An international beer label dubbed "Māori Tears" has been slammed for being spiritually and culturally offensive.

The "Māori Tears" beer, owned by the Brussels Beer Project in Belgium, claims to "encapsulate those tears to capture their sacred nature".

The label - complete with a Māori macron in the correct place - says the beverage is barrel aged in French oak, and contains German grape Dornfelder, a single hop from Wakatu in New Zealand, and is a single-malt pale ale.

The company's website states only 800 bottles were made and are only sold at the brewery in Brussels.

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Māori rights advocate Karaitiana Taiuru said the beer was another classic example of a brewery that is causing offence.

"The idea of drinking someone else's tears is spiritually offensive to a traditional Māori world view," he said.

"It would breach the sacredness rule in New Zealand if applying for a trademark.

"What are Māori tears? Does it symbolise that the brewer takes pride in thinking of Māori who are crying or perhaps stereotyping that Māori are sad and drink to be happy?"

Taiuru said although the company spelt the word Māori orthographically correct, they should have sought advice on the name.

"At first glance it appears at the lower level of cultural appropriation that I have seen with offensive beer labels.

"But any cultural appropriation is offensive and there is no excuse for it in today's information age," he said.

Māori rights advocate Karaitiana Taiuru said the beer was another classic example of a brewery that is causing offence. Photo / Brussels Beer Project website
Māori rights advocate Karaitiana Taiuru said the beer was another classic example of a brewery that is causing offence. Photo / Brussels Beer Project website

"Māori is a term that should not be applied to food or beverages. Though the term Māori was used to describe all iwi to the immigrants who visited settled here, it is a special term to refer to the indigenous peoples of New Zealand.

"The term has significant cultural value to Māori people and applies to our ancestors, the living and dead and the future generations."

Auckland University of Technology Professor Pare Keiha said whether the term Māori Tears is considered tapu is a matter of opinion.

"The strength of that opinion would determine whether or not the mark is offensive," he said.

"That the product is produced in Belgium, albeit using hops grown in Wakatu does not minimise any offence, should one exist.

"Similarly, should the hops have been grown by Māori growers would not minimise any offence, should one exist."

Keiha, AUT's pro vice-chancellor of Māori advancement, said regrettably New Zealand intellectual property laws had no reach overseas.

"Intellectual property rights help ensure that Māori culture and traditional knowledge is recognised and respected. It also gives rights to benefit commercially while preventing exploitation or inappropriate use," he said.

"Specific reference is made to those things which are tapu and those things which are noa. All foods are noa or profane.

"In this instance, beer is an alcoholic beverage and would be regarded by a reasonable Māori as being noa."

Labour MP Tamati Coffey said he felt the name was chosen "in poor taste".

"It is not a beer I will be reaching for anytime soon," he said.

The Herald has sought comment from the Brussels Beer Project.

The "Māori Tears" beer is one of several culturally inappropriate beer labels that Taiuru has fought this year.

In March, Taiuru complained to the Electric Bear Brewing Company in the UK about a label that showed a Māori warrior riding a Kiwi, stating it was offensive and racist.

Within hours of Taiuru raising the issue with the company, it apologised and removed all of the material from its website and social media.

It also said the beer was no longer in their range, but if it ever were to be again it would be completely rebranded.

Taiuru has also lodged successful complaints against labels by Exmoor Ales and Rammy Craft Ales in the UK - who also used labels with Māori imagery.

Both companies removed the labels or agreed to change them if further stock was created.