Jumbo-sized potent beer pulled from Alta. shelves

A pilot alcohol awareness campaign developed by the City of Edmonton and the Edmonton Police...

A pilot alcohol awareness campaign developed by the City of Edmonton and the Edmonton Police Service Neighbourhood Empowerment Team has prompted Molson Coors Canada to stop distributing the Black Label Big 10 beer in Alta., Feb. 17, 2012. (DAVID BLOOM/QMI Agency)

Tanara McLean, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:30 PM ET

EDMONTON - Molson Coors Canada has yanked one of its most popular products off Alberta shelves in an effort to cap crime.

The liquor giant will no longer supply Alberta alcohol stores with its jumbo sized 1.18-litre beer, saying the move could help cut violence spurred by alcohol addiction.

"As our (founder) John Molson said back in 1825, we're all members of a larger community which depends on everyone playing a part," said Molson Coors Canada spokesman Andrew Stordeur.

The beer has a proof of 10.1% -- double that of regular beer.

The company teamed up with the Neighbourhood Empowerment Team (NET) and Edmonton Police Service, launching the "1=What?" campaign in the Edmonton inner-city community of McCauley.

Three of the neighbourhood's four liquor stores have agreed to display campaign posters showing a jumbo-size beer bottle next to seven standard sized cans. The caption reads: "Beware! Know what you are drinking. Know what you are selling."

There are numerous forms of the jumbo-sized high-alcohol beer on the market -- a typical go-to product for alcoholics with little or no cash, say cops.

Thunderbolt and Special 10 are both 1.18-litre brands still on the market. They sell for an average of $6 in the city.

Police Chief Rod Knecht said the inner-city campaign is part of the police and city broader violence reduction strategy launched last year to tackle the city's spiking homicide rate. Edmonton had 47 homicides in 2011, a record.

"In October, (I) actually went into some of these merchants and saw this big beer flying off the counters and being sold to those folks that can least afford it and are most vulnerable," he said.

"Within the downtown area specifically, 43% of the calls we service are alcohol related. So we hope to reduce those alcohol related calls as a result of this initiative."

Harpreet Kounsil owns six liquor stores in the city, including Crown Liquor Store. He said he is more than happy to work with cops and NET, a team of social workers and police, to curb violence around his store.

"Lots of trouble down here in the store, that's why I increased the (price)," he said, adding panhandlers loitering around his store prompted him to join the campaign.

A recent NET McCauley survey found that 45% of 152 neighbourhood residents who drink in public preferred the Molson Black Label Big 10 brand. The next closest was the 1.18-litre Axe Head at 9%.

Organizers hope the booze-store poster campaign will help customers realize that one 1.18-litre bottle of malt has the same booze content as seven regular beers.

"Education is the key to reducing violence in our neighbourhoods," said Kris Andreychuk, a city social worker and NET member.

"(This campaign) tends to fill that gap by providing the information necessary to make better informed decisions about what's being consumed and what's being sold for consumers."

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel praised the initiative and NET's work to date.

"Helping vulnerable populations is a critical step in reducing the conditions that lead to chronic crime and social disorder," said Mandel.

For moor information about the program, visit TransformintEdmonton.ca.

tanara.mclean@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @SunTanaraMcLean


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