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Rude beers fall foul of Portman Group code of practice after council complains

An independent brewer breached the Portman Group’s code of practice in relation to ten of its beers, an independent complaints panel has ruled following a complaint by Newcastle City Council’s public health team.

The panel found that Direct Beers’ products – ‘Cat P*ss’, ‘Dog P*ss’, ‘Bullsh*t’, ‘Dandelion & Birdsh*t’, ‘Big C**k’, ‘A**e Liquor’, ‘Puke’, ‘Sh*tfaced’, ‘Yellow Snow’ and ‘Kn*bhead’ – contravened paragraph 3.2(h) of the code. This states that drinks, packaging or promotional material should not have particular appeal to under-18s.

The panel also concluded that:

  • ‘Puke’, ‘Shi*tfaced’ and ‘Kn*bhead’ were deemed to encourage illegal, irresponsible, or immoderate consumption (contrary to paragraph 3.2f).
  • ‘Big C**k’ and ‘Kn*bhead’ were found in breach for suggesting an association with sexual activity (contrary to paragraph 3.2d);
  • ‘Sh*tfaced’ and ‘Yellow Snow’ were found in breach for suggesting an association with bravado, violence, aggression, or anti-social behaviour (contrary to paragraph 3.2b).

Complaints regarding the brewer’s ‘Grumpy Git’ and ‘Lazy Sod’ products were not upheld.

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The beers were sold at Newcastle Christmas Market.

Direct Beers told the panel that none of its products were intended to appeal to under-18s, adding that the vast majority of its drinks were sold in person at retail events, where it operated a Challenge 25 policy.  

The independent panel said it recognised that the company had positioned itself in the greeting card market, that the products were meant to be tongue-in-cheek, and marketed in a different way and for a particular market.

The panel felt, however, that the code applied to any product that was marketed for sale and consumption in the UK, regardless of the market it was aimed at or how it was promoted.

It expressed concern that frequent references to scatological humour, defecation, urination, genitalia, vomiting and other bodily functions could prove particularly attractive to under-18s. It also noted that this appeal was exacerbated by the cartoon illustrations shown on a number of the products.  

Henry Ashworth, Secretary to the Independent Complaints Panel, said: “‘It is vitally important that alcohol producers ensure that their drinks do not in any way appeal to children, encourage violence, anti-social behaviour or immoderate drinking, or make references to sexual activity. There is a place for humour in alcohol marketing, as the Panel’s decisions on ‘Grumpy Git’ and ‘Lazy Sod’ show – but it is important to know where to draw the line.”

The Portman Group is the responsibility body for drinks producers in the UK. A copy of the panel’s ruling can be viewed here.

The panel said Direct Beers had not yet confirmed whether it would make any amendments to its products.


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