We spend a lot of time trying to define the term “craft beer.” Why? Well, perhaps that definition could provide the competitive advantage a smaller, local-focused brewery needs to compete with big, multinational corporations that own 80 percent of the American beer market. Unfortunately, on a higher level (like U.S. courts), there really is no true definition for “craft beer” as far as advertising goes, so anyone who wants to market their beer as craft can go right ahead and do so.
We’ve basically confirmed that argument this week with the U.S. government.
It’s a pronouncement that all stems from a case we covered earlier this year. One brave San Diegoan (Evan Parent) tried to sue MillerCoors for what he believed was the deception of its labeling and marketing of Blue Moon, which he believed to be a craft beer for several years, which caused him to purchase and enjoy the beer under false pretenses. Sounds like a frivolous lawsuit, right?
Maybe not. A lot of folks thought differently this week when the announcement was passed around the Internet that the U.S. government was dismissing the suit. Talking heads seemed genuinely concerned, and here’s a few insights from good writers.
From the Daily Beast:
The lawsuit, filed in California by lead plaintiff Evan Parent, alleged that Blue Moon was conspicuously over-priced in comparison with the rest of the MillerCoors portfolio, that it does not meet requirements agreed upon by the Brewers association, and that it misleads customers by disguising the ownership.
Judge Curiel denied that last claim, referring to the company’s website where it is clearly labeled. He also rejected a claim that Blue Moon’s grocery store shelf placement (mixed in with all the craft brews) has misleading intent.
As Consumerist points out, the lawsuit says that “Blue Moon beer made for retail consumption is brewed at the same plant where MillerCoors makes decidedly non-craft brands Coors, Milwaukee’s Best, Miller High Life, Hamm’s, Icehouse and Olde English” — yet the company charges up to 50 percent more for Blue Moon than it does for its other products.
From The Frisky:
Parent’s claim was rejected by the judge on the grounds that MillerCoors had not misled consumers as the claim was phrased, but the judge also gave the plaintiffs time to rephrase and try again. In the meantime, as long as it’s beer and it’s sold in America, it’s craft beer! Enjoy your craft Budweiser, friends.
At first, we actually came out on this story as a bit of a stretch, but it does seem Evan Parent has galvanized the media for the week, so that’s a good thing. We’ve preached many sides of the same story: the problem with definitions is that they tend to constrain; definitions are great marketing tools for small business; and definitions are often what consumers crave. Although the government is not stepping in this fight, and maybe it shouldn’t, we’re still excited to see the argument being discussed with equal parts piss and vinegar.