'Twas a time when I thought Blue Moon was the epitome of beer sophistication. This can largely be explained by the fact that, until I tried Blue Moon, my breadth of beer knowledge started with Natty Lite and ended with Budweiser. Not only did Blue Moon taste a lot better than these canned college staples, it was served with a fancy orange slice and it came from Belgium—or so I thought. Chalk my taste for Blue Moon and my notion of its origin up to one more folly of youth.
It turns out that while Blue Moon is a Belgian style witbier, its real roots are in Colorado, where it is made by the Blue Moon Brewing Co. The Blue Moon Brewing Co. is an arm of the Tenth and Blake Beer Company. And Tenth and Blake is a subsidiary of MillerCoors, the second biggest beer company in the United States.
The Brewers Association (BA), a trade organization representing craft brewers, thinks this pedigree disqualifies Blue Moon Brewing Co. from calling itself a craft brewer—a designation BA reserves for "small, independent, and traditional" breweries producing less than six million barrels per year.
The BA isn't alone. In 2015, self-described "beer aficionado" Evan Parent filed a class-action lawsuit against MillerCorps, alleging that the beer giant intentionally misleads consumers about the true nature of Blue Moon by not listing MillerCoors on its label—instead, bottles simply say the beer is made by the Blue Moon Brewing Co.—and by using phrases such as "Artfully Crafted." Parent also objected to Blue Moon's placement among true craft beers in retail stores.
Parent sought damages for deceptive trade, false advertising, and consumer law violations. MillerCoors filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
On June 16, a federal court granted MillerCoors motion to dismiss Parent's suit with prejudice. Using "Blue Moon Brewing Co." as a trade name does not violate consumer laws, held Judge Gonzalo Curiel of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. And "no reasonable consumer" would be misled into erroneously thinking Blue Moon is a craft beer, considering there is no standard legal definition for "craft beer."
What's more, MillerCoors cannot be held liable for where third-party distributors decide to place the beer, Curiel found. "Plaintiff fails to point to any 'specific and measurable claim[s], capable of being proved false or of being reasonably interpreted as a statement of objective fact' made in the advertisements," wrote Curiel, who first ruled on the case back in October 2015. At that time, the judge also found Parent's case lacking but allowed him to amend his complaint.
Earlier this month, Judge Curiel made headlines after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested that Curiel's lineage—he was born in Indiana to Mexican parents—might prevent him from ruling fairly in the Trump University fraud case.