Photo via KonaBrewingCo.com

You met cute at an airport lounge and have been together ever since. Maybe yours isn’t the most exciting relationship, but it’s comfortable, consistent, honest. Then something drops, and you realize it was all a lie.

That globe-trotting gent from the East, whose name means “morning sun” in Japanese? Real forwarding address: Canada.

The visiting aristocrat with deep roots in the German brewing pantheon? You met in St. Louis because that’s where he was born.

The sand-dusted surfer dude from the Big Island? Actually from New Hampshire and can’t swim.

Potential partners and politicians aren’t the only ones known to play a little fast and loose with origin stories and vital statistics. But if you’re a beer fan who’s been betrayed, and you’re willing to get litigious and stick it out, recovering from a breakup could come with a few ounces of justice and (maybe) even a couple of bucks.

Longtime Kona Brewing Co. fan Simone Zimmer thought she was getting a Hawaii-brewed, rather than Hawaii-themed, beer when she picked up an Island Hopper Variety 12-pack a few years ago at a retailer near her home in San Bernardino, Calif.

The tropical beer fantasy is what Kona wanted her to see, with labels bearing colorful images of waves, erupting volcanoes and other evocative island scenes, as well as a map showing the location of the company’s Kailua-Kona brewery on the Big Island.

“Based on these representations, Ms. Zimmer believed that each of the Kona Brewing Co. Beers she purchased was brewed in Hawaii,” according to a complaint filed in 2017 against Kona owner Craft Brew Alliance, Inc. “However, unbeknownst to Ms. Zimmer, the Kona Brewing Co. Beers she purchased were not brewed in Hawaii, but instead were brewed in the continental United States.”

The still-brewing Kona class-action suit isn’t the only to emerge in recent years by consumers claiming false or misleading advertising (fact misdirection?) by beer brands.

Fosters faced it for being “Aussie for beer” in name only; Red Stripe, for faking a Jamaican accent when hanging with U.S. fans. In 2015, AB InBev agreed to pay out more than $20 million to settle such a suit, reimbursing up to $50 per household to U.S. consumers who thought the Beck’s they were drinking and paying import-style premiums for was brewed in Germany, rather than the Gateway to the West.

And in a more recent settlement, consumers of Asahi Super Dry or Asahi Select who bought the beers thinking they were imported from Japan, rather than made by Molson in Canada, have until May 3 to file a claim, at asahibeersettlement.com.

Qualifying households could get up to $10 back — enough to buy a six-pack of beer they trust. If they can ever trust again.


Stephanie Earls is a news reporter and columnist at The Gazette. Before moving to Colorado Springs in 2012, she worked for newspapers in upstate NY, WA, OR and at her hometown weekly in Berkeley Springs, WV, where she got her start in journalism.

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