Portman Group upholds complaint over ‘Thrill Seeker Pale Ale’

Alcohol industry regulator the Portman Group has upheld a complaint relating to a pale ale brewed by Peterborough-based Oakham Ales, stating that the beer name should not suggest any association with bravado.

A complaint was made to the alcohol regulator concerning Oakham’s Thrill Seeker Pale – a 4.8% ABV pale ale made with hops from New Zealand and Australia.

In the note, the complainant accused the product of being targeted towards those under 18, citing an incident at a primary school fête when children began asking for cans.

Oakham was also accused of not properly indicating on its cans whether the product contained alcohol.

The Portman Group thus looked into the matter, examining the beer on three counts: whether the alcoholic nature of the drink was communicated with “absolute clarity”; whether the drink or its packaging suggested any association with bravado or with violent, aggressive, dangerous, anti-social or illegal behaviour; and whether the packaging directly or indirectly had a particular appeal to under-18s.

In its submission, Oakham argued that it had always used creative, story-telling designs on its cans. This particular can, which is black and orange and features the image of a spaceman, was based on an existing character that had been used on several of the brewer’s other products.

In addition, Oakham said that the product name was chosen by customers and that the images were the result of extensive market research, with the brewery making minor changes to the branding.

The term ‘thrill seeker’ was used in reference to travel, new places and the connection with use of hops from the New World.

Oakham also confirmed that it had sought guidance before releasing the product. It had contacted the advisory service which said that the product did not have a direct appeal to the under-18s. Oakham had also amended the packaging to make the ABV more prominent, ensured the placement of Drinkaware’s logo on the can, and sought assistance from innovation and research group Campden BRI to ensure its labels were compliant with regulations.

Of the three proposed violations, the Portman Group upheld the complaint in relation to two of them.

Regarding appealing to under 18s, the regulatory group did not uphold the complaint. The judging panel recognised that the illustrations could have appeal to both adults and children, but felt they were unlikely to have a particular appeal to those aged under 18.

Moving onto the size and design of the can, the panel ruled that Oakham needs to “work harder to convey the alcoholic nature of the contents, given the overall look and feel of the product”. In addition it added that the term ‘thrill seeker’ was “inappropriate”, adding that the name implied risk or danger.

The panel also noted that the advisory service had previously raised concerns over the name, advising the company not to use it, but Oakham had chosen not to follow the advice.

As a result of the ruling, Oakham has agreed to remove ‘Thrillseeker 300ml can’ from its product range.

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