Two beers produced by the brewer Northern Monk – Rocket Lolly IPA and Wasted Hot Cross Bun Pale Ale – have been discontinued after complaints by members of the public were upheld by the alcohol industry’s Independent Complaints Panel (Panel). A copy of the full decision for Rocket Lolly IPA is available here and a copy of the full decision for Wasted Hot Cross Bun Pale Ale is available here.

Rocket Lolly IPA

The Panel ruled that ‘Rocket Lolly IPA’, had a particular appeal to under-18s (Code rule 3.2h) and didn’t communicate the alcoholic nature of the drink with absolute clarity (Code rule 3.1)

One complainant said: “We have raised our 4-year-old to understand what alcohol is and why he is not permitted to try it. However, when he saw his dad drinking this beer and heard that it was called Rocket Lolly, he became very upset that he wasn’t allowed to try it, even after we made clear it was beer. Of the dozens of different can designs he’s seen, this is the only one that has ever held appeal to him.”

The Panel noted that frozen rocket lollies are primarily marketed at young children, and that the label included bright contrasting colours and cartoons. It therefore concluded that the product packaging had a particular appeal to under-18s and upheld the complaints under Code rule 3.2(h).

The Panel also found that the alcoholic descriptor ‘IPA’ and the drink’s alcoholic strength by volume (ABV) of 4.7% were not easily visible on the packaging because they were presented in a comparatively small black font which was not easily visible against a dark purple background.  The Panel considered that in the context of a well-known frozen ice lolly which made a virtue of its fruit flavours in design, and was not a product typically associated with alcohol, the packaging should work harder to ensure that it communicated its alcoholic nature with absolute clarity.  Therefore, the Panel also upheld the complaint under Code rule 3.1.

Wasted Hot Cross Bun Pale Ale

A complaint was also made against a second Northern Monk beer, Wasted Hot Cross Bun Pale Ale, under Code rule 3.2(f) which states that a drink, its packaging or any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way encourage illegal, irresponsible, or immoderate consumption, such as drink-driving, binge-drinking, or drunkenness.

The complainant said: “The word wasted is common slang for being very, very drunk […and] the most prominent word on the packaging.”

The Panel acknowledged that the beer was intended to generate discussion about food waste in the UK and that some of its proceeds went to charity. However, the Panel expressed concern about the prominence of the word ‘wasted’ on pack and considered that most consumers would be familiar with the slang interpretation of the word and, when included on an alcoholic drink, it would be more readily associated with a style of consumption rather than food wastage.

On this basis, the Panel concluded that the packaging indirectly encouraged immoderate consumption and drunkenness. Accordingly, the Panel upheld the complaint under Code rule 3.2(f).

Northern Monk have now discontinued both products.

Commenting on the decision, the interim Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, Rachel Childs, said: “I welcome that Northern Monk has decided to discontinue both beers which in this instance have fallen foul of the Code. Producers of alcoholic drinks should take care to ensure their products are marketed responsibly, without a particular appeal to children and that they do not encourage, even indirectly, immoderate consumption. I would encourage all producers who are unsure of the requirements under the Code to contact the Portman Group’s free and confidential Advisory Service.”