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Drygate's now to be rebranded Disco Forklift Truck Mango Pale Ale: brewery says that while it wants the Portman Group to be effective, complaints upheld of late have not targeted products which cause harm


Drygate challenges Portman Group on “completely illogical” ruling 

Drygate Brewing has hit back at The Portman Group’s ruling against cans of its Disco Forklift Truck Mango Pale Ale describing it as “completely illogical” and alleging “a fundamental disconnect between some of the findings of the complaints panel and an actual public health concern.”

A complaint against the beer’s brightly coloured packaging, which features a spaceman dancing on a raised forklift arm, by Aberdeenshire Alcohol and Drug Partnership was upheld on two counts: for having an association with dangerous behaviour and attracting under-age drinkers.

The Portman Group panel said it was “concerned to see an alcohol product named after dangerous everyday building-site machinery” and considered that “the bright contrasting colours, the cartoon characters and the language used created a cumulative impact of negative cues which … led the product to have a particular appeal to under 18s.”

Drygate has accepted the association with bravado and will remove the dancing character in an already planned redesign of the can but the Glasgow-based brewer rejects the suggestion that the hop-forward ale may appeal to children.

“We struggle to come up with any scenario in which this product would be chosen by an under-age drinker,” said operations director Matt Corden, pointing to the product’s high price and measures taken by the trade such as Challenge 25.

“If the underage drinker thinks the can is a soft drink, and the Portman Group accepted the product is clearly alcohol, it will become immediately apparent after opening it that it’s not. And it’s very unlikely an immature palate would enjoy a bitter, hoppy ale.”

Corden went on to call for a more “evidence-based” approach from the Portman Group – which is limited to considering only marketing and packaging. It should consider, he said, “the product inside the can” and “the things that younger drinkers are actually drawn to such as price point, flavour profile and alcoholic strength.”

“If this approach was employed, craft beer would rarely fall foul of the Portman Group’s decisions, and it would be able to uphold complaints against products which actually are marketed towards younger drinkers.”

He added that defending the design had already cost Drygate a huge amount of time. 

“However, the cost of redesign is not a concern. We were in the process of amending our branding anyway, and the design would have been changed with or without this decision. We now just have to take into account the fairly minor changes requested. 

“The cost will be significant, but we take issue with the decision on a point of principle more than anything else.

“We want the Portman Group to be effective, particularly with regards to protecting underage drinkers, but we don’t feel the complaints which have been upheld over the past few years have targeted products which actually cause harm.”

Phil Mellows
26th October 2018

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