When a beer brand is brewed and distributed by a major player in the Big Beer global oligopoly, does it deserve to be called “craft beer?” According to litigation recently decided in U.S. District Court of the Southern District of California, the answer could be yes.
Evan Parent, a beer connoisseur from San Diego, recently took issue with the branding and marketing of Blue Moon, the popular Belgian wheat beer brewed by MillerCoors LLC. Similar to Shock Top and Goose Island, Blue Moon is a brew that tastes pleasantly different from American top-sellers such as Budweiser and Miller, but it is certainly not a craft beer,
The San Diego plaintiff in the aforementioned case believed that MillerCoors LLC engaged in deceptive advertising by misrepresenting how Blue Moon is actually brewed. In its marketing of Blue Moon, MillerCoors LLC has gone as far as to suggest that the brewing process of this ultra-popular brand takes place in a small building and using small tanks, just like craft breweries.
In fact, at restaurant chains such as TGIF and Applebee’s, Blue Moon is often described in the menu as a craft beer. As true craft beer fans, we know that Blue Moon is just one of the many beverages produced and sold in mass quantities by the global brewery oligopoly, which seems to be getting bigger at the expense of craft breweries everywhere.
Big Beer Posing as Craft: A Major Concern for the Craft Brew Industry
U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel is probably correct insofar as his view of MillerCoors LLC having little to do with the dubious marketing of Blue Moon served on tap by Applebee’s and TGIF. That said, there is reason to be concerned with the rest of his decision.
Judge Curiel has no problem with vague advertising tactics used by MillerCoors LLC to market Blue Moon as craft beer. To this effect, Judge Curiel probably thinks that Blue Moon marketing is similar to the way some products are given a fictional backdrop. For example, NBA champions Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers participated in a video ad campaign for Pepsi that depicted elderly basketball stars getting the team back together on street courts to match up against young players. Irving and Love, however, were in costume and character for this campaign; they did not play themselves, and the team of aging stars never existed.
For fans of real craft brews, this court decision is worrisome since it will empower Big Beer to throw more advertising dollars in passing their products off as if they were crafted under a microbrewery philosophy. This may not be a problem for those who are well-tuned to the craft brew scene, but what about those who are new to it? They may fall to the marketing tactics of MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch InBev, and they may never get to know the exciting taste and the ethos of real craft beer.