By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
March 21, 2013
RALEIGH — What do you get when you mix 15 percent alcohol with flavorings like margarita or apple pie and package it in 3-ounce metal, test-tube shaped container? Whatever it is, you aren’t allowed to sell it in North Carolina, thanks to the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, which ruled Wednesday against Stout 21 and in the interest of the public’s health and safety.
“The ABC staff had already made the right call; we’re glad to see the decision confirmed by the Commission,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League and president of the American Council on Alcohol Problems. “The product is a ‘shot in a tube,’ with the highest content of alcohol allowed by law in this state. Its flavoring is an appeal for youth, and its packaging is clearly not marketed toward responsible consumption. It is a disaster waiting to happen to some parent’s son or daughter.”
Stout 21, produced by Stout Brewing, a brand new company heralded for its promise to bring 61 jobs to Kings Mountain, was designed to “revolutionize the adult beverage market with the idea of creating a unique drinking experience,” according to its Web site. But ABC officials and health advocates say it would likely bring increased risks of overindulgence, especially among underage drinkers.
“The Stout container is designed solely to provide a quick three-ounce infusion of alcohol. Once it is uncapped, it is not possible to put the container down without spilling the contents or recapping it,” ABC Chief Administrator Mike Herring told the Commission at this week’s hearing on the matter. “Clearly it is not in a container size or shape that would suggest it’s a beverage that is to be enjoyed responsibly.”
“In a matter of a minute, a person could take four Stout tubes, swallow or gulp four times and have consumed the equivalent of four high proof 12-ounce beers,” he added. “A minute later, the same person could do it again and would have consumed eight high-proof beers.”
Herring said ABC staff had been consistent in disapproving non-traditional containers for beer and wine products, turning down Mango Bottling Company’s Tooters in 2005, Suck & Blow Jello shots later on, and more recently, Big Shots, a wine-based shooter. He said not only were there concerns that the package would be marketed to underage consumers promoting reckless consumption, but that the non-traditional shape makes it harder for sales clerks, parents or even law enforcement to recognize it as an alcoholic beverage.
“It looks like a cigar case and could easily be concealed in a pocket or back pack,” he said.
After ABC staff disapproved the five, flavored Stout21 products submitted last month, the company appealed to the Commission, which led to Wednesday’s hearing where attorneys from Parker Poe Law Firm in Charlotte spoke on behalf of Stout as did the mayor of Kings Mountain.
Dylan Mulrooney-Jones, with the N.C. Substance Abuse Prevention Providers Association, told the Commission that since legislation passed in 2005 increased from 6 percent to 15 percent the amount of alcohol that products marketed as malt beverages in North Carolina can contain, there has been an influx of Flavored Alcohol Beverages (FABs) popular among youth.
“The high-alcohol content flavored beverages available and regularly consumed by youth are bad enough,” he said. “Adding ‘shot-style’ sugary drinks to the equation would be a very dangerous addition to the fragile health of our children and communities.”
Though unable to address the Commission because of a prior commitment, Dr. Creech said later that the Christian Action League had vigorously fought the “Pop the Cap” legislation mentioned by Mulrooney-Jones.
“One grave concern we warned about at that time was the way various high alcohol content malt beverage products would influx the market and be abused by underage drinkers and those on college campuses, where binge drinking and its fallout take the lives of nearly 2,000 students every year in the United States, not to mention the role that it plays in serious injuries, assaults, rapes and other crimes,” he said. “Regardless of how one may assess the value of raising the ABV cap some years ago, the fact remains that a product like Stout 21 is unworthy of whatever better intentions there were for raising the cap.”
After hearing from the company, from ABC staff and from a number of healthcare advocates that opposed Stout 21 sales, the Commission ruled unanimously not to overturn the staff decision to reject the product based on its packaging.
“Today demonstrates clearly how important our coalition is to protecting the public’s health from the negative results of the use and abuses of alcohol,” Rev. Creech told Mulrooney-Jones, Dale Pratt-Wilson with the Coalition for Alcohol and Drug Free Teenagers of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, Phil Mooring with Families in Action, and others in the alcohol abuse prevention arena.
“We have built, and are continuing to build, a strong coalition to advocate for sound public health policy,” Mooring said. “It will be needed in the days to come.”
Picture of ‘Stout 21’ product provided by the North Carolina ABC Commission