09 November 2010

More State Booze Regulation Stupidity UPDATED

Reason.com again:

Michigan's Liquor Control Commission has banned a plethora of alcoholic "energy drinks" from sale in the state:
Manufacturers have 30 days from Thursday to get rid of the products — those containing not only alcohol, but caffeine and occasionally other energy additives like guarana and taurine — from Michigan markets, commission spokeswoman Andrea Miller said. Consumers still will be able to possess the drink, since the commission does not have control on out-of-state transactions, but it cannot be purchased in the state, she said.
The commission decided to ban the substance because of multiple recent news reports about the dangers and consequences of the drinks, Miller said.
A list (PDF) is here. Included: a whole bunch of stuff of no interest to beer fans, but also MateVeza, reviewed in this blog back in May.  One of the "drinks" included, Smirnoff Raw Tea, not only was never marketed as an "energy drink," but hasn't been offered by Diageo for over a year.  (Yes, that means they "banned" a product that theoretically doesn't exist, though  I wonder if any was still on the shelves gathering dust....)

Not included:  Founders Brewing Company's Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Bell's Java Stout, New Holland's El Mole Ocho, Lagunitas Brewing Company's Cappuccino Stout, Dogfish Head Chicory Stout, and a host of other such beers.  (The first three are Michigan-made, for what it's worth.  Michigan also has several brewpub-only coffee-infused beers.)

Also not banned: Irish coffee, or Red Bull and vodka combined at the bar.

As a moment's thought will discern, the major theme linking the banned products is the marketing--the premise, explicit or implied, that you can combine the stimulant qualities of the drink's additives with the alcohol.  In spite of the "Buzz Beer" of The Drew Carey Show, I've yet to see a coffee-flavored beer promoted for any amount of caffeine included.  But just in case they start getting ideas, maybe it's time for some brewers to investigate using decaffeinated coffee in their coffee stouts/porters?

UPDATE:  The following received from the producers of MateVeza:
On November 4th, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission issued an administrative order banning all "Alcohol Energy Drinks." The Commission provided a list of products from suppliers including United Brands Company (Joose), Phusion Products (Four Loko), Anheuser-Busch (B^E), and, to our surprise, an organic beer brewed with yerba mate called MateVeza.

We believe our inclusion on this list was a mistake; MateVeza is not currently sold in Michigan and it hardly fits the Commission's characterization (inexpensive, brightly colored can of 12% alcohol malt liquor with added caffeine). Since MateVeza is made with yerba mate as an ingredient and not caffeine as an additive, it is in full compliance with TTB and FDA guidelines. Further, MateVeza was not included in the FDA's inquiry into caffeinated alcoholic beverages. We have brought this to the Commission's attention and are seeking to be removed from their list even though we have no immediate plans to distribute to Michigan.

It's unfortunate that craft brewers like MateVeza have been unfairly affected amidst the current controversy surrounding alcoholic energy drinks.  Brewing with ingredients that naturally contain caffeine such as chocolate, coffee, tea, and yerba mate is an important part of the craft beer movement.  MateVeza will do its best to preserve this tradition for all craft brewers and help ensure that alcohol regulators understand that these craft beer products are very different from the caffeinated malt beverages they are targeting.

We are fully confident in our continued ability to market and sell our naturally caffeinated yerba mate brew, but we will continue to closely monitor the situation and keep you apprised of any new developments.  We have provided our official response to the  to the Commission on our website. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.


Jim Woods
Founder & President


The Oriole Way said...

I have no problem with banning these types of drinks. The marketing is clearly aimed at the youngest and most irresponsible legal drinkers, and probably at underage drinkers as well. Plus, there is some research that indicates mixing caffeine with alcohol can have negative effects on a person's level of impairment.


Unknown said...

These are clearly marketed towards younger people because they use brightly colored cans? What other marketing is there? Please let me know as I'm unaware of any ads running for 4 Loko right now.
What is a negative effect on impairment? It gets you just as drunk as the same amount of any other 12% alcohol drink. The trick is not to slam too many before the alcohol can catch up with you, and that goes back to responsibility.
If young people are too irresponsible to drink safely, then they have a very hard life ahead of them when faced with adult decisions. As for underage drinkers, that's already illegal and the parents need to be held responsible for the actions of their children. A ban would not make it any harder for them to get alcohol, since clearly they already do. Why not enforce existing laws?