The ASA said Brewmeister promotion of its Snake Venom beer was misleading because it did not make clear how the ABV claim was supported.
But the company hit back at the ASA saying the regulator was a "ball and chain weighing down businesses". It also insisted Trading Standards tests by analyst Stephen Appleton had not only verified the 67.5% ABV claims on the bottle, but returned an actual alcohol content of 68% ABV.
The ASA investigation focussed on a product page featured a label on a bottle saying ‘Snake Venom THE WORLD’S STRONGEST BEER’. Text below said: “Snake Venom 67.5% ... Contains special ingredients to achieve such a high volume of alcohol including smoked peat malt and two types of yeast: beer yeast and champagne yeast. Unlike Armageddon, Snake Venom is not designed to mask the taste of the alcohol.
“The alcohol is very strong but the beer still tastes like a beer rather than a spirit. It's hoppy, malty and very pleasant. Snake Venom is so strong that we have put a warning label on the neck of the bottle warning drinkers to beware. To get the correct ABV each batch is tested in the brewery with random batches being checked by external labs”.
Brewmeister submitted a certificate of analysis but the ASA noted that the product had its fermented alcohol content concentrated by a process of freeze distillation and it was possible that ethyl alcohol had been added to increase its ABV.
The ASA also upheld a complaint that the marketing placed “an undue emphasis on the product’s high alcoholic strength and implied the product was preferable because of its alcohol content”.
Brewmeister was ordered to ensure future claims about the alcohol content of its products were not misleading and that future marketing communications did not place undue emphasis on the alcoholic strength of a product.
A statement from Brewmeister: “Recently our customers voted overwhelmingly in favour of Scotland leaving the UK, with the results from our yes and no beers which were launched just days before the referendum vote. In the same vein as the 45% voted for change, we believe it is time to challenge these regulatory bodies which we feel act as ball and chain weighing down businesses. We declare freedom from its red tape and pointless bureaucracy.
“While these bodies spend their days investigating hard working businesses over anonymous complaints from one bored individual, we will continue to make great craft beer our way.
“One complaint. One Brewmeister."