Tuesday 28 November 2023

Wasted youth

The Morning Advertiser reports that Leeds-based brewery Northern Monk has discontinued two of its seasonal products after complaints against them were upheld by the Portman Group. The brand’s Rocket Lolly IPA and Wasted Hot Cross Bun Pale Ale were “found to have a particular appeal to under-18s and did not communicate the alcoholic nature of the drink with absolute clarity”.

I have in the past criticised the Portman Group for having a po-faced and heavy-handed approach, and being all too willing to act on a single vexatious complaint. But surely it should be obvious that it is neither appropriate nor responsible to promote alcoholic drinks using images relating to childhood treats, or with references to drunkenness.

No major alcohol producer would even dream of using such themes. But there still seems to be a view in the craft beer community that it is part of their mission in life to be edgy and transgressive, and that they are not bound by the rules that apply to the stuffed shirts. Yes, there is a place for humour in alcohol marketing, something the Portman Group sometimes fails to appreciate, but there are subjects that it should steer well clear of.

At a time when there is ever-growing pressure for tighter curbs on alcohol promotion and marketing, selling products like this is offering a hostage to fortune that may well end up being flung back in the industry’s face. As I wrote back in 2020 over a similar case involving Lost & Grounded Brewery, “is defending figures reminiscent of children’s cartoon characters really the hill you want to die on when standing up for the rights of alcohol producers?”

And it’s impossible to escape the suspicion that these can designs did not stem from an innocent mistake, but were deliberately tweaking the regulator’s tail in a bid to gain publicity.


  1. I've avoided anything at all to do with Northern Monk since their "brewery tap" in Leeds went "card only" a number of years ago.

  2. Similarly rubbish "beer" as Wiper and True's, thin, metallic, ugly.

  3. The Stafford Mudgie28 November 2023 at 21:46

    And me.
    "A bid to gain publicity" is all this is and very successful it has been.

  4. I’m not that familiar with Northern Monk, even though their over-priced cans are stacked high, on the shelves in Tesco, but I did think they’d want to project a “more mature” image for their brand.

    What I particularly dislike are the increasingly garish cans, that seem almost “de rigueur” for any aspiring craft beer brewery. They might catch one’s eye, but to me they totally detract from the product within the can, although perhaps that’s just as well.

    1. I prefer breweries with more subtle branding like Sullivans.

  5. The words 'Pale' and 'Ale' on one of the tins are sufficient to indicate that the contents are beer and will therefore contain alcohol,what planet is this regulator on?

  6. Someone has been reading the Brewdog book on marketing.


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