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Lawsuit alleges Beck's beer labels are deceptive

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Beck's art labels

Beck's 2013 art labels.

Missouri water isn’t the same as the water from German rivers, according to a Beck’s beer drinker who’s suing Anheuser-Busch.

A Florida resident has filed a lawsuit against A-B, alleging that the brewer is leading customers to believe that Beck’s beer sold in the United States is brewed in Germany.

A-B denies the allegation, saying that Beck’s beer sold in the U.S. is clearly labeled as being made in America.

Francisco Rene Marty filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, on Oct. 9, claiming A-B’s advertising and packaging mislead customers to pay more for a beer they incorrectly believe is an import. The lawsuit seeks class action status on behalf of Beck’s beer drinkers.

St. Louis-based A-B is the North American headquarters of A-B InBev, which owns the Beck’s brand. Beck’s, a pilsner style beer, was founded in Germany.

After Belgium-based InBev’s purchase of A-B in 2008, production of Beck’s sold in the U.S. shifted to A-B’s brewery in St. Louis, drawing the ire of some customers who say they can detect a difference.

Beck’s label includes text that says “Product of USA” and “St. Louis, MO.” But Marty’s lawsuit alleges this wording is insufficient.

“Although Beck’s Beer is no longer imported from Germany, the marketing and advertising of Beck’s has remained mostly unchanged,” the lawsuit alleges.

The use of local water in Beck’s production “as opposed to the Rotenburger Rinne in Germany” was also cited in the lawsuit.

Due to the large number of customers who could be included in the class action, the lawsuit says the matter of controversy exceeds $5 million in damages.

“We’re looking forward to presenting Anheuser-Busch’s conduct to the court and getting relief for the class,” said Tucker Ronzetti, an attorney representing Marty.

Calling the lawsuit frivolous, A-B says that the quality and taste of Beck’s are due to exacting German production standards rather than the source of its ingredients.

“Beck’s beer is meticulously loyal to its German origins — and to the Reinheitsgebot (German Purity Law) — in the many (15) countries where it is brewed, and has been for years,” A-B’s vice president of U.S. marketing, Paul Chibe, said in a statement.

Earlier this year, a series of lawsuits were filed against A-B, accusing the brewer of watering down its top-selling beers. A-B has denied the allegations in those lawsuits, which have been consolidated and remain pending.

Lisa Brown is a business reporter at the Post-Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @LisaBrownSTL and the Business section @postdispatchbiz.

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