Alberta brewery apologizes for misusing Maori language, naming beer 'pubic hair'

An Alberta brewery has apologized for unknowingly naming their beer 'pubic hair,' after using a Maori word they thought meant feather.

Hell's Basement Brewery called out on social media for Huruhuru (the Feather) New Zealand Hopped Pale Ale

An Alberta brewery unwittingly named a beer after the Maori word for pubic hair. (Hell's Basement Brewery)

An Alberta brewery has apologized for unknowingly naming their beer 'pubic hair,' after using a Maori word they thought meant feather.

Two years ago, Hell's Basement Brewery released Huruhuru (The Feather) New Zealand Hopped Pale Ale.

This week, Te Hamua Nikora, who is Maori, took to Facebook to explain 'huruhuru' actually means pubic hair in te reo, the language spoken by the Maori people.

Nikora called out the brewery and another shop in New Zealand for both using the word. 

"What's the first thing most Maori think when they hear the word 'huruhuru'?" asked Nikora in the video. 

"It was brought to my attention a few days ago that there is a new shop in Wellington… and it's called Huruhuru Authentic Leather."

He said he sent the shop a Facebook message to ask what they thought the word meant. He said they responded that they found it in a dictionary as a word for 'feather.' 

"When the Maori look at the name of your store, they're not going to see 'feather' or soft leather, they're going to see 'pubes,'" he said in the video. 

Nikora said in the video that after posting about the shop he was tagged in a post by Hell's Basement Brewery, which is located in Medicine Hat, Alta. 

He said some people call it appreciation but he calls it appropriation.

"It's that entitlement disease they've got. Stop it. Use your own language." 

Product to be rebranded

Mike Patriquin, founder and general manager of Hell's Basement Brewery, said in an emailed statement that it was not the brewery's intent to offend anyone and that Hell's Basement supports all forms of culture, including beer culture. 

"The interpretation was intended as 'feather' – meaning the beer itself is light as a feather and this is also stated in the name," Patriquin wrote.

"We acknowledge that we did not consider the commonplace use of the term huruhuru as a reference to pubic hair, and that consultation with a Maori representative would have been a better reference than online dictionaries.

"We wish to make especially clear that it was not our intent to infringe upon, appropriate, or offend the Maori culture or people in any way; to those who feel disrespected, we apologize."

Patriquin said the brewery is taking time to rebrand the product and will attempt to do better in the future. 


Rhiannon Johnson is an Anishinaabe journalist from Hiawatha First Nation based in Toronto. She has been with CBC since 2017 focusing on Indigenous life and experiences.