Beer and Speedballs: More Energy Drink Naming

By Laurel Sutton

March 2, 2009

Once upon a time there was an energy drink named Cocaine. Highly caffeinated, it was pulled in 2007 by its maker, Redux Beverages, due to an FDA ruling that Redux was “illegally marketing their drink as an alternative to street drugs”. But it was only off the market for a short while, reappearing a year later, first under the product name “No Name”, and then back to “Cocaine”. It comes in a two flavors, Spicy Hot and Mild. Apparently the FDA doesn’t care enough to actually enforce their ruling, or maybe by adding “Energy Supplement” to the name, Redux has found a way to mellow the buzz kill.

Meanwhile , UK microbrewers BrewDog crossed the same line with their enhanced beer called, charmingly, Speedball. Speedballs, for those of you who don’t watch Law & Order, are an often-lethal combination of heroin and cocaine. This beer doesn’t contain either illegal drug, but does have a healthy does of guarana, Californian poppy, kola nut, and Scottish heather honey*. According to their website, the ingredients all balance out:

This light chestnut, slow motion roller coaster of a beer perfectly balances out a vicious cocktail of active ingredients, who said equilibrium has to be boring?
Combined in the bottle are the natural stimulants guarana and kola nuts with natural depressants Californian poppy and hops, all blurred together by the audacity of Scottish heather honey.

I don’t know – guarana is a pretty strong stimulant, as I previously discussed in relation to 7-Eleven’s Fusion coffee. High-energy drunks – just what we need!

According to the Daily Mail, Speedball, like Cocaine before it, got pulled from the shelves:

BrewDog, which makes the 7.1 per cent beer, was yesterday accused by a drinks’ industry regulator, the Portman Group, of ‘profiteering from the scourge of illegal drugs’.’The blurring of alcohol and illicit drugs fosters unhealthy attitudes to drinking and trivialises drug misuse,’ said the group’s chief executive, David Poley.

‘The company is seriously misguided in its claim to be educating and preventing people from misusing drugs. We are taking urgent action to protect the public from exposure to such negligent marketing.’

At BrewDog’s website, Speedball is listed as “out of stock”. Well, at least you can get their other beers, like Hop Rocker, The Physics, Punk IPA, Hardcore IPA, Rip Tide, and Paradox.

I think it’s unlikely that anyone would expect Speedball to have actual coke or heroin in it – consumers are savvy enough to know a marketing ploy when they see one, especially when this kind of shock product naming is common for energy drinks and alcohol. One wonders where they’ll go next to get the market’s attention. Catchword has always recommended that companies use code names for their products that are so off-the-wall that they’d never make it to market – like cheese, or fish, or maybe surgical procedures or infectious diseases. Could we see a new beer on the market called Dogfish, or perhaps Hepatitis?

*This sounds horrible-tasting to me.

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