BUSINESS

Home Brewer Sues MillerCoors For Telling Him Blue Moon Is A Craft Beer

05/04/2015 06:00 pm ET

Blue Moon, a Belgian-style white beer and one of the fastest-growing brands in the U.S., is marketed as a craft beer.

But it isn't a craft beer. At least, that's what San Diego home brewer Evan Parent argues in a class action lawsuit against Blue Moon parent company MillerCoors, according to NBC 7 in San Diego.

In his suit, filed last month in California state court, Parent contends that MillerCoors has been misleading the public with the "crafty" beer it's been brewing for 20 years -- and getting a premium price for -- because Blue Moon doesn't fit the Brewers Association's strict definition of a craft beer. He seeks an unspecified amount in damages for misleading advertising and unfair competition.

"What this case is really about is people think they're buying craft beer and they're actually buying crafty marketing," Parent told NBC 7.

In 2012, the Brewers Association, a trade group for craft brewers, listed companies that it said do not belong in its ranks. To no one's surprise, Bloomberg reported, MillerCoors made the list.

The association declares that craft brewers must be "small, independent and traditional." Less than 25 percent of the brand can be owned by a megabrewer, the group says, and a craft brewer cannot produce more than 6 million barrels a year.

MillerCoors produces much more beer than that. It churns out 76 million barrels, or 2.4 billion gallons, of beer annually, according to the lawsuit.

Parent's lawsuit argues that MillerCoors actively tries to distance its name from the Blue Moon brand. The Blue Moon label doesn't mention its parent company.

According to the lawsuit:

Defendant also uses the registered trademark "Artfully Crafted" to falsely portray Blue Moon as a craft beer. This phrase, which appears on Defendant's web site and in print advertising, further serves to further mislead consumers by implying that Blue Moon is a true craft beer brewed by an almost entirely fictitious brewery.

A MillerCoors representative told Men's Journal that the lawsuit "lacked merit." The rep added:

MillerCoors is tremendously proud of Blue Moon and has always embraced our ownership and support of this wonderful brand. The class action filed against MillerCoors in California is without merit and contradicted by Blue Moon Brewing Company’s 20-year history of brewing creative beers of the highest quality.

Whether the suit has merit will ultimately be decided by the courts. But two lawyers pointed out to Men's Journal the potential financial benefits of bringing a class action lawsuit for the attorneys involved.

Learning the identity of Blue Moon's parent company was apparently very upsetting to Parent. He recounts in the lawsuit:

In or around July 2012, Plaintiff was informed by friends that Blue Moon is not a craft beer, but rather a mass produced beer made by MillerCoors. Plaintiff was initially skeptical, but eventually verified the facts through his own research. As a result, Plaintiff has not purchased Blue Moon since approximately July 2012.

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