You’re a craft beer! And YOU’RE a craft beer! Everybody’s a craft beer!
Angry beer drinker Evan Parent is tired of overpaying for crappy drinks. He alleges that Blue Moon is “conspicuously overpriced” compared to other “craft” beers. So, he sued MillerCoors earlier this year because he claimed the marketing around their Blue Moon label was deceptively portraying the brew as a true craft beverage.
The Brewers Association considers a beer craft only if it…
“Produce[s] less than 6 million barrels of beer annually; [is] less than 25 percent owned or controlled by a non-craft brewer; and Make[s] beer using only traditional or innovative brewing ingredients.”
Parent claims in his lawsuit that Blue Moon doesn’t meet these standards. (For instance, MillerCoors produces more than 70 million barrels of Blue Moon a year.) Parent also alleges that MillerCoors’ marketing of the beer is misleading, placing it among other “craft” beers in supermarket displays, and hiding its true ownership.
U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel threw out the lawsuit this week. He points out that MillerCoors has Blue Moon listed on their website, even though Blue Moon’s website doesn’t mention MillerCoors. And grocery store placement is irrelevant, as who’s to say whether it’s the store or the beer company that dictates what gets shelved where?
When it comes to what you can print on your beer’s label, according to the judge, state and federal laws…
“specifically permit[s] a beer bottle and outer packing to show by label or otherwise the ‘name or trade name’ of the brewer. …the true name of a manufacturer, bottler or packager shall be deemed to include a fictitious business name for which such manufacturer, bottler or packager has duly filed a fictitious business name statement… MillerCoors’ use of the Blue Moon Trading Co. trade name on the Blue Moon label is thus specifically authorized by federal and state regulations.”
So, point number one: California has a “fictitious business name” registry, because they are magical, and point number two: Miller is allowed to say that Blue Moon is manufactured by Blue Moon, and not them, because they registered Blue Moon Trading Co. as a faux brewery. Seems legit.
Until someone can actually draw up a better definition of what is and isn’t actually “craft beer,” the initial lawsuit against labeling yourself as such when you’re not is moot. The move means that technically everyone is allowed to tout themselves as lovingly brewed in small batches by hops elves until legally it can be enforced otherwise.
The judge has given Parent and the other plaintiffs in the class action suit 30 days to gird their loins and rephrase their claim, so a legal definition of “craft beer” may be forthcoming. Until then, MillerCoors and InBev could market all their “specialty” beers any way they see fit.
It doesn’t seem likely this will fool anyone, as Budweiser has seen a 50 percent decrease in their market share since actual small-batch breweries have become more popular. MillerCoors has already halted production on a Blue Moon “summer ale” they were planning for next year, after unrelated negative reviews from distributors caused them to re-think introducing a new blend.
It did fool Evan Parent for a while, though, which is the entire reason behind the lawsuit:
“When someone’s deceiving me into giving them my money for the wrong reasons, that’s upsetting.”
Prepare yourself for the possibility of Miller High Life classifying itself as the “champagne of craft beers.”
This is why I just stick to whisky.
(Via The Daily Beast)