Canada Teaches Alcoholics to Make Their Own Beer

Program aims to steer users away from toxic drinks

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 26, 2014 12:56 AM CST

(Newser) – Another innovative harm-reduction strategy from the Vancouver group that introduced crack pipe vending machines: Brewing lessons for hardened alcoholics. The Portland Hotel Society, which works to help addicts and the mentally ill in the Canadian city, says the aim is to steer extreme alcoholics away from more dangerous substances like rubbing alcohol. "Obviously, we'd rather they didn’t drink," the group's director tells the Vancouver Sun. "But if they do, we'd rather they didn't drink hand sanitizer."

The 90 or so drinkers in the program, who are required to attend a weekly support meeting, make beer and wine in the style of their choosing under the supervision of a resident brewmaster, NPR reports. Some of the booze is used for an alcohol-swapping program where drinkers can trade substances like hair spray for regular drinks. "It’s like a kind of gun amnesty," the group's director explains. "We’re saying, 'OK, if you’re desperate, bring us that, and drink this instead.'" He says the program has helped give the drinkers a sense of pride and after almost a year in operation, some members are starting to see positive effects from healthier living.

A member of the program is seen with a bottle of home-brewed beer.
A member of the program is seen with a bottle of home-brewed beer.   (Portland Hotel Society)
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We’re just trying to do what we can with no resources to make them a bit safer, make our community a bit safer, hopefully keep them alive for another day. - Mark Townsend,
Portland Hotel Society

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