29 October 2008

Orkney Skullsplitter--Too Violent a Beer?

Oh, blimey.

First, we've had various beers get in trouble with the ATF (later the TTB) over claims that could be construed to be "healthful" (see Bert Grant of Grant's in Washington sticking a factual nutritional-content label--a label that is REQUIRED on other foodstuffs--on his Celtic Ale years ago) or that could be construed to be a claim of superior alcoholic strength (ever see the labels on the bottles of the first batch of Dogfish Head World Wide Stout with two black marker lines at the bottom of the text, crossing out the words "Vim and Vigor"?).....................

Now add violence to the mix.

Quoting the website for Scotland's Orkney Brewery:


The Orkney Brewery has mounted a vigorous defence of its award winning Skull Splitter ale, which could be withdrawn from sale in the UK following a report claiming its Viking branded bottles had an “aggressive” theme.

The report, by management consultancy PIPC, was commissioned by controversial drinks marketing watchdog, the Portman Group, to investigate compliance with an industry code of practice on the naming, packaging and promotion of alcohol.

Skull Splitter, an 8.5% ale created over 20 years ago and sold internationally, was singled out in the PIPC report because “it’s name implies violence and also the impact the strength may have on the drinker”.

The report claimed that, potentially, Skull Splitter was in breach of the drinks industry’s code and the Portman Group will meet later in the year to consider what action, if any, it may take against the Orkney Brewery. That action could include an instruction to UK retailers not to stock the ale.

Fearing one of its longest established and most popular ales could be withdrawn from sale in the UK, the brewery has now launched a campaign to save Skull Splitter, a former Champion Winter Ale of Britain.

Already commended for leading the way with efforts to increase awareness of sensible drinking, the brewery – set to undergo a major redevelopment - has repeatedly stressed to the Portman Group that the ale is in fact named after Thorfinn Hausakluif, the Seventh Viking Earl of Orkney - nicknamed “Skull Splitter”.

Orkney Brewery’s parent company, Sinclair Breweries Ltd, is mustering support for its case ahead of the final decision by the Portman Group.

Norman Sinclair, managing director of Sinclair Breweries Ltd, said: “We’re completely stunned by the hard line the Portman Group has taken with Skullsplitter. When they first raised their concerns with us on the back of the PIPC report we fully explained the historical background to the name and, as responsible brewers, we were happy to try and work with them to find a solution. Indeed, we’ve cooperated with them every step of the way but it’s apparently got us nowhere.

“Again and again we have stressed to the Portman Group that Skull Splitter, like all our beers, is a high quality, hand crafted product designed to be savoured by adults who enjoy the real ale experience. We never target any of our beers at a young market, nor do we allow them to be sold cut price. In addition, Skull Splitter is not sold in supermarkets.”

Mr Sinclair said he had reminded the Portman Group that Sinclair Breweries Ltd, which also owns Kinlochleven’s Atlas Brewery, was the first small, independent brewer to incorporate new government alcohol consumption guidelines on all its labelling.

“We’ve always promoted a responsible attitude towards our products and, whilst we recognise that the Portman Group is trying to address a very real problem with under age drinking in this country, real ales are not the cause of these issues,” he said. “Sadly, the Portman Group does not appear to have grasped this fact. They have chosen to disregard everything we’ve said about the history of Orkney and the associated branding of what is a carefully crafted and well loved product, enjoyed the world over.”

He added: “We await their final decision with considerable concern. It’s almost inconceivable that a quality product such as Skull Splitter, one that has won numerous industry awards, could disappear from sale in the UK and I sincerely hope that common sense prevails.”

I presume these folks are the same brand of folks that insist that all "Tom and Jerry" and/or "Road Runner-Wiley Coyote" cartoons promote violence.......

(My thanks to fellow beer geek John Phelan for forwarding me the news, uncovered while searching for beers to drink during a planned trip...... and the "Baltimore" tie-in for this beer news? Well, it's imported by local beer distributor Legends Limited, run by Patrick Casey, a fine gentleman to whom we are much grateful.......)

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