Special Brew to lose its Specialness

New alcohol legislation means Carlsberg might have to re-think the ‘Special’ in their Brew

Image: DJ Bass

Homeless charities is keen to stamp out super-strength lagers Image: DJ Bass

Our Wednesday nights will soon see the end of the potent effects of a single can of Special Brew – or as it is fondly known, tramp juice. 2011 saw the introduction of increased duty on alcohol with over 7.5 per cent (Special Brew is 9 per cent), and this year a pledge has been signed by alcohol companies to allow only 4 units of alcohol to be present in an individual drink. This guideline is based upon the idea that no individual drink should contain more than an average man’s recommended daily intake of alcohol. This means that either the can will have to be made smaller, or the beverage will have to be watered down from its current 4.5 units.

The yellow ochre-canned libation which loudly proclaims that it was created, ‘by appointment to the Royal Danish court’, was made to commemorate Churchill’s visit to Copenhagen in the 50s. Carlsberg, the creators of Special Brew, insist that the flavour has notes of cognac, a nod to the Prime Minister’s ruddy-face-inducing love of brandy.

Special Brew and its competitors have recently been singled out as having a huge impact on anti-social behaviour. A homeless charity complained that the effect of these super-strength lagers on vulnerable people was akin to that of crack cocaine. These allegations lead to the increase in duty in 2011.

Alcohol-induced anti-social behaviour arises from a combination of impairment of balance, coordination and decision making capabilities due to the alcohol acting as a drug on neurotransmitter signalling in the brain. It inhibits glutamate, which activates the excitatory pathway, whilst promoting GABA, which is inhibitory. This gives rise to the sluggish and depressive behavioural manifestations of alcohol.

Alcohol also hugely increases the level of dopamine, another neurotransmitter, which is the chemical responsible for the ‘reward’ pathway. This gives rise to the feeling of pleasure, often manifesting itself as a warm and fuzzy feeling when you know the alcohol is having an effect.

The brain location where the anti-social behaviour stems from is the cerebral cortex which controls thought-processing and consciousness. The blocking of inhibitory centres with alcohol in this area leads to the losing of one’s inhibitions and slows all thought processes. This ultimately leads to people being unable to determine what is acceptable, in terms of behaviour towards others.

Although this will be a sad goodbye to a beloved student beverage, I at least won’t miss breaking up fights between friends/acquaintances/strangers on the streets of York because, “they looked at me funny” under the influence of ‘Spesh’.


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