| Information, Please
by Alexia Alexander
Hi Bob - I really enjoyed the article you had last month about
offensive beer names on the label. I'd like to add something else to
the picture. I read the entire label for information especially to find
out where a beer is made. I always search the fine print for a line
spelling out where it was brewed and bottled. But sometimes even
that information doesn’t explain everything that I want to know about
their beer. In fact, not only don't the labels give you important
information they and the beer's marketing may be intentionally
misleading you. So here are a few things I've noticed and would like
to share with you and your readers.
Is your beer really "imported"?
Brands such as Beck’s, Fosters, Kirin, Bass, and Red Stripe are
generally considered imports, and we consumers pay a premium for
them over their mass-market domestic equivalents. Yet these beers
have actually been brewed in the U.S. for years, and some
consumers have sued because they feel like they’d been deceived.
I read that in 2015, beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev agreed to
settle one of the suits, which alleged the company “misrepresented
to consumers that Beck’s Beer is brewed in and imported from
Germany.” Specifically, Beck’s packaging featured phrases like
“Germany Quality” and “Originated in Bremen, Germany”-even
though the beers sold in American stores were produced in Missouri.
The company admitted no wrongdoing, but customers who
purchased Beck’s over the years received up to $50 in the
Since then, beer companies have gotten more careful. But beer
customers might have to look closely before figuring out that, for
instance, that four-pack of Guinness in the store wasn’t brewed in
Ireland but in Canada or perhaps (soon) America.
Is your beer really “Made in the USA”?
Surveys show that 80% of Americans are willing to pay extra for
goods that are “Made in the USA,” and few brands have pushed the
patriotic marketing angle more than red-white-and-blue Budweiser.
The brand has been the official sponsor of a “Made in America”
concert series, and last summer the beer was sold with special
labels substituting “America” instead of Budweiser on cans and
Yet while Budweiser is brewed in America, it is not produced by an
American-owned business. Budweiser, Bud Light, Busch, and
Michelob are among the many mass-market beer brands people
think of as American, but which are in fact owned by Anheuser-
Busch InBev, a global conglomerate with headquarters in Belgium.
Is your beer really “craft”?
The Brewers Association has a very clear definition for the term
“craft brewer.” To qualify, a brewer must be small (producing 6
million barrels or less annually), independent (a large non-craft
brewer can own no more than 25% of the company), and traditional
(using classic ingredients like malted barley). But the definition is not
accepted by everyone in the industry, and some feel like the term
technically applies to brewers that don’t really deserve the label.
For example, Brooklyn Brewery sold a 24.5% stake in the company
to the global brewing firm Kirin Holdings last fall, and the Brewers
Association still regards Brooklyn as a craft brewer because it (just
barely) qualifies under the independent ownership rule.
So-called “crafty beers,” which are marketed as craft products even
though they’re fully owned by the world’s largest beer companies,
are even more contentious in the industry. I'm talking about popular
brands such as Blue Moon (owned by MillerCoors), Shock Top
(ABInBev), and Goose Island (also ABInBev).
You won’t hear about the corporate overlords for these brands on
beer labels or websites, however. The history sections of the Blue
Moon and Goose Island websites focus on their visionary
entrepreneurial beginnings, while skipping over the fact that the
former was launched as an experiment by Coors and the latter was
purchased in 2011. So if your definition of a craft beer is one that’s
owned by a small, independent company, these certainly don’t hit
Not only do I want more honesty on the label I would like more
information. For example I think breweries should be required by law
to put the bottling date on the beer along with its calories and
alcoholic content. Yes, believe it or not, there is no federal
requirement for that (though some states do require it). I'll save all
of that for my next note to you Bob.
Hope you found allsome of this interesting and will put it on
BeerNexus. I really like the website's overall content. It's varied,
informative, and entertaining.
Many thanks Alexia for sending me your article. I agree with you that
the labels should have as much information as possible. Not only the
important things you mention but also the kinds of info beer lovers
would like to know like the beer's hops, malts, OG, etc.
Excellent 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 Alexia did. I select
the best and publish them here. So join in and get writing!
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