Wait…What? Wal-Mart Sells Mainstream Beer at Craft Beer Prices

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Looks like Wal-Mart is in the hot seat after a recent class-action lawsuit (initiated by Matthew Adams) was filed regarding the retail giant’s own Trouble Brewing Co., Wal-mart’s attempt to break ground in the craft beer world.

Big trouble is brewing for Wal-Mart

The lawsuit alleges that Wal-Mart fraudulently marketed its proprietary line of beer as being “craft,” and sold it at upticked prices next to other qualified craft beer. The lawsuit also claims that the four beers by Trouble Brewing contain no mention or affiliation to Wal-Mart, Inc. on the packaging.

In fact according to government records, Trouble Brewing’s address is listed as 445 St. Paul St, Rochester, New York. The problem is that address is actually where Genessee Brewing resides. Trouble Brewing is owned by WX Brands, a distributor that owns other lines like Caguama, Dieselpunk and others.

This aside, the apparent issue here is that the beer does not meet the Brewer’s Association published standards for craft beer qualification.

Do craft beer standards need revision?

If true, this means they are is a clear violation of the established rules of the Brewer’s Association, the deeper issue here is that Wal-Mart was able to get away with selling these mass-produced “beer pong” beers next to quality micro-brew brands for more than a year. The spirit of the issue is that they lied. And people don’t like being lied to.

But even that isn’t the major issue at hand. Should there be higher, or at the very least, stricter standards for craft beer status? No. Should there be a more involved vetting process? Yes…and no.

The standards clearly defined and are fair enough as they stand. To be a micro-brewer that creates craft beer, you cannot owe a bigger company more than a 25 percent stake in business and, more importantly, cannot produce more than 6 million barrels a year. But that’s all they are–published standards. Not enforceable by law in any way.

There are no certification processes or laws that prohibit companies like Wal-Mart or other breweries for selling beer with the designation of “craft,” or at least with the insinuation of said beer coming from a microbrewery when it in fact does not. Technically speaking, they could pay the damages associated with this class action lawsuit and STILL produce and sell the beer as-is (don’t know why they’d waste the money doing so at this point, but remember, the lawsuit is pending).

Of course, this whole concept of policing would be a double-edged sword altogether. It would more than likely require governmental involvement, in which there is plenty already. Namely, the Brewer’s Association’s ongoing negotiations with the FDA’s requirements for brewers to submit nutritional value info for local restaurants.

Should we be outraged?

Look, I’m not going to sit here and argue that Wal-Mart is some sort of sweetheart corporation that can do no wrong (we all know how they have treated their employees in the past). But is anyone ACTUALLY surprised by this?

Truthfully speaking, this whole thing seems like a just a knee-jerk reaction to a store that probably has many more deceptive marketing practices under its belt. Plus, I’m not exactly sure many beer connoisseurs frequent Wal-Mart for their curiosities.

This issue isn’t a particularly large one to those who are craft beer enthusiasts (who can smell swill from miles away). It is even less of an issue for the BA. So don’t expect a think tank to brainstorm ideas on how to make your beer selection a more pure experience in response to incidents like this. For now, stay vigilant and continue choosing quality suds.

Let the Bureau Know

Should Wal-Mart be penalized by the FTC for false advertising? Leave a comment down below.

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