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An Arak Attack

Bali Legislators Seek Ways to Both Regulate and Encourage Production of Local Alcoholic Spirits

(4/22/2012) There’s a song by the Indonesian rock music group “Slank” that, roughly translated, goes:

“Thank you dear Bali for your culture and your nature. Thank you for your beautiful girls and the strength of Bali’s arak.”

Arak is the alcoholic beverage often distilled from tuak, a wine made from coconut palms. It can also be distilled from brem - a wine made from glutinous rice and coconut milk.

Celebrated in song, but more celebrated in glasses with friends, arak has a special place in the Balinese culture. As such, Bali lawmakers are now considering how to allocate a special status on both the drinks and their traditional producers.

Unregulated, arak has sometimes been produced by unscrupulous or ill-trained people who have produced a beverage that is poisonous and has cost human lives. A special committee of the Bali House of Representatives (DPRD-Bali) is seeking steps that will both encourage arak production as a local product, while at the same time regulating the production method to ensure public safety is not compromised.

The DPRD-Bali special committee traveled to Sideman, Karangasem on Thursday, April 19, to meet with small-scale producers and hear the aspirations of those who have learned the skill of arak production from generation to generation.

The arak producer told the lawmakers how they wish that their trade could be legally recognized, ending the high cost of having to deal with police. To this end, they asked that a simplified and straightforward licensing method be established for arak producers and a supportive role to be played by the government in the production and marketing of what is a well-known and much enjoyed local product.

Legislators assured local arak producers that the majority of their aspirations are accommodated in new regulations now being drafted by the House.