UK's strongest beer ever has campaigners all in a froth

THE owners of one of Scotland's largest independent breweries were yesterday lambasted by health campaigners and politicians for creating Britain's most potentbeer ever – with a staggering 12 per cent alcohol content.

Earlier this year BrewDog, the award-winning microbrewery, faced being blacklisted by advertising industry watchdogs for allegedly encouraging antisocial behaviour in its marketing and promotions.

And James Watt and Martin Dickie, the two former students who formed the company last year, have now been accused of irresponsibly promoting Tokyo, a brew with potentially "devastating" consequences for health.

Dr Bruce Ritson, the chairman of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, declared there was no place for such a high-strength beer on the market.

He said: "It is the last thing we need. It is absolutely the wrong direction to be going as far as Scotland's health problems are concerned. If it became popular it would have devastating consequences for health as well as social order and violence on the streets."

Jack Law, the chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, also condemned the beer. He said: "What justification can there possibly be to bring an extra strong beer on to the market?

"Super-strength drinks are often favoured by young people and problem drinkers – is this really who the brewery wants to target?"

Dr Richard Simpson, Labour's public health spokesman, said: "Since a huge proportion of alcohol in Scotland is consumed in the form of beer, this product is hugely irresponsible."

And Jamie Stone, the Scottish Liberal Democrat public health spokesman, commented: "Focusing on it being the UK's strongest beer jars with the current campaign to tackle Scotland's stormy relationship with alcohol. We need socially responsible advertising campaigns from the alcohol industry to support Scots to change their attitude to booze."

But Mr Watt remained unrepentant about his Fraserburgh-based company's decision to brew what they are describing as an "intergalactic fantastic oak aged stout" which has been made with specialist malts, jasmine and cranberries before being aged on French toasted oak chips.

He told The Scotsman: "I completely agree with the aim to encourage responsible drinking, and that is fundamental to what we stand for. Our beers are targeted at and drunk by connoisseurs, and we strive to educate our customers that full-flavour beer can be enjoyed in moderation as opposed to heavily drinking cheaper, bland beers.

"The beers that we make are to be savoured and enjoyed. The (4 per 330ml bottle) price takes it away from the market that are just drinking beer to get drunk. We in fact are the cure and not the problem."

The brewery has made 2,000 bottles of the initial brew.

BACKGROUND

THE Scottish Government is considering proposals to impose price rises of up to 75 per cent on some alcoholic drinks as part of plans to tackle the country's booze culture.

The proposals include setting minimum prices for drink in supermarkets and off-licences, and raising the minimum age at which they can be bought in them to 21.

A spokeswoman said: "One of Scotland's biggest challenges is alcohol misuse.

Following the consultation, the Scottish Government envisages legislating in time for many of the measures coming into force on 1 September, 2009."

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