Special Ed’s Brewery owners apologize but keep provocative name

In a whirlwind 24 hours, the owners of Special Ed’s Brewery in Galt saw indignation go viral about their company name and slogans, received death threats, filed a police report, issued a written apology, took down their Facebook page and, yes, opened the retail store for business Tuesday.

“My husband is getting death threats on his phone,” co-owner Cheryl Mason said. “The situation is not funny at all.”

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Mason said she and her husband, Edward, have reported the threats to police. The name and related themes tied to the business – including the slogan “Take the short bus to special beer” and “’tard tested, ’tard approved” – touched off a firestorm of complaints, vitriol and calls for a boycott on Facebook and Twitter. The business also promoted a proposed beer, Back of the Bus Brown Ale, that appears to refer to Jim Crow-era segregation.

Late Monday, the business posted an apology apparently written by Edward Mason on the company’s Facebook page, then took the page down about two hours later. The apology said the business never intended to make fun of people with special needs and regretted the humor had been perceived that way. The post also said the brewery would like to keep the name. Several people were unhappy with the apology.

Asked for her reaction to the social media onslaught, Cheryl Mason said, “I think it’s ridiculous. I understand where people are coming from. I’m not heartless ... but people are not seeing where my husband is coming from. It wasn’t made out to attack anyone. It wasn’t meant to make fun of special-needs people.”

She said the store would open Tuesday to sell supplies for home brewers. The license to brew and sell beer has yet to be approved.

“People are complaining about the name. The name is Special Ed’s Brewery, not Special Ed Brewery. My husband has been known as Ed or Eddie all his life, and he’s special to me,” she added.

Asked if she realized that making a pun about special education was seen by many as insensitive, she said, “The T-shirts are gone. We cut them up and put them in the trash this morning. The pictures are gone. Everything is gone so we can say, ‘OK, you got your way.’”

The Monday night Facebook post said the proposed Back of the Bus Brown Ale “was actually named by an African American friend of mine and he thought it was funny so I didn’t think anything of it. It also wasn’t meant for the public.”

Tricia Bowden, a Galt resident who had called for a boycott of the business, said she was still hoping to meet with Edward Mason before moving forward. He had agreed to meet with her at 11 a.m. Tuesday but called it off, she said. Bowden’s 22-year-old daughter, Kristina, has autism.

“I’m really embarrassed. I raised my children in Galt. The special education community here is fabulous. My daughter had a wonderful high school experience. This doesn’t represent us, and hopefully it doesn’t represent Ed,” Bowden said.

When told of the death threats, Bowden added, “That’s very unfortunate and sad that people would stoop to that – adding hate to ignorance.”

Blair Anthony Robertson: 916-321-1099, @Blarob

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