Posts Tagged ‘beer and brewers’

Enjoy American artisanal/craft beers?

Thank Carter-era deregulation for that. In 1979 the nation was known for bland, uniform and mass-produced beer, and there were but a mere 44 breweries in the entire country, most of their products very like each other. But legal restrictions were lifted. “Three decades later, the U.S. boasts 1,463 breweries, including 975 brewpubs”, and a culture of beer connoisseurship with few if any equals around the world.

And all just from repealing some unnecessary laws. It’s kind of like running the CPSIA tape in reverse.

At least for now, Miller’s ‘Sparks Red’ won’t fly

In the same world where chocolate and peanut butter supercollided to give us the peanut butter cup, it is not surprising that it would eventually not be sufficient to desire either a prepackaged a) drink that contains alcohol or b) energy drink. We must have both, and at the same time. While we have been blessed with a range of such delectable, ready-made beverages, like most things good and tasty they have rubbed the Center for Science in the Public Interest–the nanny state group that has had both alcohol and caffeine in its litigators’ sights for years–in all the wrong ways.

As reported here earlier this year, CSPI whined for months about caffeinated alcohol beverages–which it labels “alcospeed”–before eventually pressuring Budweiser to drop its offering and then suing Miller to stop it from selling Sparks Red. CSPI, which got support from few if any drinkers but a host of apparently underworked attorneys generals who can’t wrap their pointy heads around the notion that caffeine/alcohol combos like the Irish coffee, rum and Coke, or Red Bull and vodka are hardly a new concept, is (with the AGs) blindly claiming the company’s ATF-approved Sparks drink is bad hooch. Just last week, under pressure from the AGs, Miller agreed to postpone the launch of its Sparks Red.

Deep Pocket Files: beer defendants kick in $21 million in R.I. fire

“Anheuser-Busch and a Cranston beer distributor have agreed to pay $21 million to settle lawsuits brought by survivors of a 2003 nightclub fire and relatives of the 100 people killed, according to court papers. The February 2003 fire at the Station nightclub in West Warwick began when pyrotechnics used by the rock band Great White ignited flammable soundproofing foam.” More than ninety defendants were sued, and the total of settlements has now topped $122 million from defendants “including Home Depot, which sold insulation used in the club, and Clear Channel Broadcasting, whose local rock radio station promoted the concert”. (“Rhode Island: New Settlement in Nightclub Fire”, AP/New York Times, May 24.)

Nanny staters target Anheuser-Busch and Miller

Public Citizen’s blog announced that CSPI plans to sue the beverage sellers, asking for disgorgement of profits from flavored malt beverages, unless they agree to take them off the market. Their theory? By making flavored alcoholic beverages that taste good, they are effectively marketing to children. (Because, after all, adults don’t like beverages that taste good.) CSPI also claims that it violates FDA rules to sell alcoholic beverages that contain caffeine, which would be a surprise to every restaurant that offers Irish coffee.

“Record beer consumption” at Hagens Berman cycling event

There’s nothing intrinsically droll about this report of increased jollity, mirth and conviviality at the 2006 Clif Bar/Hagens Berman Starcrossed Cyclocross race, co-sponsored by the prominent Seattle class-action firm: “The men’s main event was fast, painful, and exciting and it certainly did not disappoint the rowdy pumped up crowds who had been feasting on Pabst Blue Ribbon in the beer garden all day long.” (Cycling News, October). The only potentially humorous note is to those of us who remember Hagens Berman as having thrust itself forward a mere three years ago in the national media as the national scourge of alcohol marketing — beer marketing in particular (Mar. 29, 2004). The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article we cited at the time, with chapter and verse on the firm’s grandstanding against the sudsy brew, is still online.

Update: Alcohol-marketing suits go flat

Lawsuits accusing Heineken and other tipple-makers of targeting youth in their promotions were unveiled with great fanfare (see Dec. 1, 2003), but haven’t been doing well: courts have thrown out four of seven already. Moreover, the law firm of celebrated litigator David Boies, which was associated with the suits’ filing, has since withdrawn, leaving the action to the much less well-known firm of Boies and Straus, led by Boies’s son, David Boies III. (Carlyn Kolker, “David Boies III’s Message in a Bottle”, American Lawyer, Jun. 9).

