Despite being provided with a certificate of analysis by Brewmeister, the British advertising watchdog accepted the complaint, which questioned whether Snake Venom's 67.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) strength claim was "misleading and could be substantiated."
The ASA followed up the initial complaint, challenging whether the statements, THE WORLD'S STRONGEST BEER and SAY GOODBYE TO BORING BEER, on Brewmeister's website implied consumers would prefer Snake Venom "because of its alcohol content or intoxicating effect" and queried if the “factual information about the strength of the drink had been given undue emphasis.”
Upholding both complaints, the ASA ordered Brewmeister the page in question "must not appear in its current form."
“We told Brewmeister Ltd to ensure claims about the alcohol content of their products were not misleading and that future marketing communications did not place undue emphasis on the alcoholic strength of a product or imply that a drink may be preferred because of its alcohol content or intoxicating effect," said the ASA ruling.
Responding to the complaints, Keith-based Brewmeister provided a certificate of analysis of Snake Venom, which showed the product had an ABV of 67.5%.
While acknowledging the analysis findings, the ASA said the process employed to achieve this ABV differed from those for standard beer.
"...the product had its fermented alcohol content concentrated by a process of freeze distillation and that it was possible that ethyl alcohol had been added to increase its ABV, which we understood, in both cases, was different to the process used for standard beer," said the ruling.
"Because that was not made clear, we concluded that the ad was misleading.”
Addressing the second complaint, Brewmeister said a yellow warning label urging consumers to "not consume more than 35ml in one sitting" was attached to the neck of each 275ml bottle.
The ASA ruled, however, that the claims, THE WORLD'S STRONGEST BEER and SAY GOODBYE TO BORING BEER, placed "an undue emphasis on the product's high alcoholic strength and implied the product was preferable because of its alcohol content."
It argued that the statement were in breach of CAP Code Rule 18.9, which dictates: "Marketing communications must not imply that a drink may be preferred because of its alcohol content or intoxicating effect."
In a statement sent to BeverageDaily.com, Brewmeister rubbished the ASA decision and said it was "time to challenge these regulatory bodies."
“We declare freedom from its red tape and pointless bureaucracy," said Brewmeister,
“While these bodies spend their days investigating hard working businesses over anonymous complaints from one bored individual, we will continue to make great craft beer our way.”
Snake Venom is currently unavailable on the Brewmeister website. Lewis Shand, director of marketing and sales, Brewmeister, denied the ASA ruling had played any part in the absence of Snake Venom.
“We do still make it,” Shand told BeverageDaily.com. “We just don’t have any available right now.”
Shand added that Brewmeister is considering reducing the size of its Snake Venom bottle, which currently sells at around £50 ($82, €64) a unit.
The company may in future opt for a whisky miniature-style bottle, he said.