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2nd March 2012

Hardknott Vitesse Noir label Slammed by The Portman Group

Hardknott of Millom in Cumbria has been criticised by The Portman Group for provocative wording on one of their product labels. The brewer is gaining a reputation for releasing an idiosyncratic range of beers. The words on the labels often match the eccentricity of the beers and possibly, as he might admit himself, the slightly characterful nature of Dave Bailey, the head “brewer, doer, force majeure” at the small independent firm.

Unfortunately, the brewer seems to have gone too far this time in provoking the mind of the drinker. It seems “a member of the public” has complained about the label on the bottle of their Vitesse Noir mocha stout. The Portman Group have upheld the complaint.

The basis of the complaint is the use of the word “tonic” on the label, which is claimed hints at medicinal qualities. However, the word tonic is regularly used to indicate a refreshing drink, and this, Hardknott insists, is the intended interpretation.

“It’s a bit frustrating really, although also slightly amusing” explains Dave “This beer is part of our range of beers designed to help change the perceptions of beer”

Vitesse Noir is a “Triple Vanilla Mocha Stout”, weighs in at 11% ABV and is packed full of highly flavourful, high quality ingredients. For this reason it is also quite expensive regularly selling for nearly £8 or more for a 330ml bottle in specialist beer bars. It is highly unlikely to be found in supermarkets.

“At this price, alcohol unit for alcohol unit, it is the same as paying around £6 for a pint of 4% beer” Dave has done his maths here “We understand how the general public is concerned about over consumption of alcohol and cheap booze in supermarkets, but this is something very different. We are actually doing what is being called for and pricing our beers higher. We are not marketing to hit the bargain basement market.

“Our beers are designed to be very full flavoured and work best as accompaniments with food. We really can’t see this beer contributing to the overall issue of irresponsible alcohol consumption. Indeed, encouraging people to view beer in a more refined way is likely to reduce alcohol harm.”

The words on the label are a bit provocative, Dave admits. “We believe in adding value to the drinks market, rather than watering down products, and we want to give the consumer more, not less.” Dave’s passion for good beer is apparent in his enthusiasm “Many brewers, with encouragement from the Government, are trying to increase volume by watering down beer at the expense of quality. We believe that the answer to creating a more responsible drinking culture is to add sophistication and quality to the market. To get the message out there, to show that small producers are capable of helping in this, we perhaps need to be a little bit cheeky”

There is some remorse from the rebel brewers. “We are of course sorry that we caused a bit of upset. We had really only meant our label to be a tongue-in-cheek warning due to our use of natural coffee and chocolate, which happen to be stimulants. Of course we’ll change the label if that is what is required.” Says Dave, but with a sly grin adds “We are also delighted that we’ve been noticed by a national organisation like The Portman Group, which surprises us as we have only made 800 bottles so far. The comments are really meant as a joke and not, as The Portman Group insists, deliberate marketing.”



Note to Editors:

Exact Wording on the bottle;

“BE WARNED: take it slowly – this beer is so packed full of beans it could have you dancing on the ceiling.

“But, just as you hit the dessert and don’t think you can make the last dance, take a nip and it’ll be just the tonic you needed.”

Hardknott Brewery is a very small micro-brewery in a remote corner of Cumbria. They make an esoteric mix of various beers.

Vitesse Noir is an 11% rich, luxurious intense stout. It has similar levels of coffee in it as an espresso plus rich quality chocolate and vanilla just to be sure. It is bold and exquisite, a bit like Dave himself, actually.

The Portman Group is an industry self regulator set up by some of the biggest alcohol producers in an attempt to pacify calls for tighter regulation of the drinks industry.

For more information contact Dave Bailey 01229 779309

Unit 10c Devonshire Road Industrial Estate



LA18 4JS