| Walmart Goes Crafty
by Tony Deicco
Hi Bob - I recently went into my local Walmart and guess what - I
found "craft" beer from someplace called Trouble Brewing for sale.
Now the reason I say it was craft sold at And yest I admit to - for only
a second - thinking it actually was a craft beer instead of private-
label production. A bit of research quickly showed the beer was
really produced at a large industrial brewery in Rochester, New York,
which ironically isn't that far from me (does that make it a local beer?
Ha). Then a short time later I read that there was a Cincinnati beer
drinker who was so mad that he’s suing Walmart, world’s largest
company, over what he’s calling the “wholesale fiction” of its beer
being craft he's and seeking compensatory damages “in an amount
to be determined at trial.”
The class-action complaint filed on behalf of Matthew Adam “and all
others similarly situated,” alleges that Walmart used a “fraudulent,
unlawful, deceptive and unfair course of conduct” to market and sell
its four Trouble Brewing beers as craft beers, and because of this,
“members of the public were fraudulently induced to purchase
Defendant’s Craft Beer at inflated prices.” Indeed, as I discovered,
the Trouble Brewing beers were created for Walmart by WX Brands,
a company that “develops exclusive brands of wine, beer and spirits
for retailers around the world.”
Ragan Dickens, Walmart’s national director of media relations, said
in an email statement, “We hold our suppliers to high standards and
are committed to providing our customers the quality products they
expect. While we have not yet been served with the complaint, we
take this matter seriously and intend to defend ourselves against the
The beers are Cat’s Away India Pale Ale, After Party Pale Ale, Red
Flag Amber and ‘Round Midnight Belgian White - all solid craft
names if you ask me. A 12-pack costs $13 would be a steal for craft
When I carefully checked the cans I found it said that the contents
were “brewed by” Trouble Brewing in Rochester, New York. Well, no
American brewery with the name Trouble Brewing actually exists
there or anywhere. They’re actually produced at Genesee Brewing
on a contract basis. My point is that many people would not have
purchased the beer if that information was on the can.
Beyond the issue of where the beer is made, the lawsuit is partly
based on the fact that it’s not craft beer, a claim that Trouble
Brewing never makes outright on its label, though Teresa Budd, a
senior buyer for Walmart, told me, “We were intentional about
designing a package that conveyed a look and feel you’d expect of
To put the lawsuit in context there have been similar ones filed by
consumers who alleged being misled into thinking that a product
made by a large company is in fact produced by an artisan brewery
or distillery. The problem is that the track record of these lawsuits
isn’t very good. Last June, for example, a federal judge dismissed a
case brought by a California beer lover who claimed that Blue Moon,
which is owned by Coors, was marketing itself as a craft beer
produced by the Blue Moon Brewing Company. The judge found that
“a reasonable consumer was not likely to be deceived” by Blue
Moon’s packaging or website. And back in 2015, a federal judge
dismissed several lawsuits against Tito’s Handmade Vodka from
consumers who complained that the vodka was not, in fact,
handmade as the label asserted; Maker’s Mark had similar suits
dismissed the same year.
However Templeton Rye Whiskey settled a 2015 class-action lawsuit
in which a man from Iowa claimed Templeton was “deceptively
marketing” its whiskey as a small-batch spirit distilled in Iowa using a
“Prohibition-era recipe.” In fact, it was made a large distillery in
Indiana and then blended with flavoring agents before being bottled
in Templeton, Iowa. Consumers who had bought bottles of it were
eligible for a refund of $3 per bottle, or $6 if they kept original
Now for the big questions - did I buy beer after finding all this out?
Yes. How did it taste? It wasn't bad at all. Was it worth the price?
Absolutely. It's far better than any mega brewery's watery offering
but then again not as good as most serous craft beer. Would I buy it
Bob, I guess if you print my semi-positive take on Walmart craft beer
I won't be eligible for any sort of refund if Mr. Adam wins the lawsuit.
Too bad, I could have used the money to buy a full case of the stuff!
Many thanks Tony for sending me your article. I've never tasted a
Walmart (Trouble Brewing) beer so I'll pass on commenting on its
quality. However to me it seems that while they actually did intend to
mislead the average consumer the savvy beer geek would smell
something was a bit off just when seeing the price. By the way years
ago back in college Genesee Cream was our go to beer for all
occasions. Really enjoyed the article; please write again.
I'd like to invite everyone to send me their own columns about
anything related to beer in any way just as Tony did. I select
the best and publish them here. So join in and get writing!
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