New Portman Group row for BrewDog

A new row has erupted between Aberdeen based microbrewery Brewdog and The Portman Group as yet another of its products falls under threat of being removed from retailer’s shelves.

The marketing and packaging for beer brand Speedball has been condemned by the industry drinks regulator as ‘grossly irresponsible’ as the name Speedball is the name given to the combination of Heroin and Crack Cocaine.

The drink is marketed by BrewDog, as a “class A ale” containing “a vicious cocktail of active ingredients” which creates a “happy-sad” effect.

David Poley, Portman Group Chief Executive, said: “The blurring of alcohol and illicit drugs fosters unhealthy attitudes to drinking and trivialises drug misuse. BrewDog is profiteering from the scourge of illegal drugs, mocking the misery caused by misuse. The company is seriously misguided in its claim to be educating and preventing people from misusing drugs. We are taking urgent action to protect the public from exposure to such negligent marketing.”

Martin Dickie, co-founder of BrewDog hit back by saying: “The Portman Group is completely misguided in saying that Speedball is going to be pulled from the shelves across the UK. Their note is a recommendation to retailers, nothing more, and secondly, this is an extremely exclusive drink for beer connoisseurs, it’s not as if it is available in every shop which sells alcohol.

“This is a drink which, in the UK, had a release of 1184 bottles and cost £3 a bottle, so Speedball is for those who enjoy a quality beer responsibly and enjoy a premium drink at a premium price.

“The Portman Group has attacked us for our marketing instead of going after the companies who are mass-selling products cheaply and causing the nation’s alcohol problems. The beer was marketed in a backlash over the unfounded allegations that our three best selling beers were being sold promoting aggressive behavior, allegations that have since been over ruled. “Technically, the name fits within the product. The ingredients are natural stimulants including guarana and kola nuts with natural depressants Californian poppy and hops, so it is a speedball of a combination.”

James Watt, the managing director of BrewDog, said the name was simply a marketing tool designed to challenge the traditional folksy image of beer brewed in small breweries.

He said: “Yes, calling a beer Speedball could be viewed as provocative but the public health campaigners, as they did with our other drink Tokyo, generated hysteria to conceal their own shortfalls in falling to educate drinkers properly.

“Calling a drink Speedball was meant to get people talking about what matters in a drink and drinking alcohol responsibly. But instead of thanking us or working with us, Portman have had yet another go at us.

“Would Jamie Oliver be punished for saying a pepper is spicy encourage those who eat it to be hot-headed? Does WKD encourage people to be wicked? Our thing is just marketing, a way of saying to our consumers, this drink is made by people with a similar world view to your own.”

The full complaint adjudication can be read here

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