About a year ago, in an attempt to stop people from being excessively nice to the handicapped, the Gothenburg Cooperative for Independent Living (GIL) made a retarded doll. I was kind of unsure of the whole thing when I first heard about it; surely there are better ways to make people treat the handicapped like everyone else than a limited run of dolls with cerebral palsy. But it can't have been a complete failure, as GIL are still putting out the dolls and have just released their own brand of handicapped beer.
The cerebral palsy beer, or CPA, was previewed at Gothenburg's annual whiskey fair and was later premiered at Live and Function, one of the Nordic countries' biggest health and care fairs. I have no idea what alcohol and welfare have in common, so I called up our friend Anders Westgerd at GIL to find out.
VICE: Hey Anders. How can brewing beer help the handicapped?
Anders Westgerd: Well, this is part of how we work socio-politically. In Sweden in the early 2000's, an investigation named Patient to Citizen decided that all restaurants, bars and public spaces in general would become easy to access and have all kinds of obstacles removed by 2010. But when we realised in 2009 that not a thing had been done to improve public spaces, we decided to draw attention to limited access bars and restaurants. Because these are cool environments where people would like to hang out.
So what did you do about it?
Well, everybody want to be part of society – drink a beer, have fun and live life. So we listed three bars in the Gothenburg area that the handicapped cannot access and wrote them letters informing them of it. We also listed one bar that's easy to access to show them a good example. So you could say that all of this is the reason for us to now brew our own beer.
I remember you mentioning the beer drinking when we talked to you about the doll.
Yeah. When we made the doll, we wanted people to share with us how they experience problems in society. And many people told us that when they go out in bars they feel like they're being questioned. It's like, when you drink one beer people look at you, and if you drink two, three or four beers, well then people start morally panicking. Making a beer makes it easy for us to claim some space in bars that aren't normally aren't accessible for us.
How has the beer been received so far?
It's a success. At the sneak-peak at the Gothenburg Whiskey Fair, for example, we didn't think that their audience would care much about the message behind the beer. But people at the fair thought is was a pretty clever way to address the problems around all this. And since it's a hell of a good beer, well, I think they were impressed.
And how did the audience react at the health and care fair?
Very well. There, everything is kind of about how to make life easier for the handicapped. But we wanted to focus on life and how to live life. I mean, you can drink a beer no matter who you are. And with a beer in your hand, you become yourself and not your disability. So it was a success there, too.
What does it taste like?
It's a mix between an Indian pale ale and an American pale ale. So it's what you call a hybrid between an IPA and APA. And that's where the name comes from: CPA. It's also brewed on the four classic hops, which all have names beginning with a C – as in cerebral palsy – so there you have yet another reason for its name.
There's a lot of thought behind the beer. It's a brilliant messenger.
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