Many beer drinkers may be shocked to find that their favorite “import” beer is actually brewed in the U.S., including popular brands like Stella Artois, Red Stripe, Foster’s, and Killian’s Irish Red, among others. In fact, many of these brands are brewed by the same companies that make Budweiser, Coors, and Miller. Among these beers is Beck’s, which claims on its packaging that the beer is “German Quality,” and “Originated in Bremen, Germany.” Thanks to the settlement of a class-action suit filed by three beer drinkers against brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev, Beck’s customers will now be entitled to compensation. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claimed that they were deceived into believing that the beer truly was imported from Germany. Anheuser-Busch InBev moved the production of Beck’s from Breman, Germany to St. Louis in 2012 to save an estimated $9 million in annual shipping costs. Due to a series of purchases and consolidations, Anheuser-Bush InBev now owns hundreds of brands including, Labatt, Stella Artois, St. Pauli Girl, and Bass, among many others, although several of its brands are still produced in their respective countries and exported to the U.S.
The agreement entitles any customer who purchased Beck’s since May 2011 to receive 10 cents back for every individual bottle purchased, 50 cents per 6-pack, $1 per every 12-pack, or $1.75 per 20-pack. The settlement is capped at $50 compensation for Beck’s drinkers with valid receipts, and the company will even pay a maximum $12 for claimants without receipts. Additionally, as per the agreement, Beck’s labeling will more clearly indicate that the beer is indeed brewed in the U.S. The caps were set to prevent widespread fraud and abuse; however, attorneys for the plaintiff insisted that some level of compensation be available for claimants who did not have receipts. The biggest winners of the settlement were the lawyers arguing for the plaintiffs, receiving $3.5 million for their efforts. The lawsuit was led by Florida firm, Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton, as well as three other firms. A final approval hearing will take place in October.
Companies such as Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors, which brews its Foster’s Australian lager in Fort Worth, Texas, claim they based the trend to move the production of the imports based on companies like BMW, which manufactures many vehicles in South Carolina, yet hasn’t lost the “import prestige.” MillerCoors decided to relocate production of Foster’s 5 years ago largely due to the costs of shipping the beer’s famous 25-ounce cans. Lead attorney for the lawsuit, Kozyak Tropin’s Tucker Ronzetti doesn’t buy the reasoning, saying “We hope the change we have brought through this settlement leads to better practices throughout the market.” The firm settled a similar suit last year against Anheuser Busch InBev in Florida Circuit Court regarding Kirin beer, which is marketed as Japanese despite also being brewed in the U.S. Despite the wide array of U.S.-produced “imports,” many popular brands such as Corona, Heineken, Peroni, and Dos Equis are still brewed in their representative countries and shipped to the U.S.
CNN Money – Aaron Smith
Fortune – Laura Lorenzetti
The Consumerist – Laura Northrup
Wall Street Journal – Jacob Gershman and Tripp Mickle