.

Michael Blanch of the Committee for Commemoration of Irish Famine Victims welcomed the beer being withdrawn.

“Anything that educates people on the Great Hunger is to be welcomed, but no-one should attempt to make commercial gain from the suffering of the victims. That’s unacceptable," he said.

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