The managing director of Colonial Brewing Co said he’d hate to see the brand have to change their name, after a campaign from anti-racism activists and the decision by an independent chain of bottle shops to remove it from shelves.
Based in the Margaret River region in Western Australia, the craft beer brand was accused of “creating nostalgia” for a period in history when Indigenous people “were killed en masse”.
But Lawrence Dowd hit back at the accusations this morning, telling the Today show it hadn’t been part of the brand’s narrative “to celebrate colonialism or imperialism, we have been very forward about that”.
“It started in 2004. It was one of the first micro breweries to establish itself in a very famous wine region called Margaret River, which we all know. They were basically colonising a beer company in a very famous wine region. That’s where the name came from,” he told hosts Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon.
“I don’t think there was any malice in starting the name.”
While Mr Dowd said the company would take the criticism on board, he added he wasn’t sure if changing the beer’s name would make a difference in stamping out racism in Australia.
“I think actions speak louder. It’s what you do in the community and where you create change,” he said.
“We do that as a business as well. We have probably got to promote that more. We are into real action and that’s where the change happens. It’s not just on a name that doesn’t really mean that much to us, but to some it does.”
Melbourne freelance journalist Shaad D’Souza has led the charge for Colonial to ditch its name for three years, but it picked up steam recently in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.
It appears to have been successful, with an overhaul of Colonial’s brand being considered.
On Monday, Mr D’Souza shared the news with his Instagram followers that Blackhearts and Sparrows, an independent alcohol retailer, had dumped the brand.
“We will sell through any remaining stock that we currently have in stores and will be donating all profits from those sales to the Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance,” it said in a message to him.
Today, Colonial Brewing Co issued a statement in response to “significant messages and comments” to say it’s considering changing the name.
“The brand and name Colonial Brewing Co was inherited in 2008 when purchased, what was at the time, a small microbrewery in Margaret River – it was not chosen, or intended to celebrate (colonisation),” the statement read.
“The name Colonial was given to the brewery as it was one of the first to establish itself in the well regarded wine region of Margaret River, colonialising the wine region with one of the first craft breweries.
“Over the past six months Colonial Brewing Co have undertaken a process to review and understand the options we have to approach the name considering the historical meaning.
“The process includes consultations with the appropriate parties to ensure a considered outcome is reached.”
In an interview with The Australian, Mr D’Souza insisted the name was inappropriate.
”My concern with a brand name like ‘Colonial Brewing’ is that it glorifies and glamorises the colonial process that destroyed cultures and countries across the globe,” he told The Australian.
“It is perverse for companies to gain profit by creating nostalgia for a time when First Nations people were killed en masse, and other cultures around the world were forced into conditions of poverty, slavery, disease, cultural decimation, and worse.”
At a press conference on Tuesday, WA Premier Mark McGowan said he believed the controversy was “taking (things) a bit far”.
“I don’t think it’s necessary but it’s a commercial decision for the company,” Mr McGowan told reporters.
Mr D’Souza celebrated his victory yesterday, saying: “This is small in the scheme of things, not like anyone has solved racism lol and I know that corporate change is generally meaningless without structural change but I appreciate it.”
The move comes in the wake of a renewed call for Australian cheese brand Coon to change its name, sparked by comedian Josh Thomas.
Coon was named in recognition of American cheesemaker Edward William Coon, who patented a new method of rapid production in the early 20th Century.