State officials will meet today to discuss whether to halt sales of Everclear 151 in Iowa in response to an incident last week at Drake University, when a 19-year-old student ingested cups of Everclear — the strongest liquor available on store shelves — as part of an alleged fraternity hazing event.
The event lead to an emergency room visit at a Des Moines-area hospital, where the student registered a blood-alcohol content of nearly 0.50. Police have charged two Phi Delta Theta members with hazing, and the fraternity’s Drake charter was revoked on Monday.
Everclear with 190-proof content — or 95 percent alcohol — was banned from Iowa liquor-store shelves six months ago, said Lynn Walding, the administrator for Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, which regulates how much and what kind of alcohol is sold in the state. He said the only function of Everclear 190 now is to clean petri dishes and other items.
Walding will meet with other division officials at 1:30 p.m. in Ankeny, Iowa, to discuss banning the high-proof liquor.
“The Drake incident hasn’t been our first occurrence,” Walding said.
Doug Alberhasky, the manager of John’s Grocery, 401 E. Market St., compared Everclear to “going out and drinking diesel fuel” and said drinkers “can’t really do anything worse.”
“There are a number of ways to drink yourself to death,” Alberhasky said. “But Everclear is the surest way to do that.”
He thinks that banning Everclear, a neutral grain spirit that contains twice as much alcohol as standard vodka, would mean state regulators are missing the point entirely, he said.
“It’s common sense that you shouldn’t drink that much, and the state cannot ban stupidity,” Alberhasky said, noting he believes most people drink responsibly. “Banning something like this because of one bad judgment is asking for trouble.”
Matt Fitzgerald, a UI junior, said he thinks Everclear’s effects are potentially dangerous.
“I have drank it a few times with juice,” Fitzgerald said. “The scary thing is I only remember one or two of those times when someone told me in the morning.”
Darrin Aisenbrey, the owner of Liquor Downtown, 315 S. Gilbert St., said the establishment hardly sells any of the spirit. Alberhasky echoed that sentiment, emphasizing he’s sold less than a case in the past month.
“Besides the Everclear, we also have Bacardi that is 151-proof,” Aisenbrey said. “But we don’t see the demand for either one like we have for vodka. We will sell the occasional pint each month, but that’s not much at all.”
As of October, Iowa businesses had purchased about 2,500 cases of Everclear 151 this year, according to the Alcohol Beverages Division. Everclear 151 costs around $15 per bottle.
Alberhasky, for one, isn’t too concerned about what decision state officials make at Thursday’s meeting. He said his alcohol business does not cater to the crowd who wants to “get drunk” but rather to older people who appreciate the taste of good alcohol.
“We really strive for the mantra that less is better with alcohol,” Alberhasky said. “We know that there is a herd mentality in college, and kids will do almost anything for acceptance.”
BY JORDAN FRIES
November 19, 2009