It's Made Where??
by Bob Montemurro
Missouri water isn’t the same as the water from German rivers,
according to a Beck’s beer drinker who’s suing Anheuser-Busch. Yes, a
Florida resident has filed a lawsuit against A-B, alleging that the brewer
is leading customers to believe that Beck’s beer sold in the United
States is brewed in Germany.
A-B of course denies the allegation, saying that Beck’s beer sold in the
U.S. is clearly labeled as being made in America. The lawsuit seeks class
action status on behalf of Beck’s beer drinkers.
St. Louis-based A-B is the North American headquarters of A-B InBev,
which owns the Beck’s brand. Beck’s was founded in Germany in 1873
and brewed there until 2012. After Belgium-based InBev’s purchase of
A-B in 2008, production of Beck’s sold in the U.S. shifted to A-B’s
brewery in St. Louis, drawing the ire of some customers who say they
can detect a difference.
Beck’s label includes text that says “Product of USA” and “St. Louis,
MO.” But the lawsuit alleges this wording is insufficient. Its main point is
that although Beck’s Beer is no longer imported from Germany, the
marketing and advertising of Beck’s has remained mostly unchanged.
The use of local water in Beck’s production as opposed to the
Rotenburger Rinne in Germany” was also cited in the lawsuit.
How much damage has this done to Beck drinkers? Due to the large
number of customers who could be included in the class action, the
lawsuit says the matter of controversy exceeds $5 million in damages.
While the lawsuit may seem a bit frivolous to some its argument that
some breweries intentionally mislead the consumer as to where the
beer is made is legitimate. Personally it doesn't really matter to me
where the beer is made if the beer tastes exactly like the home grown
product but therein is the real issue. That is not easy to do. When
quality changes, and I have to scour a bottle’s label to find out that it’s
being made in a different place than the last time I checked, then I feel
taken advantage of.
Here are a few examples of beers being made in places that might
surprise you. Red Stripe, the beer that promises drinkers the “taste of
Jamaica”, is actually made in Pennsylvania.
Foster’s, a brand synonymous with the tagline “Australian for beer,”
doesn’t really come from the land down under — MillerCoors brews it in
Texas and Georgia.
Schlafly canned products are brewed in Wisconsin; other products
brewed in Maplewood and downtown St. Louis as well as in Nashville,
Tenn and Iowa.
if you drink any of the Kona Brewing beers available on the mainland,
you’re actually drinking beer made at the affiliated Widmer Brothers
facility in Portland. And much of what is sold under the Boston Beer
Company label – Sam Adams – isn’t made in Boston, but is actually
made in auxiliary facilities in Pennsylvania, Oregon, and North Carolina.
21st Amendment brews the beer served in its San Francisco brewpub
on the premises, but they produce their canned line via an alternating
proprietorship with Cold Springs Brewing in Minnesota.
Now before anyone gets too upset over this be aware that according
to the Brewers Association, only 1.7% of the beer sold last year was
contract-brewed (not at the company's site). But as demand for craft
beer grows, more and more small breweries are experimenting with
alternative, cheaper brewing arrangements to get their foot in the
door. It does make sense. After all, paying an existing brewery to
make your beer for you means that aspiring brewers only need to
raise $50,000, not $500,000, to realize their dreams.
Some famous brewers take issue with the concept of contract brewing
see it as a matter of misrepresentation. Greg Koch, founder of
legendary Stone Brewing near San Diego, said, “As a consumer, I want
the truth to be easy to understand and require no special knowledge
... If [the beer] is not brewed at the company whose name is on the
label, I’d want to know.” Fair enough.
As for me, I do read the label most importantly to check the date the
beer was made. Secondarily, I want to see where the brewery is
located since travel time and consistent taste are important factors..
Bottom line for me however is if the beer tastes great I really don't
care if it was made in my kitchen. Which reminds me of the oft used
analogy to this contract brewing issue. If famed chef Gordon Ramsey
made dinner in your kitchen could you honestly say you had a
Ramsey meal or would it have to be made in one of his restaurants?
Ah, come on, that's an easy question.
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