Brad Tuttle of Time magazine has a warning for beer drinkers: What you see on the label might not be true.
One example is deception as to a beer’s provenance. Tuttle mentions beers that are advertised as “Vermont ales” when in fact they’re brewed elsewhere. One brewer of “Vermont ale” is located in Berkeley, California; another is based in upstate New York.
“American” is a time-honored way to make products more appealing, and Budweiser exploited this tactic to the hilt by renaming Budweiser “America” last year. Problem is, the brand is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, a conglomerate headquartered in Belgium.
Some beers try to pass themselves off as “imported”. Even though they bear foreign breweries’ names, they’re brewed in the U.S. A couple of years ago, Anheuser-Busch got slapped with a lawsuit over domestically-brewed Beck’s beer. A-B didn’t admit fault, but agreed to pay Beck’s drinkers up to $50 in the settlement; and the suit apparently made it more careful about advertising claims.
“Craft” is another possible source of deception. Here the legalities get trickier: the Brewers Association has laid down criteria for what breweries qualify as “craft”, but the BA’s definition isn’t universally accepted in the industry. That said, the mega-brewers behind Blue Moon (launched as an experiment by Coors Brewing) and Goose Island (acquired by A-B) haven’t gone out of their way to disclose those brands’ current ownership.
If you bought Beck’s beer, you may be eligible for a refund. Anheuser-Busch InBev has settled a class-action lawsuit which alleged that the brewery deceived consumers by representing Beck’s as a German product when in fact it’s brewed in St. Louis. Beck’s buyers who’ve saved receipts from their purchases can claim a refund of up to $50. Those who can’t produce receipts may be entitled to as much as a $12 refund.
Many other beers associated with foreign countries—including Red Stripe, Fosters, and Killian’s Irish Red—are brewed in the U.S. However, those beers’ packaging identifies them as domestically-made. As part of the settlement, A-B will change Beck’s labeling to identify it as American-made.
The idea of brewing foreign brands of beer in the U.S. was inspired by the auto industry. European and Japanese automakers have moved much of their production to American plants, which resulted in a substantial decrease in shipping costs. Those costs are a concern for breweries because it’s so expensive to transport beer from overseas to the U.S.