Brewdog's Speedball beer banned for glamorising drugs

Scottish microbrewer Brewdog has come under renewed attack from the Portman Group for marketing a beer that glamorises drugs.

The independent complaints commission has upheld a complaint by Alcohol Focus Scotland that the seasonal ale Speedball promotes the illegal-drugs mix that killed Hollywood stars John Belushi and River Phoenix.

Portman is now urging retailers to remove the beer from their shelves.

Speedball is marketed by Brewdog as a “class A ale” containing “a vicious cocktail of active ingredients” which creates a “happy-sad” effect.

Portman’s chief executive David Poley labelled the drink’s marketing as “grossly irresponsible”.

“The blurring of alcohol and illicit drugs fosters unhealthy attitudes to drinking, and trivialises drug misuse,” he said. “Brewdog is seriously misguided in its claim to be educating and preventing people from misusing drugs. We are taking urgent action to protect the public from exposure to such negligent marketing.”

Last month the Aberdeenshire-based brewer won a reprieve from Portman after successfully defending its Riptide, Punk IPA and Hop Rocker brands against complaints that the brands’ names and imagery could encourage violence.

Brewdog's co-founder Martin Dickie has hit back at allegations that Speedball uses irresponsible marketing. “Technically, the name fits within the product. The ingredients are natural stimulants including guarana and kola nuts with natural depressants, Californian poppy and hops, so it is a speedball of a combination.”

He added: “Its all about the individual perception and Portman is stripping that from the consumer by treating them like fools, all the while doing nothing to treat the root of alcohol troubles in the UK – massively under priced alcohol."