A New York City man has filed a class action lawsuit against MillerCoors for fooling him into believing that his Foster's beer is made in Australia. The plaintiff, Leif Nelson, says that Foster's advertisements publicizing the beer as "Foster's: Australian for Beer" and "How to Speak Australian" gave an artificial portrayal of being brewed in Australia. In reality, Foster's has been brewed in Fort Worth, Texas, since 2011 — the year that the Australian brand was bought by the international SABMiller group. SABMiller operates in the United States under MillerCoors, a joint venture with Molson Coors.
The reasons that Foster's isn't brewed in Australia, however, ultimately benefit fans of the beer. For one, importing is expensive. Transporting heavy barrels and cases of beer means additional packaging costs, import taxes, and shipping costs on top of producing the beer itself. Those costs are then transferred to the customer through higher beer prices. The other part of the equation is that pale lagers like Foster's taste best the day they're bottled and then gradually deteriorate. Shipping across the world not only ages a beer, but the unstable conditions and temperatures prematurely age the beer. Brewing in Texas actually means Foster's in the U.S. will taste a lot more like you're drinking a pint in Melbourne than if the beer was shipped from there.
Nelson isn't the first person who's gone after a major brewing company for falsely marketing a beer as imported. Anheuser-Busch came under fire in 2013 when Beck's drinker Francisco Marty brought a class action lawsuit against the company for misrepresenting the domestically produced beer as being foreign. Marty, like Nelson, claimed that customers were misled as to the origin of the beer. Beck's in the U.S. was originally brewed in Bremen, Germany, but production was moved to St. Louis after Anheuser-Busch InBev purchased the company. In that case, Anheuser-Busch agreed to settle the lawsuit to avoid litigation.
The result of the settlement was that customers who had purchased Beck's from May 2011 to June 2015 could receive 50 cents back for every six-pack they had a receipt for, up to $50 per household. Anheuser-Bush maintained that they had done nothing wrong, but they did change Beck's labeling to include "Brewed in the USA" in modifying the Beck's label.
If that case is any precedent, a similar action could be seen in Nelson's case against MillerCoors. MillerCoors.com puts Foster's in its specialty section, and it describes the beer as "freshly brewed in the U.S. at MillerCoors under the close supervision of Foster's Australia." The specific Foster's website, on the other hand, is less straightforward. It is touted as the "largest-selling Australian beer brand in the world," using only hops grown by Hop Products Australia. It mentions nothing, however, of being brewed in Texas. The only place that Texas is mentioned on the website is in the copyright logo at the bottom of the page that reads "Oil Can Breweries, Fort Worth, TX."
MillerCoors has stayed quiet about the suit, but Nelson seems to enjoy the fresh, domestically brewed taste of Foster's, misleading advertising or not. He has claimed that he would happily return to drinking Foster's if they would only be more clear in their labeling.