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.
Zima, the butt of numerous jokes by beer aficionados, is coming back to the American market after a nine-plus-year absence. The clear malt beverage, launched by Coors Brewing in 1993, sold more than 1 million barrels its first year. However, the brand never caught on with its target audience—young males—and was discontinued in the U.S. in 2008.
MillerCoors decided to resurrect Zima after its line of Henry’s Hard Soda proved successful last year. Ironically, the biggest fans of Henry’s are the very generation to which Coors marketed Zima in the first place.
Zima’s top competitors include Bud Light Lime-a-Rita, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Not Your Father’s Root Beer, and Seagrams’ line of hard sodas.