What started as a class action suit against Blue Moon over the word “craft” has ended with some unintended results.
Earlier this year, a Blue Moon drinker Evan Parent, filed a lawsuit against Blue Moon Brewing, a division of MillerCoors. The suit contends that Blue Moon’s packaging, and the fact that the beer is placed among small brewery releases in the grocery store, has misled him into thinking he was buying a craft beer.
A lot of this is centered around Blue Moon’s marketing phrase “Artfully Crafted” while masking who truly owns the brand. Through this misrepresentation, Blue Moon/MillerCoors justifies charging up to 50% more for the ‘craft’ product, inline with the small brewery (aka true craft) beers.
Judge Gonzalo Curiel of the U.S. District Court in a tentative ruling is dismissing the claim that the label on Blue Moon is misleading the consumers into thinking that the beer is a craft beer, owned by a smaller brewery and not MillerCoors.
As we mentioned in a previous article regarding Blue Moon’s response the class action suit – the definition of a craft beer is not a legal one, but one defined by the not-for-profit Brewer’s Association. That makes it hard to enforce in a court of law.
Ultimately, this de facto court decision resulting from the suit, intended to take a shot at Big Beer trying to sell their products as craft, didn’t have the desired result. “Artfully crafted” is NOT misleading to the drinking public according to Judge Curiel. If a big brewery like AB InBev or MillerCoors attempts to call Bud Light Lime craft beer on a label, or in marketing in the future, a lawsuit could be in order, but even that’s not clear.
What this does do, is allow Big Beer to set up fictitious trade names and bottle the beer with those fictitious trade names. (Example: Blue Moon Brewing is Miller, Shock Top Brewing Is AB InBev, Landshark Brewing, AB InBev). In this case, the MillerCoors site mentioned Blue Moon, but the Blue Moon site doesn’t mention Miller. That is enough to satisfy the lawsuit claims in this instance. The court has given Big Beer a blueprint to fool the consumer:
- Make yourself a beer that you want to pass as craft.
- Set up a “crafty” sounding trade name.
- Set up a website for the “crafty” beer but don’t put your name on it.
- Come up with an “artfully crafted” catch phrase that doesn’t say the word “craft.”
- Put the trade name on your own website.
MillerCoors basically just got the court’s blessing on this. As for the beer drinker, ultimately it’s up to you to know what is “craft beer”is by definition. Pull the string and see where it leads.