The Portman Group has finally ruled on BrewDog’s well-intended but ultimately disastrous International Women’s Day activity, the Pink IPA: Beer for Girls. The group has upheld a complaint that contested the beer appealed to children.
While it may be surprising that the controversial IPA would appeal to anyone (after a very public backlash against the brand), five months later, the cautious Portman Group was concerned by the ‘Beer for Girls’ tagline did what it said on the can.
Portman's panel went by the Oxford dictionary definition of ‘Girl’ (female child), and reason that this mean that the beer was targeted at children.
On the other side of that coin, the panel also deemed that ‘girl’ was sometimes an offensive term to refer to young women. It noted an attempt at irony in its use, as noted BrewDog’s blog trying to explain the joke.
John Timothy, secretary to the Independent Complaints Panel, said: “The ruling by the Panel sets an important precedent around the use of the terms ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ on alcohol labels. While we recognise the distinct purpose of the campaign by BrewDog was to draw attention to an important social issue, producers still need to make sure that there is no way that their products could be misinterpreted as appealing to children.
“If in doubt we can offer free advice and guidance to prevent issues arising before products reach the shelf.”
The Group’s decision comes to prominence long after the limited-run Pink IPA was laid out to pasture after passionate criticism around the brand’s messaging. At the time, a press release said that the work was "BrewDog’s clarion call to close the gender pay gap in the UK and around the world and to expose sexist marketing to women".
The launch of Pink IPA came with a promise from the brand to donate 20% of profits from the new beer, and its best-selling Punk IPA product, to a STEM charity furthering women's education for the next four weeks. This good deed was eclipsed, however, by the reception to the 'Beer For Girls', which prompted fierce discussions about irony, gender stereotypes and brand communications.
BrewDog said: "As a one-off campaign aimed squarely at satirising gender stereotypes on International Women’s Day, we’re comfortable it was no more aimed at underage drinkers than it was genuinely targeted at women. We’re as bothered about this Portman Group ruling as we are any other - that is, not at all."
The Portman Group and Brewdog have a history of clashes. In 2014, the brewer issued a letter apologizing for not “giving a shit” about its ruling on its Dead Pony Club ale.