Brewers named beer ‘speedball’ to annoy critics

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By Cara Sulieman

THE COMPANY behind the controversial Speedball beer has said they gave it the name temporarily – to give their critics something to complain about.

After years of grumbling from the Portman Group over beers called Hop Rocker, Punk IPA and Rip Tide, Scottish brewers Brewdog decided they had had enough.

Knowing that the name Speedball would cause a tide of outrage, Director Martin Dickie emblazed his bottles with the cheeky moniker.

He said: “It was basically us having a go back at them for being stupid and trying to ban a beer that has the word “aggressive” in the description.

“That’s why we called it a slightly provocative name and called it a Class A Strong Ale, but it comes down to a person’s perception.”

Three of the company’s other brews use the word ‘aggressive’ in the ale’s description on the back of the bottle.

The Portman Group had made a number of complaints about the use of the word, leading Martin and his business partner James Watt to respond with a drink they could really complain about.

Martin said: “The idea from the outset was that we would use it to wind them up a bit and then it would go back to its original name Dogma.”

Dogma is the name used for the ale in America and will be the one adopted by all future batches of the bottles in the UK.

But far from being satisfied by the headline-grabbing Speedball joke, Martin thinks that the Portman Group’s reaction has been equally unacceptable.

He said: “Strawberries are described as being Class A in the supermarket; Speedball is also the name of a film and a computer game.

“How many people in the general public actually know that Speedball is the name for a combination of cocaine and heroin? Not many I would think.

“They don’t give the general public any credibility as to what they might want themselves, people are perfectly capable of making their own minds up and saying ‘I want to buy that.’

“In the whole of the UK we have sold 1,100 bottles of the beer, it is an extremely hard to find, exclusive beer that we sell in very small quantities.

“Of the bottles sold how many people have went on to take drugs because they tried it? How many actual drug users have bought it because of the name? It is just stupid.”

Since its launch, Speedball has caused controversy amongst politicians and the drinks industry.

The term speedballing is slang for a combination of heroin and cocaine, and is the drug that killed both River Phoenix and John Belushi.

Earlier this month, the Portman Group, who monitor the social responsibility of the alcohol industry, ruled that the name Speedball was unacceptable and asked shops to remove it from their shelves.

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