DB offers free beer to celebrate birthday

By Rosaleen Macbrayne

What better way for a brewery to celebrate its 75th birthday than to shout a few drinks?

DB is going further and treating the nation today, offering a free beer to all New Zealanders over 18.

The company has no idea what the total cost will be but is oozing bonhomie.

"We have had three very strong years and are in the mood to celebrate," said managing director Brian Blake.

"No one has ever done this before. We are hoping the response is really strong, even if that costs us more."

Not, he added, that drinkers had to have full-strength beer - among several DB brands on offer was a light ale.

The size of the glass of free beer, available anywhere DB was on tap, was not specified but would be the standard vessel for the establishment. Some bars would serve handles, others fancy glasses.

"We've been part of New Zealand communities since 1930 and have a strong Kiwi heritage. We wanted to recognise the support from all those loyal DB drinkers out there."

The company has had many world and national firsts over the years. Back in 1930, it introduced Waitemata sparkling ale - a new type of clear, sparkling lager produced for war-time troops. It was also the first company to restore full salaries to workers after Government cuts during the Depression.

Under inventive brewer Morton Coutts, DB introduced its revolutionary temperature-control system in 1938. It also came up with the continuous fermentation process now used worldwide and made New Zealand's first low-alcohol beer.

But the brewery nearly didn't get going. When it opened in 1929, said Mr Blake, 100 prohibitionists and members of the Women's Christian Temperance Union knelt outside the present Otahuhu site on Great South Rd and "prayed that the building be turned into a flour or woollen mill, a dairy factory or a church".

Their prayers went unanswered.

Alcohol Healthwatch director Rebecca Williams said marketing stunts like DB's "birthday shout" masked the true cost of alcohol to New Zealanders.

"Excessive drinking costs the country between $1.4 and $4 billion a year in terms of morbidity and fatalities - none of which is covered by the levies on alcohol."

She said the "free rein" enjoyed by the alcohol industry under the self-regulatory system had certainly contributed to the problem.

Although in this case DB had been careful to "act responsibly" by limiting vouchers to one a person, she said, marketing was intense.

To get their free beer, drinkers need to present a coupon clipped from any of 12 newspapers around the country to get one of five brands - Amstel Light, Tui, Export Gold, DB Draught and Monteith's.

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