Half Acre Beer Company was founded in a spare bedroom in 2006 and quickly became one of Chicago’s favorite breweries. If you’ve spent any time exploring bars in this city, chances are you’ve encountered the Heyoka IPA, one of Half Acre’s flagship brews. Heyoka fans will soon see a major change in their favorite IPA, however. Beginning January 2015, the beer formerly known as Heyoka will go by Senita.
For those unaware of its significance, “Heyoka” refers to a mythical figure in Lakota culture. With this in mind, the American Indian Movement (AIM) requested that Half Acre change the name of its IPA. In Lakota lore, Heyoka is a contrarian figure who reflects the world around him through antithetical jest. For many, the appropriation of Heyoka to name an alcoholic beverage was particularly offensive; especially since alcoholism has devastated Native American communities for centuries.
In regard to their interactions with Half Acre, AIM council member Walter “Graywolf” Ruiz explains: “People just don’t understand our culture and traditions, and they take certain aspects without thinking,” he said. “That’s what happened in this case. It wasn’t intentional. When we explained the situation to them, they were very in favor of changing it.”
The IPA’s new name, “Senita”, denotes a cactus indigenous to southwestern Arizona.
“We had the opportunity to have many conversations and exchanges that landed in a very positive place,” remarks Half Acre Founder Gabriel Magliaro. “In the end, this has been a huge learning experience for Half Acre and we’re pleased to respect the wishes of the Lakota people. We also feel the name Senita reflects the vibes we’ve always looked for when mapping out this beer and its identity.”