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Thursday, 7 November, 2002, 12:50 GMT
No festive cheer for strong beer
Samichlaus beer
The beer is brewed in Austria once a year
A festive stunt has backfired after supermarket giant Safeway was attacked as "irresponsible" for selling what it described as the world's strongest beer.

The Austrian brew called Samichlaus, or Santa Claus, is 14% alcohol - about three times stronger than leading brands in the UK.

In a press release, the company claimed that it would "give drinkers a shiny red nose like Rudolph's".

However, charity Alcohol Focus Scotland accused Safeway of undermining the safe drinking message it was trying to promote.


Our fear is that people will have no idea of how much they are actually drinking

Alcohol Focus spokeswoman
Safeway replied that the comments were meant to be a bit of light-hearted fun.

The company also insisted that it was a responsible retailer.

Safeway said that the beer would be going on sale at shops in Scotland this month.

Samichlaus is only brewed once a year, on 6 December, and left to mature for 10 months until it is ready to be sold.

Safeway said that the rare ale sells out quickly every year.

Samichlaus beer label
Samichlaus is three times stronger than most beers
''This beer will give drinkers a shiny red nose like Rudolph's," said a spokeswoman.

''But it is a fantastically tasty beer which is a favourite among beer and strong ale lovers all over Britain."

However, a spokesperson from Alcohol Focus pointed out that one 330 ml bottle contained more than 4.5 units of alcohol.

"The sale of such strong products concerns us on a number of levels," said the charity.

"Firstly, it is around three times stronger than your average bottled beer and our fear is that people will have no idea of how much they are actually drinking.

"Secondly, one bottle would be more than sufficient to put unsuspecting drivers over the limit.


We do have a vast amount of training with all our till staff and check-out staff in relation to any age-sensitive products such as alcohol

Safeway spokeswoman
"Thirdly, in the run up to Christmas there is much more likelihood that people will drink and drive."

The spokesperson said drinks of such high strength should be accompanied by a safe drinking message.

The charity also wants the law changed so that the packaging on all drinks indicates the number of units of alcohol they contain.

A spokeswoman for Safeway said: "This is a seasonal product that we have taken on board for a limited period.

"We do have a vast amount of training with all our till staff and check-out staff in relation to any age-sensitive products such as alcohol.

Seasonal product

"We are a responsible retailer in terms of ensuring that there is no under-age purchasing."

She said the company could not control how people consumed the product.

And she stressed that there was no intention to make light of any of the issues that Alcohol Focus deal with.

"It is a seasonal Christmas product and it was really done in a very light-hearted way," she added.

See also:

22 Oct 02 | England
16 Jul 02 | Scotland
20 Mar 02 | UK
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