The cretins at the Portman Group strike again

So the collection of hypocritical and bullying folks over at Portman Group have once again reached a moronic and hypocritical conclusion that Tiny Rebel needs to redesign their cans of Cwtch Welsh Red Ale because it looks too similar to Sunkist, a soft drink most have us have not seen since we were kids. Today’s kids will accidentally go down the beer aisle, then accidentally buy Cwtch thinking its a soft drink, magically be able to bypass the “Are you over 25?” age check at the till, then accidentally go drink driving and accidentally kill themselves and others.

Ok, I may have slightly embellished that, but both the complaint and the ruling truly are as ridiculous as they sound.

The full details of the complaint can be read here:
Really is worth a read to see how hypocritical this group of macro brewers and their rulings really are.

GoodBeerHunting has an excellent write up about this detailing it far better than I ever could, and explaining why this is a problem in the industry.

Note these two gems of quotes from the ruling:

Right. So there isn’t an issue then?

The fact they still upheld the complaint after recognising this speaks volumes.

Worth pointing out that the Portman Group hold no legal power, Tiny Rebel don’t have to change the can. The problem is more the people behind this group, formed of basically every macro company in the UK. In the past they’ve caused problems for the likes of BrewDog and beavertown. To me it seems they have a very clear motive here, stifling the craft beer industry so they can stay ahead of them. This is something I absolutely hate about the beer industry, and something it seems nobody has any power to stop. Disgraceful.

If you’re wondering why I call the group hypocritical. It’s because Greene King has a competitor to Tiny Rebel, masquerading as craft beer, with their Craft Academy “beers”.

Note that one of them literally has a drawing of a child on the label. These are absolutely fine, apparently. But Cwtch isn’t. See why this a problem in the industry now?

WalesOnline article raising the exact same concerns I and almost everyone else on the Internet is now having:

Disagree with you there.

but says it much better than i could

But the Key point is The reason they ruled against Tiny Rebel is someone lodged a complaint
Has a Complaint been lodged against he Craft Accademy beers. (that look more like cocktails than juice to me)
but The Portman group dont go out looking for cases. Only follow up on Complaints

So unless a complaint was made against the craft accademy beers, its wrong to accuse them of double standards

If you disagree with me just on the double standards part regarding the Craft Academy beers then yes you have a point there to be fair, I know they don’t go out looking for cases like that… I suppose nobody has bothered to complain about them. But I hope if someone were to complain about them they would deal with it in exactly the same way, even though it would be partially against their interests to. To me it still feels slightly disingenuous to rule in such a way when they’re well aware their own beers would fall foul of the same rule. I’d hope they would be proactive and redesign their own bottles before any such complaints were made, either in earnest or in retaliation.

But regarding the complaint itself I still think it’s an absolutely absurd one, and could set a dangerous precedent where for example a brewery could anonymously lodge a complaint against a rival brewer’s beer to get it off the market simply by inventing some farcical story about being offended by can art if that were to be applicable. There are plenty of cans of beer I’ve had that could easily pass for a soft drink if you didn’t look closely at what’s written on the label.

I’m interested to see how TR themselves respond to this today and if they’ll be redesigning the can. It’s probably generated a ton of interest in their beers actually so could work out quite nicely for them!

the word “Beer” was conveyed in 16 languages, including English and Welsh.

This one made me giggle.

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Tiny Rebel’s response is out, a long but excellent article detailing the whole process, their feelings about it, and what will change.

  • The changes are fairly minimal but have taken 5 months, and cost the brewery £31,000 and a lot of stress
  • Had lots of advice on Twitter, most of it common sense
  • Highlights a huge problem for the beer industry
  • Just 1 complaint is all it takes, system is open to a lot of abuse
  • Precedent has been set
  • Guidelines are too vague (How can you appeal to an 18+ year old but NOT a 17 year old?)

Overall, really sad that it’s come to this. But hopefully this will open up constructive dialogue with the Group to change how the guidelines are enforced. Needs to be representative of the entire alcoholic drinks industry, not just beer, the current guidelines limit creativity and innovation.

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Holy jesus, I’ve only just noticed - that’s a shocking level of similarity.
Sliced-orange symmetrically in the background. Blue text at a slant. That sunkist packaging looks identical - so identical it definitely doesn’t pass the moron-in-a-hurry test - to … erm, Fanta.

Hmmm, are Diageo going to claim that this “Aqua” - that’s water, right? - more clearly indicates it’s booze than the thing that says “Welsh Red Ale” in big bold letters?
I’m sure the other members have examples of hypocrisy too.

It’s not British and not related to the hypocrisy but another hilariously obvious example would be Evil Twin’s Lemonade IPA. If you’re not a beer drinker there’s a good chance you won’t know what IPA stands for. It’s American so there is no requirement for ABV to be listed, and no requirement for ingredients to be listed. “India Pale Ale” is written pretty small at the bottom of the can. Arguably not targeted to kids due to the presence of an adult but still…


I don’t like the concept of a self-appointed quasi regulator in general. Their whole approach, and jargon, seems designed to represent themselves as an official regulator when they are not. If you dig deep enough you will find they admit that “The Portman Group is the self-regulatory body which regulates all other alcohol marketing … not already subject to regulation through the ASA or Ofcom.” In other words, they deal with stuff that the Government hasn’t thought it worthwhile to legislate about or regulate.

Of course, self-regulation is not a new concept and has been welcomed by successive Governments (largely as a cost-cutting measure IMHO). However, it is not a substitute for proper official regulation in business areas where there are widespread problems for consumers. It can generally only apply voluntary codes of conduct to businesses who choose to become members of the organisation (which is generally not compulsory). Portman Group seems to want to go much further than that.


I’m all for a reasonable amount of regulation of the industry. The problem with the Portman Group is that they take the presence of a single complaint to be proof of breach of the rules without looking more broadly or even seeking a wider perspective. It’s just easier for them to favour the (single) consumer’s perspective than the industry’s. But in practice you find that problems only tend to arise when beers are sold in supermarkets. By slightly altering packaging for supermarkets, the beer industry could probably avoid the problem.

Whilst humans on the whole are pretty stupid animals, I don’t think that quite the level of nannying that the Portman group demands is sensible. Anyone remember this one:

Their own rules, that is. They don’t have anything to do with actual Government-derived legislation or regulations.

There are, of course, plenty of industries where a degree of “self-regulation” may apply. That ranges from glorified trade associations with voluntary codes of conduct (and voluntary membership) to quasi-regulators, sometimes even carrying out some low level official functions on a contracted out basis. Few of these organisations have any real teeth or much in the way of effective sanctions against committed miscreants - where it is considered enough of an issue there will always be a real Government agency wielding the more stringent enforcement powers.

Funding (and, consequently, control of) of these organisations is invariably from within the industry itself. When that funding comes entirely from a handful of big players in the industry one has to question how independent and impartial it can be.

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