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Trouble brewing: Tensions spill over after Dead Pony Club ale ruling

dead-pony-club-beerA storm in a beer glass has erupted over a ruling against a Scottish craft-brewed beer curiously called Dead Pony Club.

Britain’s Independent Complaints Panel made the ruling following an nationwide British audit of alcoholic drinks last year.

The panel ruled that the packaging of Dead Pony Club, an ale from Scottish craft brewer BrewDog, was in breach of the alcohol marketing code that governed the responsible naming, packaging and promotion of alcoholic drinks.

However, BrewDog responded in emphatic fashion to the ruling, labelling the alcoholic beverage trade body, the Portman Group, which was behind the complaint, a gloomy gaggle of killjoy jobsworths. BrewDog said it was sorry for “never giving a shit” about what the agency had to say.

The Portman Group took issue with comments on the packaging and label which it felt associated the product with bravado and immoderate consumption.

The complaints panel found it placed undue emphasis on the strength and intoxicating effect of the alcohol in the product.

A retailer alert bulletin has since been issued instructing liquor merchants not to place orders for Dead Pony Club in its current packaging after July 8.

The panel acknowledged that the beer was of a lower-than-average strength, at 3.8 percent by volume, but said the line on the label, “rip it up down empty streets”, associated the product with anti-social behaviour.

The panel found that the product did not promote immoderate consumption, but ruled that packaging phrases such as “drink fast, live fast” and “we believe faster is better” could encourage the consumer to drink the product rapidly.

The Portman Group, a trade group composed of alcoholic beverage producers and brewers in Britain, was acting on its own accord as complainant in the case following the 2012 code compliance audit of drinks.

The group’s chief executive, Henry Ashworth, said: “The code rules do not exist to prevent humour or innovative brand marketing, but to make sure that humour is used responsibly. We urge producers to exercise due diligence and consult our Code Advisory Team if they are in any doubt.”

The panel said it had reviewed the overall impression conveyed by the product as a whole.

The panel noted that the back label included the statement, ‘this thorough bred kicks like a mule’, but felt that given the relatively low strength of the beer there was no undue emphasis placed on the strength or intoxicating effect of the alcohol. It therefore concluded that the product did not promote immoderate consumption.

However, it did rule that the phrases “drink fast, live fast” and “we believe faster is better” could encourage the consumer to drink the product rapidly. Consequently, the product was found  to be in breach of the code.

However, BrewDog appeared unrepentant over the marketing of its ale.

A blog on its website said: “On behalf of BrewDog PLC and its 14,691 individual shareholders, I would like to issue a formal apology to the Portman Group for not giving a shit about today’s ruling.

“Indeed, we are sorry for never giving a shit about anything the Portman Group has to say, and treating all of its statements with callous indifference and nonchalance.

“Unfortunately, the Portman Group is a gloomy gaggle of killjoy jobsworths, funded by navel-gazing international drinks giants.

“Their raison d’être is to provide a diversion for the true evils of this industry, perpetrated by the gigantic faceless brands that pay their wages. Blinkered by this soulless mission, they treat beer drinkers like brain dead zombies and vilify creativity and competition. Therefore, we have never given a second thought to any of the grubby newspeak they disseminate periodically.”

“While the Portman Group lives out its days deliberating whether a joke on a bottle of beer is responsible or irresponsible use of humour, at BrewDog we will just get on with brewing awesome beer and treating our customers like adults.”

It continued: “Mr Portman, we’d be appreciative if you could now kindly save some trees and stop sending us meaningless letters. We sincerely hope that the sarcasm of this message fits the Portman Group criteria of responsible use of humour.”

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