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Nation's craft brewers rally behind 'truth in labeling' petition to BATF; more than 50 small brewers cry foul over misleading labels and ads.

PORTLAND, Ore.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Feb. 27, 1996--Fed up with "impostors" riding the coattails of the microbrew phenomenon, craft brewers across the country say some of today's beer marketing grossly misleads consumers.

"Our position is simple -- consumers have a right to have truthful information about the products they buy. We're seeking labeling standards that provide accurate production disclosure," said Paul Shipman, president of Redhook Ale Brewing.

"Consumers deserve better than to be misled, and craft brewers deserve better than to be associated with companies that aren't honest about their product."

The hue and cry comes in support of a Jan. 25 petition calling for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) to halt false labeling and advertising claims. The petition was filed by 34 Pacific Northwest craft breweries -- including the 32 members of the Oregon Brewers Guild -- joined by Anheuser-Busch.

Since then, more than 20 additional craft brewers nationwide have voiced support for the effort. Among the supporters are Chicago's Goose Island Brewing, Colorado's New Belgium Brewing and Minnesota's Summit Brewing.

At issue is how brewers label and position beer that is "contract brewed" at another company's brewery.

"It's a case of the wolf in sheep's clothing," said Jerome Chicvara, founder of Full Sail Brewing Co. and another petitioner. "Companies are building the image that they are craft brewers when, in fact, they're not. They are only craft brewers in their labeling."

Chicvara conceded that brewers can make beer as they choose "as long as they are truthful about it."

"The issue isn't contract brewing, but whether the label reflects reality or someone's marketing scheme. The fact that Pete's Brewing and Samuel Adams don't operate their own breweries isn't damning. What's damning is the myth they are drawing consumers into believing," Chicvara said.

True craft brewers are concerned about guilt by association once consumers discover the gap between marketing and reality, according to George Hancock, another original petitioner as president of Pyramid Ales of Seattle.

"From a consumer and industry perspective, the success of craft-brewed beers has been based upon authenticity and integrity. Our customers have come to expect that," said Hancock, another original petitioner. "Consumers don't like being misled -- and once they are, what prevents them from thinking that we are misleading them about the authenticity of our beers too?"

A case in point is the Oregon Original brand, which has the phrase "microbrewed in Oregon" prominently displayed on bottle labels.

"Calling Oregon Original beers a microbrew is patently ridiculous. After all, it is brewed at major breweries like G. Heileman," said Chicvara. "G. Heileman is a fine brewer of national brands, but by no means will you confuse a Heileman brewery with a microbrewery -- unless you read an Oregon Original label."

CONTACT: Bowler & Associates

Jim Zahniser, 503/248-9468
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Feb 27, 1996
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