Beer drinker's lawsuit says Walmart's craft beer isn't actually craft beer

The lawsuit says Walmart's Trouble Brewing craft beer isn't legit.
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A beer drinker is suing Walmart, saying the store's craft beer isn't actually craft.

The class-action lawsuit filed Friday in Ohio claims Walmart tried to deceive customers with its private-label beer – which was branded as being craft, even though it doesn't meet the Brewers Association's criteria for craft brewery. The guidelines require that a brewery be small, independent and traditional for it to be craft.

Walmart began selling Cat's Away IPA, After Party Pale Ale, Red Flag Amber and 'Round Midnight Belgian White under the Trouble Brewing label at 3,000 stores across 45 states last summer.

"The trouble is 'Trouble Brewing' doesn't really exist," the lawsuit says, noting the beer is made by Genesee Brewing Co. out of New York. That's owned by a company that's based in Costa Rica – and Genesee makes a lot more beer than would be considered "small" by craft brewery standards, the suit claims.

The lawsuit says Walmart's craft beer has never been craft beer, and it's just a "wholesale fiction" that's "designed to deceive customers into purchasing the craft beer at a higher, inflated price" than what a mass-produced beer is typically sold for. (A variety 12-pack of Trouble Brewing is about $13.)

"Further perpetuating the myth that it's a craft beer" is the fact Walmart's beers are stocked with other craft brews, and not near the mass-produced beers.

The lawsuit was filed by an Ohio resident on behalf of other Ohioans who've been duped, and is asking for compensation plus an injunction that would prevent Walmart from misleading anyone else with its beer.

A spokesperson for Walmart told Courthouse News they haven't been served yet, "but we take these claims seriously and will respond appropriately with the court."

Something that's worth noting: A judge dismissed a lawsuit against MillerCoors last year that alleged the company misled people about how "crafty" Blue Moon is, Consumerist reported.

Maybe this craft-like beer is a good thing?

Fritz Hahn of the Washington Post wrote aboutWalmart's store-brand beer at the end of January before the lawsuit was filed, noting the packaging is intentionally designed to look like other craft beers on the shelf – just as other store-brand craft-like beers from places like Trader Joe's.

Writers at the paper did a taste test and found none of these store-brand craft beers will win any best beer awards, but Hahn writes "that's not the point." He noted these affordable versions could be "gateway beers" that could help get domestic beer drinkers into the craft stuff.

"Walmart just put craft-style beers in front of millions of new potential craft beer customers, which should be a positive for brewers of all sizes," Hahn wrote.

Several Minnesota brewers have told GoMN that there's a lot more room for growth in the the craft beer market – and much of that is getting more people who drink Bud Light and Coors Light to try, and switch to craft beer.

Is it really craft?

The lawsuit against Walmart comes at a time when it's getting harder to tell if the beer you're drinking is actually made by a craft brewery.

With the crazy growth in the craft beer industry in recent years, mass-production breweries have been gobbling up small, independent breweries or have started making their own beers that look and taste more like craft.

So if you want to make sure the beer you're drinking is actually craft, check out this app called Craft Check. It lets you scan the barcode or search by a brewery's name to find whether it's an authentic craft brewery or an imitation, based on the Brewers Association definition of craft.

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