New 3-ounce alcohol drink sparks concerns

Posted March 18, 2013

— A company hoping to sell 3-ounce vials of high-alcohol malt beverages in flavors like Screw Driver and Apple Pie is asking the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission to approve its packaging. 

Staff members with the ABC Commission rejected Stout Brewing's packaging for its Stout 21 malt beverage product last month.The formal letter from the commission said the rejection was based on the state's authority to "prohibit or regulate any advertising of alcoholic beverages which is contrary to the public interest." This doesn't reject the drink itself, but rather the way in which it would be sold.

Advocates outside the ABC Commission say there is a particular concern that the product would lure underage drinkers.

Cody Sommer, chief executive of Stout Brewing, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment. His company is asking the appointed three-member ABC Commission to overturn their staff's ruling. The group will meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

The Stout 21 case is the first policy decision to be taken by Gov. Pat McCrory's appointees to the ABC Commission, including former Republican Lt. Gov. Jim Gardner.

A malt beverage is any product that is brewed in a process similar to beer. While beers use grains like malted barley as their base and spices like hops to provide flavor, some cheaper malt beverages use the equivalent of sugar water to feed the yeast to produce alcohol as part of the brewing process. Flavors are then added much like they might be to a soda drink.

Such beverages are already commonplace in grocery and convenience stores, such as Bacardi Silver, which is sold in beer-like bottles and has 5 percent alcohol by volume.

Applications filed with the ABC Commission show that the Stout 21 beverages would be 15 percent alcohol by volume, the equivalent of 30 proof alcohol.

"It would be the same as any other malt beverage," Larry Dooley, vice president of Fox Distributing in Shelby, one of two distributors listed by Stout 21.

Dooley said that, while some bars might choose to sell the Stout 21 product, he anticipated that most sales would be through convenience stores.

Stout Brewing describes the Stout 21 products as a "Flavored Alcoholic Shooter." The packaging features a twist off top and a rounded bottom. Flavors, according to the company's website, include Royal Flush, Margarita, Screwdriver, Apple Pie and J-Cola. They would be sold in single servings and four-packs.

Stout Brewing announced plans to open a brewery in Kings Mountain last year. Coverage of the announcement included notes that the company received economic development incentives from the county. 

It's unclear whether the company has started brewing beer. It has a separate website for its Stout 21 product.

The proposed product has raised concerns among advocates who argue for tighter controls on alcohol and work against underage drinking.

"It is the packaging that is of concern," said Wanda Boone, of Durham TRY, a nonprofit that works to curb substance abuse among teenagers.

In her mind, she said, the packaging and flavors are "targeted toward underage consumers, which is really what the issue is."

The Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said this is a downside of the a 2005 law that lifted the cap on the amount of alcohol allowed in malt beverage, which had previously been set at 6 percent alcohol by volume. The law, he said, not only cleared the way for boutique beers and craft brewers.

"We're putting something on the convenience store shelves that's akin to the same alcohol beverage content you can find at the ABC liquor stores," Creech said. "That cannot be safe."

Although there are some liquors in the 30 proof range sold in ABC stores, most are 70 proof or above, according to a commission product listing.


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  • kermit60 Mar 19, 2013

    I guess it targets underage folks because somebody that doesn't like it said so? Maybe we should ban Happy Meals because they target kids and they could get fat. Or car commercials that target young drives by showing someone speeding on a closed track therefore encouraging them to speed. If you like or want the government telling you how to live every aspect of your life maybe you need to move to North Korea or China.

  • Grand Union Mar 19, 2013

    "Instead of teaching people responsibility and punishing them for being irresponsible, let's just ban everything that could cause people to be irresponsible."

    Oh please........people are irresponsible, especially when young, and to allow companies to exploit that for profit is just sick.
    This is a marketing ploy to get more young underage people to drink spirits....nothing more. Its small so that its cheap and dressed up to look like an energy drink.

  • rargos Mar 19, 2013

    Instead of teaching people responsibility and punishing them for being irresponsible, let's just ban everything that could
    cause people to be irresponsible.

  • kornfan2448 Mar 19, 2013

    "Advocates outside the ABC Commission say there is a particular concern that the product would lure underage drinkers."

    How naive. Anyone that has ever attended a sporting event at a college venue has seen the hundreds, even thousands, of airplane bottles that litter the stands and restrooms and they're not sold in convenience stores. I suppose those were all consumed by students over 21 though, huh? Point is, when someone underage wants to drink, they'll get what they want, no matter where it is sold. Me and my friends did when we were young and it hasn't changed since.

  • LuvLivingInCary Mar 19, 2013

    this is why we need to get rid of the ABC board...if it was all about the taxes we would not be having this discussion. it would have zoomed right through.

  • Good Girl Mar 19, 2013

    .........and they won't legalize pot!

  • evansbluecf Mar 18, 2013

    Really NC... really? In other states, you can buy hard liquor at convenience stores. I'd personally pay a couple dollars more for a bottle of liquor at a convenience store than to have to drive 13 miles to the Nearest ABC. North Carolina's alcohol regulations are wayy outdated.

    Abolish the whole ABC system and let pharmacies and privately-owned liquor stores sell it.

  • bonnnie Mar 18, 2013

    People need to be more concerned about other things, people are going to drink regardless.I hope to see these in stores I want to try them!

  • jerrygarciafan Mar 18, 2013

    why does it matter if it's sold in a convenience store or an abc store? It's still going to be purchased, isn't it?

  • mfarmer1 Mar 18, 2013

    tighter controls on alcohol, yep that's what we need.

    what I need is the government to stop robing me of my money an calling it a Tax.