Misled By A Beer’s Label: A New Lawsuit Over “Hawaiian” Beer

As reported by West Hawaii Today, a new class-action lawsuit has been filed against Craft Brew Alliance, Inc. and Kona Brewing Company over some allegedly deceptive advertising. Specifically, the lead plaintiff alleges that he purchased a 12-pack of Kona’s Longboard Island Lager under the belief that the product was brewed in Hawaii, a suspicion based, at least in part, on the beach and surfer depicted on the bottle’s label. The lager, however, is apparently brewed stateside – a fact, that if known by the plaintiff, would have apparently dissuaded him from his purchase.  The suit, filed in a federal court in California, asserts a violation of California business laws, common law fraud and misrepresentation, as well as several other causes of action.

According to its website, Kona began brewing beer back in 1995 at a brewery in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. That facility still produces beer. However, its bottled beer and mainland draft is produced at several breweries located within the mainland of the United States. The list of brewing locations is included on the labels of Kona beers.

We here at Abnormal Use find this lawsuit intriguing on several levels.

First, there is nothing on the Longboard Island Lager packaging (as shown below) that specifically says that it is brewed in Hawaii.

kona_longboard_lager1

Admittedly, the name “Kona” coupled with the depicted surfers catching waves in front of a mountain certainly offers a Hawaii-vibe. That said, Olive Garden also attempts to resemble an authentic Italian bistro, but no one is accusing it of leading its patrons to believe that its food is authentic Italian. Kona does not represent that its beer is brewed in Hawaii. Rather, in our opinion, Kona merely represents that its product is a beer best-consumed on a beach vacation a la Corona or Landshark.

Secondly, even if the plaintiffs can prove that Kona implicitly represented that the beer was brewed in Hawaii, how have the plaintiffs actually been damaged? We consider ourselves beer snobs. As such, we have never viewed the quality of beer to hinge upon the location of the brewing facility. (This is not wine, after all).  While we do enjoy certain beers from certain regions of the country, our preference  has more to do with the breweries themselves than the region in which they are located.  A good beer may be brewed in California, but it is not a good beer because it was brewed in California.

We are guessing that the plaintiffs actually purchased the Longboard Lager because they like the way it tastes.  And, they like the way it tastes regardless of whether it was brewed in Hawaii, Oregon, or Tennessee. To claim otherwise is either completely disingenuous or a display a beer snobbiness than even we can’t comprehend.

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