Amid controversy, Special Ed’s Brewery in Galt changes name

Special Ed’s Brewery, which saw its name and slogans go viral amid complaints they were insulting to special needs children, has changed its name effective immediately.

The uproar over the name as well as slogans such as “tard tested, tard approved” and “take the short bus to special beer” brought cringe-worthy attention to Galt when it created an uproar last week on Facebook that quickly spread nationwide. Amid all of the complaints, owners Ed and Cheryl Mason received death threats, and someone smashed the front window with rocks.

Ed Mason wound up meeting with parents of children with special needs and said he was quickly convinced that the brewery name was inappropriate. But renaming a brewery may be even more daunting than naming – or misnaming – one.

“We were coming up with different names, different scenarios, different types of breweries we wanted and we finally got down to about six of them,” Mason said. “One was a steampunk theme, then different scenarios of Galt names. We were going to call it Old Town Brewery, but the city informed us we were four blocks outside of Old Town.

“We finally came up with a new name, and it came from something my wife said – ‘These damn rocks keep getting in my way. We oughta just name it River Rock Brewery.’ It stuck. Now it just sort of rolls off the tongue.”

Is there a river nearby? Well, no. There’s Dry Creek, a name Mason said doesn’t really work with beer. The rocks that smashed the window amid all the uproar were left on the floor of the brewery and they spawned the name. Mason said he plans to order signage, T-shirts and related materials right away. He will stick with the original Hophead logo, saying “it kinda looks like me.”

Tricia Bowden, one of his most persistent critics and the parent of a grown daughter with autism, said she was ready to forgive and forget. She and Mason were scheduled to meet at the brewery Wednesday night to be interviewed for the beer-focused podcast Barley & Me, hosted by Ben Rice.

“Well, good for him,” Bowden said when told of the name change. “I think it’s very nonoffensive. To be honest, I really don’t care as long as he doesn’t offend a group of people who can’t defend themselves.”

Asked if she would support the brewery, Bowden, who had called for a boycott, said, “Absolutely. I believe in second chances. It’s a small town. I’m all about supporting local businesses.”

As for Mason, he said he has gotten past the worst of a very bad week.

“It was horrible,” Mason said of his experience with going viral. “Nothing I ever wanted, nothing I ever asked for. I didn’t sleep for a week – eat or sleep, really. But I can afford to lose a few pounds.”

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

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