High Alcohol Macro Beers & Alcohol Advertising.. Are there Double Standards?

Posted on January 20, 2010


Are all High Alcohol Beers the same?  Should some be treated different to others?

There was an article in the Globe & Mail on the (AGCO) not the  LCBO as originally written coming down hard on a ‘small Alberta based’ brewer for an Advert on their website of a scantily clad female boxer. At first sight of the article I had assumed it was the liquor board being too hard for a brewer with whom I had never heard of. Like anyone I have the Google Search box in the top corner of my browser so I did a search on ‘Minhas Creek Craft Brewing Co’.  But something odd occurred it was not an Alberta brewer at all, but from Wisconsin. Upon searching their page I could find several High Alcohol Malt Liquor products. Sorry but you are not craft if you sell ‘Malt Liquor’ .  (Products Include: double axe malt liquor, pelican light lager, and tundra ice.)

So should the liquor board come down hard on companies that could have questionable morals in the mission of their company. I personally would have no issue with a naked female boxer in an advert, as we see ads for the Bud Camp, and Coors Mansion with scantily clad girls all the time that are implying more than beer is at these events. Not just 200 ugly men who won the competition. I’ll pass on BUD CAMP or whatever promo any day of the week.

I have no issues with a bit of fun advertising whether its Bud Camp, or Boxer Lager with an image on their Website. I do have issues though with Liquor boards and some Brewers with double standards in trying to be responsible with advertising and not with products they sell. In some European countries have had beer classes, so a classe 1 beer in Sweden is like 2.5% and classe 2 is a bit higher. The country tries to limit the excessive nature of high alcohol beers. Though some of the most experimental and exciting craft beers in the world are in excess of 8-10%. Though its craft beer, not macro produced beer.

So I’m a fan of Brooklyn Chocolate Stout that is 10%, Belgian beers that range in between 8-12%, and Barley Style Wine beers that are enormous between 10-13%. These beers are quite a treat in winter and I don’t really care how much I pay for the bottle  as I deem myself a responsible adult who can decide when to drink a high strength bottle. The Brooklyn Chocolate Stout is under $3 a bottle, so lets say $18 for a six pack.

As an adult I never want to encourage underage drinking, but some products have me wondering if the BC Liquor Board and the LCBO are turning a blind eye to some questionable brand names or pricing. The Following list of brands of beers are available in BC through checking the BCLB website. These beers are viewed as higher in alcohol based on the range above 5.5% which is what I call a standard average in Canada. A few beers over 6% and one does start to notice the effect of the alcohol.

Labatt – Wildcat Strong Can – 15 cans $19.99 (6.1%)

Molson – Black Ice Can – 15 Cans $19.99 (6.1%)

Molson – Black Supreme –  6 cans $7.99 (8%)

Molson – Canadian Cold Shots – 8 Cans x 250 ml (8%)

Pacific Western -Iron Horse – 6 Cans  $7.61 (6.4%)

Pacific Western -TNT CAN – 6 Cans $7.75 (6%) – ‘Caution TNT Handle With Care’

Pacific Western – TNT STRONG CAN – 8 Cans $10.15 (8%)

This is a sampling of brands and names of beers that are openly on sale in government liquor stores. I’m the first to ask who are these brands targeted at?  I for one have never seen Molson Cold Shots on tap anywhere, and assume it is targeted to those who are about to get married, or getting sent to jail and need a quick shot of booze before 10 years in lockup.

Without trying to make my own opinions on what these beers are targeted at, it does make me question if these beers are aimed at the quick alcohol market that is not unlike the Minhas Brewer in Wisconsin targets with there Double Axe Malt Liquor. Whether its a COLD SHOT, a COUGAR, or a brand labled TNT, these all have the same message to me, and if I was underage it would definitely draw my attention to these beers due to high alcohol and price point.

The liquor stores sell a large selection of beers from Belgium and a growing range from the US in single bottles. Why is Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA sold in a single bottle for $2.89 when its only (6%). In Ontario this beer is available in 6 packs. Dogfish Head have their 120 minute IPA that is hitting 20% and is priced accordingly as its expensive. The Sam Adams Utopia is 26% and around $120 a bottle.

When the Liquor Boards are aiming to be ‘responsible’ ;why are they are still permitting brands on the shelves that could be deemed questionable at best?  Why are companies such as Labatts and Molson still concentrating on the ‘get drunk quicker’ market when they should be spending their efforts to creating new brands in the Craft Beer Market?

There is no research that conclusively provides evidence that beer companies target either underage drinkers such as college kids in the states, or people from poor neighborhoods, but certain brands or products could be deemed irresponsible to the unbiased observer. Underage drinkers are more likely to binge than adults, and more often than not they choose products that will aim to get them drunk quicker.

So there is no sympathy for Minhas Creek in their products being pulled from LCBO stores in Ontario. When companies produce products aimed at certain markets that can be seen as less than desirable, it reflects badly overall on the entire company. It would be great to see the liquor boards encourage the craft beer industry in their higher alcohol specialty beers and promote these with floor space instead of the TNT/ Cold Shot beers. Customers are starting to buy more craft beer, and it should be promoted by the Liquor Boards in every province across Canada.