tp-cgy-beer-manager

Dave Gingrich, beer manager for Willow Park Wines & Spirits in Calgary, samples a glass of the Belgian beer Black Albert at his store on Tuesday. The beer has an alcohol content of 13 per cent. ((CBC))

Beer lovers can no longer get their mitts on some high-alcohol, upscale brews in Alberta's beer and liquor stores.

The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission has banned the sale of beers with alcohol content of more than 11.9 per cent. The AGLC, which has concerns the beers might be associated with binge drinking, sent out a notification to the stores last Friday.

"We want to make sure that if these high-alcohol products are available, that they are marketed appropriately," said AGLC spokeswoman Lynn Hutchings-Mah.

A spokesman for DeLancey Direct Inc., a Calgary-based Canadian importer of craft beers, said the ban makes no sense. Most of the affected beers are high-end and are not bought by people looking to get drunk, said Christian Finz.

'It's their responsibility to enjoy in moderation.' — Dave Gingrich, beer manager

"Teenagers don't go for these high-end beers," said Finz. "These beers are mostly meant for … beer lovers, beer geeks that really love their beer. These are sipping beers where you … have one bottle an evening."

He added that many of the extra-strong beers cost between $8 and $12 per bottle.

Dave Gingrich, beer manager for Willow Park Wines & Spirits in Calgary, said he was "appalled" when he heard of the new restrictions. He said the taste of these high-alcohol beers is similar to that of fortified wine and they should be enjoyed like wine.

"I think, personally, it's just the people. It's their responsibility to enjoy in moderation," Gingrich said, pointing out that there's abuse of every category of drink.

Hutchings-Mah, however, said there's a possibility that some high-alcohol beers could be less expensive and could be targeted at younger drinkers.

The AGLC suspended sales of the beers until a report can examine whether they contribute to binge drinking. That report will likely be presented to the AGLC board next spring.

Stores will be allowed to sell their current stock, but won't be able to order any more high-alcohol beer.