As anyone in real estate will tell you, location matters. Apparently, location also matters when it comes to selecting a beer. Recently, a purchaser of Leffe Beers brought a class action lawsuit in Florida federal court against manufacturer Anheuser-Busch. The complaint alleges that the plaintiff and other purchasers of Leffe Beers were misled into believing that the beer is brewed by monks in an abbey — the Abbey of Leffe, to be specific. Although the plaintiff had no problem with the drink itself, he was shocked to learn that the Abbey depicted on his beer bottle had been sacked more than two centuries ago during the French Revolution and that not one monk had been involved in brewing his beer. Instead, the beer is mass-produced at the Stella Artois Brewery industrial complex. He even provides pictures in his complaint.
The Leffe Beer label contains the words “Abbey Ale,” bears pictures of the Abbey, and provides information about the Abbey and its monks. All of this, the plaintiff claims, suggests to a consumer that the beer is made at the Abbey, crafted by monks and produced in smaller batches. And commands a higher price in the market, claims the plaintiff.
Among other things, the plaintiff wants his money back and a refund for all U.S. purchasers of Leffe Beers. He says he is entitled to all of this thanks to the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, as well as the state’s common law remedies for breach of contract, unjust enrichment and negligence.
This is not Anheuser-Busch’s first round of litigation over its beer labels. As the complaint notes, the manufacturer has faced false labeling claims centered around the location of Beck’s Beer and Kirin Ichiban Beer breweries. Anheuser-Busch settled these cases and gave refunds to customers. It remains to be seen whether the same will happen here.