Seriously Bad Elf beer

The Ridgeway Brewery in England brews a bitter winter ale which it calls Seriously Bad Elf, complete with a drawing of a gnomic figure on the label. Now officials in Connecticut, including Attorney General and bete-noire-of-this-site Richard Blumenthal, have banned imports of the ale on the grounds that an elf drawing might entice minors to drink the beer. (“‘Seriously Bad Elf’ Beer Banned In CT”, CBS4Boston, Oct. 28; “Connecticut looks to ban British beer with elf label”, AP/USA Today, Oct. 29).

Claim: beer label a hate crime

The Lost Coast Brewery in Humboldt, Calif. says it will take off the shelves its Indica India Pale Ale, whose label currently depicts the Indian elephant-god Ganesh “holding a beer in one of his four hands, and another in his trunk”. Although brewery co-owner Barbara Groom said her Hindu friends don’t mind the label, a California man named Brij Dhir sued the brewery, along with other defendants such as the Safeway supermarket chain, claiming that it is offensive and intimidates Hindus from practicing their religion. “Dhir seeks at least $25,000 and his lawsuit mentions that $1 billion would be appropriate to compensate Hindus around the world.” “It’s a hate crime”, Dhir told the Contra Costa Times. (“Brewery pulls label showing Hindu god”,, May 9). (& welcome visitors from Blog Mela, the periodic tour of India-related blogs, hosted this time by Shanti Mangala, and from Sepia Mutiny). And: reader Rich B. from Baltimore is reminded of the recent post (Mar. 17) on the theme of how we’re lucky we don’t have blasphemy laws the way Europe does, and asks: why make a law when you can just sue about it?

Campus taverns: sued if they do…

Pressured by University of Wisconsin officials and by a federal campaign against underage and binge drinking, 24 taverns near the university’s Madison campus agreed voluntarily a year and a half ago to stop cheap-drink promotions on weekends. Can you guess the sequel? A Minneapolis law firm has now swooped down with a class-action antitrust suit filed on behalf of three named UW-Madison students. The suit accuses the taverns of unlawful restraint of trade and demands what it says could be tens of millions of dollars in treble damages on behalf of “the victims of price fixing — basically anyone who patronized the downtown taverns on Friday or Saturday nights and paid full price”. It also names the university and the Madison-Dane County Tavern League. Not being sued, apparently, is the federal government, even though the bars’ agreement to limit weekend drink specials came about “as part of the federally funded PACE project. PACE, which stands for Policy, Alternatives, Community and Education, is in the seventh year of a comprehensive campus-community partnership designed to reduce the negative consequences of high-risk drinking.” (Mike Ivey and Aaron Nathans, “Students sue 24 campus bars”, Capital Times (Madison), Mar. 24). In other campus-drinking-related news, the Milwaukee paper reported last month that Seattle’s Hagens Berman and other law firms who are gearing up big courtroom campaigns against brewers and distillers (see Feb. 16, Dec. 1) were likely to try a demonization campaign against Budweiser’s talking frog and similar marketing devices akin to the successful campaign to demonize R.J. Reynolds’s Joe Camel mascot (Tom Daykin, “Beer may suffer the Joe Camel effect”, Feb. 21). Plus: Vice Squad has more (Mar. 29)(& welcome Reason “Hit & Run” readers). Update May 2, 2005: judge dismisses Madison tavern case after defendants spend $250,000.

Update: another alcohol suit

Piling on in search of a Next Tobacco: “A lawsuit filed in Los Angeles [earlier this month] against the world’s two biggest brewers accuses the beer makers of advertising to minors and seeks $4 billion in disgorgement of profit.” The suit, filed by Seattle’s Hagens Berman, whose doings are oft chronicled in this space (see Sept. 9-10, 2002 and links from there, Nov. 24) targets Anheuser-Busch and SABMiller. It invokes California’s distinctively abuse-prone s. 17200 law (see Dec. 8), as well as a California law which bans alcohol advertising intended to encourage underage drinking. (Ira Teinowitz, “$4 Billion Lawsuit Filed Against Beer Giants”, Advertising Age, Feb. 4) (lawsuit website/complaint in PDF format). Two months ago, lawyers led by David Boies filed a would-be class action against a number of alcohol companies over alleged youth marketing (see Dec. 1)