WASHINGTON -- Surgeon General Antonia C. Novello and representatives of American Indian groups yesterday blasted a new Baltimore-brewed malt liquor called "Crazy Horse," charging that it was specifically aimed at Indians and underage drinkers.
Testifying before the House Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families, Dr. Novello said she was concerned that Crazy Horse, named after a revered 19th century Sioux warrior, would appeal to young American Indians "who would understandably want to identify with such a noble leader and such heroic heritage."
Dr. Novello's criticism is the latest in a series of attacks on brands of alcohol and cigarettes aimed specifically at women, minorities or teen-agers. Last year the G. Heileman Brewing Co. Inc., which brews Crazy Horse at its plant in Halethorpe, dropped plans to market PowerMaster malt liquor after complaints it was targeted at black men.
Dr. Novello said the introduction of Crazy Horse comes at a time when American Indians suffer from much more alcohol-related illness than does the general population.
She said she was outraged at the name of the product and "full of frustration knowing that there is little that can be done to stop a product like Crazy Horse malt liquor from reaching the store shelves."
Crazy Horse, brewed by Heileman for Hornell Brewing Co. Inc. of Brooklyn, N.Y., went on sale in March in 14 states, including Maryland.
The product's "appeal to youth is very worrisome," Dr. Novello said, because American Indians "begin abusing alcohol at a younger age than their counterparts from other races."
Hank Shafran, a spokesman for Hornell, responded that Dr. Novello's criticism of Crazy Horse was "patently untrue. We have never targeted any group with a product."
"It's a general consumer product," Mr. Shafran said. "We had no idea that we were causing a problem with the selection of that name."
The 40-ounce bottle has a picture of an Indian on the front, while an inscription on the back reads, "The Black Hills of Dakota, steeped in the history of the American West, home of proud Indian Nations. . . . A land . . . of Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and Custer."
Randy Smith, vice president and general counsel for Heileman Brewing, said that his company only makes the beer for Hornell under contract and that it has no control over the name or marketing strategy.
American Indian witnesses yesterday demanded a boycott of the beer.
Michael Her Many Horses of the Oglala Sioux tribe in Pine Ridge, S.D., charged that Hornell "is exploiting an Indian nation and all Indian people who are already suffering from alcohol abuse."