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With enduring slogans like “It’s the Water” and “Since 1896”, it’s hard to blame drinkers for assuming Olympia
beer came from mountain water like the tranquil river featured on the beer’s cans — and not California tap
water.  With enduring slogans like “It’s the Water” and “Since 1896”, it’s hard to blame drinkers for assuming
Olympia beer came from mountain water like the tranquil river featured on ardnerthe beer’s cans — and not
California tap water.  

With enduring slogans like “It’s the Water” and “Since 1896”, it’s hard to blame drinkers for assuming Olympia
beer came from mountain water like the tranquil river featured on the beer’s cans — and not California tap
water.  At least that’s how a federal judge sees it. “A reasonable consumer could construe the phrase ‘It’s the
Water’ — when taken with the can’s labeling as a whole — to suggest that Olympia Beer is brewed using
water from the Olympia area,” said U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley.

Advancing a class action false advertising lawsuit against Pabst Brewing Company, Nunley on Thursday
agreed drinkers may have been duped into buying Olympia beer due to an outdated and inaccurate slogan.
In a fight over the phrase “It’s the Water” that adorned Olympia cans for decades, a California man claims he
bought the low-cost beer believing it was brewed with artesian spring water from picturesque Washington
state.  fter tossing back one of the American lagers, Brendan Peacock claims he was dismayed to learn the
beer was in fact brewed in Los Angeles.

“Drinking Olympia has been Plaintiff’s family tradition for many years and the story of the uniqueness and
value of the artesian water has been passed down through oral tradition,” one of his briefs stated. Over two
years after suing Pabst in federal court in Sacramento, Peacock’s batch is still brewing after Judge Nunley
squashed the corporate brewer’s attempt to dismiss the case.

At the heart of the brouhaha is the former and current source of the water used to fill Olympia’s gold cans.
Beginning in 1896, Olympia was canned at a brewery near the banks of the Deschutes River in Tumwater,
Washington. The scenic setting inspired the beer’s original label featuring a waterfall, walk bridge and a
horseshoe adorned with “It’s the Water.”

Shortly after buying the rights to Olympia, Pabst in 2003 ditched the historic facility for several “mega-
breweries,” including one in the Los Angeles suburb of Irwindale. Following the takeover, Pabst continued to
sell Olympia cans made with California water under the original slogan.

Peacock, who settled a similar lawsuit in 2018 against San Francisco-based 21st Amendment Brewery Café,
said he bought some Olympia while grocery shopping after being influenced by Facebook advertisements and
the now-controversial slogan.  

“Had plaintiff known that defendant’s marketing messages were false, plaintiff would not have purchased the
beer,” Peacock’s complaint states. “Plaintiff paid a price premium for the beer compared to other beer and
related goods.”

Whether Judge Nunley ultimately buys the argument that Peacock — who defines himself as a “beer, and
craft beer, consumer” — was conned into buying beer that routinely sells for less than Budweiser remains to
be seen. Regardless of how the dispute ends, Peacock’s lawsuit has apparently spooked Pabst.  While the
waterfall and horseshoe remain, Pabst’s website now features Olympia cans without the traditional slogan.
The site does, however, tout Olympia Artesian Vodka, described as being made with the “use of natural
artesian water, hand-drawn in Tumwater.”

Pabst declined to comment, citing pending litigation.Pabst tried to convince the judge “The Original” and “It’s
the Water” used in its marketing were subjective, puffery phrases easily ignored by consumers. It also claimed
Peacock’s complaint lacked specific details about how and which advertisements swayed his buying habits.  
Nunley ultimately rejected the entirety of Pabst’s dismissal motion, finding that Peacock and the class’
argument was specific and adequately pleaded. He gave Pabst 21 days to respond to the 11-page ruling.
“Plaintiff alleges enough facts to draw a reasonable inference that a reasonable consumer would believe
Olympia Beer is brewed with water from the Olympia area of Washington,” Nunley concluded.

There you have it.  If you were the Judge, how would you rule?


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You Be The Judge - The Case Against Olympia Beer
Submitted By Mason P. Gardner
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