Cornish cidermaker faces backlash over ‘offensive’ branding

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Incredibly frustrating: complaints to the Portman Group suggested Unshaven Maiden alluded to sexual activity (Credit: Getty/Diana Miller)
Incredibly frustrating: complaints to the Portman Group suggested Unshaven Maiden alluded to sexual activity (Credit: Getty/Diana Miller)

Related tags Portman group Cider Cornwall Branding + marketing

Cornwall-based microbrewery, the Bearded Brewery, in St Mawgan, faces having a second product branding banned by the Portman Group.

The Portman Group received complaints regarding the brewery's ‘Unshaven Maiden’ serve in November last year, claiming the branding was offensive and suggestive of sexual activity. 

However, co-founder Robbie Langouroux-Fay explained the name referred to the local coastal fishing community as the logo “clearly” depicted a pirate ship while the ‘cherried treasure’ pun was a nod to a pirates’ hunt for buried treasure, referencing the fact the cider is cherry flavoured.

He added: “[The Portman Group] said we are insinuating alcohol is encouraging people to, sort of, go out and look for young underage girls. The way they've handled it is not right.

“The way they worded things is that Unshaven Maiden refers to people that would be seeking out young girls’ virginity and stuff like that. This is the year 2023, you can't roll those sorts of things to people and expect them to just accept it, and the way they worded it is very aggressive.”

Langouroux-Fay added he and his business partner both have young daughters and this type of insinuation was “just disgusting”.

Moreover, he added plenty of businesses across the hospitality sector use more direct and suggestive language to describe beverages.

Incredibly frustrating 

He said: “Surely every cocktail lounge in the UK should be banned for all the different cocktail names. Slippery Nipple, Screaming Orgasm and Sex on the Beach are all of the normal names you hear in every cocktail lounge.

“We don't see those people being banned from making them, so why should we be? It seems to be one rule for one, another rule for another, and that's incredibly frustrating.

“The Portman Group is funded by the larger breweries, so something's just not right here.”

Additionally, Langouroux-Fay stated this was the second time the Portman Group had deliberated on one of the brewery’s serves, having banned the branding for its ‘Suicider’ cider offering, so called to raise awareness of men’s mental health.

He added: “They've already banned the branding for our best-selling product.

“If [they] take two of the main selling products away from a company, how will we survive?”

In addition, Langouroux-Fay claimed the complaints had been submitted by a competitor.

However, in response to media coverage of the complaint, the Portman Group CEO Matt Lambert said it was “important to emphasise” this was a provisional decision and not final.

Indirect association 

Furthermore, he stated “whatever the outcome”, the group would support “willing producers” where complaints are upheld through its advisory service.

Lambert added: “The Independent Complaints Panel reviewed this and first issued a provisional decision to the producer upholding the complaint on the grounds the product packaging created an indirect association with sexual activity and was likely to cause widespread offence.

“On 20 February 2023, the producer was given an additional opportunity to present their response to the panel to make the final decision. We requested the process remains confidential until the final decision is published.”

The CEO explained keeping processes confidential was to avoid differing of a provisional decision and that it was “disappointing” the producer has “assumed” the result and had made things public.

He added: “We can help [Bearded Brewery] amend designs to comply with the code and, only as a last resort, issue a ‘Retailer Alert Bulletin’ asking for the product not to be restocked.

“Part of the Portman Group’s role is to provide a free proactive advisory service and to work with producers to help them understand and comply with the code of practice on packaging before launch.

“We understand small craft breweries sometimes seek to push boundaries and attract the attention of customers in a competitive market; our guidelines and support are in place to ensure in doing so they do not cause offence or harm to the public.”

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