'Irresponsible' super-strength beer banned

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Indy Lifestyle Online

A super-strength beer was banned from sale in the UK today after a drinks industry watchdog ruled that its marketing promoted excessive drinking.

The Tokyo* beer sparked a furore when it was launched with an 18.2% alcohol content this summer, with health campaigners condemning the brewery which produces it as "irresponsible".

Drinks watchdog the Portman Group investigated after complaints about the wording on the label.

The message on the Tokyo* bottle's label and website reads: "Everything in moderation, including moderation itself. What logically follows is that you must, from time to time, have excess. This beer is for those times."

The Portman Group's independent complaints panel agreed this advocated excessive consumption and was "particularly unwise in the context of a product that contained six units of alcohol in a single 330ml bottle".

It decided that the beer, which is made by Aberdeenshire-based company BrewDog, breaks the group's code of practice which sets minimum, mandatory standards for drinks producer marketing.

Now it is issuing a retailer alert bulletin asking retailers to stop selling the drink until its marketing is altered to comply with the code.

David Poley, Portman Group chief executive, said: "We don't regulate the alcohol content of drinks but we do control how they are promoted. It's obviously unwise for any company to urge consumers to drink to excess.

"We won't allow any irresponsible marketing, whether it's for a big brand or a niche product. That's why we're taking action to restrict future sales of this beer."

If a retailer ignored the ruling, the Portman Group can challenge it through the local licensing authority, which could ultimately revoke its licence.

The panel dismissed complaints that the product's packaging unduly emphasised its strength and that the expression "intergalactic fantastic" on the label was a reference to the effects of illicit drugs.

The complaints were lodged by Alcohol Focus Scotland and a member of the public.

BrewDog said that banning the beer was a waste of time as only 500 bottles of each batch are sold in four or five specialist shops in the UK, and the remaining 90% are exported.

Director Martin Dickie hit back at accusations that the company promotes excessive drinking.

He said: "If they think that the person who reads a bit of amusing prose on the side of a bottle is going to be in some way instructed to do something. that's just ridiculous.

"They have to credit the consumer with some kind of intelligence, and for them to go off the rails and ban this because of what it says in a witty remark on the side just smacks of the nanny state.

"The people buying this are beer connoisseurs, they know what they are drinking and how to consume a product like this."

He said the company will continue to make the beer, which costs £9.99 for 330ml, but would look into working with the Portman Group to resolve the marketing issue.

The British Medical Association Scotland welcomed the Portman Group's decision to address the "irresponsible promotion" of the beer.

A spokeswoman said: "More than a million people in Scotland are drinking hazardously or harmfully and strong beers such as Tokyo* beer exacerbate this problem.

"There appears to be a view that drinking to excess is simply part of our culture - an inevitable national characteristic - so much so that we are ranked eighth in the world for alcohol consumption."



Jack Law, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: "We are pleased that the Portman Group has upheld our complaint.

"This reinforces the need for companies to take a responsible approach to their marketing and advertising."

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