Two complainants, both members of the public, believed that use of the phrase ‘Beer for Girls’ on the special edition version of BrewDog’s Punk IPA – designed to highlight issues around the gender pay gap - could appeal to under 18s.
The panel acknowledged that Pink IPA was designed to generate discussion around the gender pay gap to tie in with International Women’s Day, and recognised that the product was intended to be ironic.
However, the panel noted that the dictionary definition of the term ‘girl’ is ‘a female child.’ While the Panel understood that BrewDog had intended the term to be used ironically, they believed that this was open to misinterpretation, and referenced the company’s need to post a subsequent blog about the product and to clarify the meaning of the campaign.
Link between beer and children
The panel added that the primary definition of ‘girls’ and likewise ‘boys’ related to children and expressed concern about the use of either term on an alcoholic drink. In this case the panel ruled that the phrase ‘beer for girls’ created, however unintentionally, a link between beer and children. Accordingly, the panel upheld the complaint under Code rule 3.2(h).
Panel secretary John Timothy said: “The ruling by the panel sets an important precedent around the use of the terms ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ on alcohol labels.
“While we recognise the distinct purpose of the campaign by BrewDog was to draw attention to an important social issue, producers still need to make sure that there is no way that their products could be misinterpreted as appealing to children.”
Responding to the decision, a spokesperson for BrewDog said: "As a one-off campaign aimed squarely at satirising gender stereotypes on International Women’s Day, we’re comfortable it was no more aimed at underage drinkers than it was genuinely targeted at women. We’re as bothered about this Portman Group ruling as we are any other - that is, not at all."
Pink IPA was launched by BrewDog in March with the aim of highlighting gender pay inequality and supporting women seeking a career – particularly in science, technology, education and maths (STEM).
However, the beer received a mixed reaction online, with twitter users criticising its bright pink label, and tagline ‘beer for girls’.
In April, the Scottish brewery’s founders James Watt and Martin Dickie told The Morning Advertiser they were disappointed by the negative public reaction to the beer and suggested they would “probably” reconsider the idea with the benefit of hindsight.
“I think unfortunately people just saw the top line and didn't get the nuance or the sarcasm, which meant the whole campaign kind of fell down, and there was a bit of a backlash,” Watt said.
“In hindsight, would we have done it differently? Probably. Would we have had the same intentions? All day long.