For the first time in the history of this humble blog – OK, this blog – I’ve had to take down a post after having been threatened with legal action.
Ross Bennie is a real person, and he’s not at all happy with what I wrote about his beer.
There was one big factual inaccuracy in my post about Bondi Beer which I am more than happy to correct: Bondi Beer, which is now being launched in the UK and other markets, has absolutely nothing to do with Bondi Blonde, the now-defunct Australian beer that Paris Hilton and a gaggle of bikini-clad lovelies were associated with. Completely different beer, completely different business.
Ross agrees that the advertorial on which my piece was based was awful. He claims it was savagely edited, a process that cut out a lot of the information I thought should have been in there.
He also claims that the advertorial ran with a full page ad opposite, which would have given me the information I needed. As you can see here, this is not true. Maybe it ran with an ad in other editions of The Grocer, but not the one I saw:
Ross also says that when I claimed the URL for Capricorn Brands (www.capricornbrands.com) wasn’t even registered, I’d made a basic schoolboy typing error and that www.capricorn-brands.com – with a hyphen – was indeed the fully functional website for his company. It turns out that this is true, and that the website contains some useful information about the beer. I would be extremely annoyed with myself if I’d made such a basic error. However, in the advertorial:
There’s no hyphen. It’s not my error. The advertorial is carrying an incorrect URL for Capricorn Brands.
This really is one of the worst advertorials in the history of advertorials.
But Ross was most unhappy with the hyperbole I used at the beginning and end of my post. I went over the top – intentionally so – for comic effect. Ross, whose livelihood depends on this beer, is not laughing.
I still believe there was nothing libellous about this, and that it was no worse than stuff you might read in columns by critics like Jay Rayner or Charlie Brooker. Ross believes it was defamatory. I believe it was harsh, but not libellous.
This is not what persuaded me to take the blog down. If I were being threatened by, say, AB-Inbev in this way, I would happily invite them to bring it on. But they don’t do that kind of thing, secure in the knowledge that a little blog like this can have no effect whatsoever on their business.
Bondi is different. It’s a start up, and is fully independent. Ross owns the brand and employs fifteen people. It’s a small operation, and Ross clearly believes in his product. If it is a good product, then my blog was unfair. This is just a beer blog, for your entertainment, and I have no desire to put people’s jobs at risk.
I’ve agreed to meet Ross Bennie, hear about the beer, and taste it. (It’s stocked by the Porterhouse in Covent Garden, and Peter who runs that place doesn’t stock shit beer).
If after doing this I still stand by my original blog post, I’m going to put it back up. If the beer tastes great I will say it tastes great. And if there are good plans in place for its launch I will share these with you.
I suspect what I’ll be reporting back is that I did a disservice to the beer itself, which does sound like it’s pretty good, but that I still won’t be happy with language such as ‘craft-styled’ in its promotion. And that while this opens up Bondi to some justified criticism (someone surely must have signed off on that advertorial?) the net result will be that my original blog was unduly harsh. And if that is the case, I will apologise.
Given the sensitive nature of this issue, for the first time ever I won’t be opening this post to comments.