Since its launch, St Louis 24 has raised eyebrows among the people, wondering whether it is an alcoholic drink or not.
There are also conflicting explanations concerning the admissibility of this drink to be taken in public.
It uncannily resembles the real St. Louis beer but is found in retail grocery shops, like in Spar.
The Director of Traffic in the Botswana Police Service, Mr. Bruno Paledi, announced recently that anyone seen drinking St Louis 24 in public will be charged in accordance with the laws of Botswana governing beer drinking in public places.
The manufacturers of the product say that St. Louis 24 is an alcohol-free beer, aimed at those beer drinkers who may, on occasion, want a beer without the alcohol.
According to Thapelo Letsholo, Corporate and Strategic Director at KBL, St. Louis 24 is a brand extension of the mother brand St. Louis and its brew uses the same ingredients as other beers except that it uses special imported yeast, which is not used in the other alcoholic beers and the yeast produces very little alcohol.
In addition, he says, the brewing process is attuned to encourage very little alcohol production.
He further went on to say the “24” denotes that when consumed responsibly and in moderation, the product could be consumed at any time of the day without the effects associated with alcoholic beers.
The Deputy Director of Traffic Division in the Botswana Police Service, Mr. Katlholo Mosimanegape, said, in principle, they are guided by the law and in the laws of Botswana, any beverage that has alcohol content is regarded as a beer. He said that the issue of St Louis 24 came from KBL being a stakeholder in road safety so they proposed the drink as a better beer that people can drink without getting drunk. However, he said the idea did not say whether it would fall under drinks or beer.
“We are therefore basing our opinion on the Liquor Act and until otherwise the law stipulates it is a beer as it hasn’t been announced by the law as a drink. In addition, it has alcohol content and anything with alcohol content can make one not to be their normal self. For instance, we know there are medicines with alcohol content that you are told not to take if you have to drive as they may cause dizziness,” he added.
Responding to Paledi’s directive, Letsholo said St. Louis 24 is indeed a beer, brewed as a beer, only without the alcohol and that is why they recommend that it be consumed during times when it is appropriate for one to consume a beer and in places other than the public places. Therefore, as an example, they do not recommend that people should drink St. Louis 24 while driving. However, he said, it is safe to drive after consuming St. Louis 24.
“St. Louis 24 will continue to be available in all beverage outlets, including those that do not traditionally sell alcoholic beverages, such as supermarkets. As with regards our alcoholic beverage offerings, St. Louis 24 carries a ‘Not for sale to persons under the age of 18′ message. We appeal to all retailers not to sell St. Louis 24 to anyone under the age of 18,” Letsholo added.
Retail shops selling the drink also had their own views in relation to St Louis 24.
A retailer who requested anonymity said that they do sell St Louis 24 in their shop and place it under the soft drinks sections “because the producers classify it as a soft drink”.
“I am aware of what the police said but there is no special licence that is required to sell the drink. We purchase it as part of groceries we sell in our shop and, if there is any conflict, then the government has to come up with a law stipulating what kind of drink St Louis 24 is,” he said.
The Administration Supervisor at Kgale View Spar, Veronica Siqwele, said they too sell the drink as a soft drink.
“We get it from Segwana and it is charged at a cost for soft drinks and not alcohol,” she said.
Members of the public also have mixed feelings about the beer. Rebaone Mokalake expressed his view, saying St Louis 24 tastes nothing like the mother brand.
“I once tried drinking it and the taste is just unbearable, I couldn’t even finish the bottle,” Mokalake said.
Reuben Mokwena shared the same sentiments with Mokalake saying it is not tasty and can’t tell how to describe the taste and the smell.