”No. Absolutely not,” Heineken USA CEO Maggie Timoney told Yahoo Finance when asked about the craft beers that have an alcohol content well above wine, which even rivals what you'd find in spirits like gin or bourbon.
“There's a beautiful side of our industry but there's also the side where people imbibe too much or they have the disease where they can't stop drinking and they become alcoholics,” Timoney said in the latest episode of Influencers with Andy Serwer. “I've grown up where you see the dark side of alcohol.”
During her time at Heineken, Timoney, an Ireland native, worked her way up through many areas of the company, including about 5 years at the headquarters in the Netherlands. Prior to this role, she was the CEO of Heineken Ireland. As CEO of Heineken USA, Timoney oversees US operations of the company, which is headquartered in Amsterdam, and is involved in distributing a range of brands in addition to Heineken itself, including Dos Equis, Tecate, Red Stripe, and Amstel Light.
‘It's uncool to be drunk’
The largely niche world of high alcohol content beers includes a range of - often quite expensive - options when it comes to aged “highly spirited” brews. A British beer called Brewmeister Snake Venom advertises itself as the strongest beer in the world with a whopping 67% alcohol by volume (ABV), selling for about $50 a bottle.
Timoney was specifically asked about “Utopias,” a line of high-alcohol beers from the Sam Adams company. That brew is so loaded with alcohol – 28% ABV compared to 5% in a standard Sam Adams – that it is illegal in 15 states. The beer is aged in bourbon casks, is “extremely limited,” according to the company, and carries a suggested retail price of $240.
Timoney preferred instead to highlight her company’s focus on moderate drinking, including a pledge to spend 10% of its marketing budget on responsible consumption campaigns.
And she had a message for those focused on getting the most alcohol out of each drink. “It's uncool to be drunk,” she said, adding that “if we sell less beer, but we make an impact on alcohol misuse, we can put our heads on our pillows at night easily.”
Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.