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Trunk Drunk

India's Wild Elephants Adore Local Brew

Wild elephants in northeastern India, drunk after raiding tribal villagers' stores of home-brewed beer, often  trample crops and, occasionally, humans. The beer is made by "aboriginal communities" and stored in drums in homes often constructed of mud and thatch -- no anti-beer barrier for a herd of thirsty elephants. Made from fermented rice, the local beer has many names, such as laopani, bunkchung, and apong, and is an important beverage for entertaining houseguests, excluding uninvited elephants. Sadly, the region's beer-stealing elephants sometimes destroy themselves as well as people, homes, and crops: Half-a-dozen drunk elephants in 2007 were electrocuted after raiding a village for rice beer and then uprooting a utility pole carrying electric power lines. Sources: "Beer-swilling elephants," Associated Press, 14 Nov 2004, "Wild elephants electrocuted," Associated Press, 23 Oct 2007, and Dipali Deka, et al, "... preparation of rice-beer ...," Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, Jul 2010.

Illustration commentary: This fanciful artwork of a happy beer-drinking elephant decorates an early 20th-century advertising poster for the Spanish beer Moritz. The artist is unknown to WBT, but may be the French poster-artist Eugene Oge (1861-1936) noted for a playful style of food-and-drink illustration. The artwork's "beer-belly" elephant appears to represent the Indian subspecies of the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), a relative of the larger African elephant, or, perhaps, an imaginary combination of the Asian and African elephant. Source: WBT's illustrator and elephant files.

Strong brew factlet: Carlsberg India in 2011 launched a "super-premium strong beer" named Elephant in honor of the country's largest mammal, which signifies "strength and royalty." Source: Carlsberg India (website), 2 Apr 2013.

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