Angry beer drinkers are dragging Walmart to court over its new line of supposedly “craft” beers (which literally could not have a better name under the circumstances: Trouble Brewing). A class-action lawsuit filed in Ohio claims Walmart knows that nothing Trouble Brewing makes is actually craft, yet the company touts it as “craft beer [for] the masses” anyway to capitalize on the fact people will pay more for craft beer. Walmart now sells four different styles of six-packs (an IPA, a pale ale, an American amber, and a witbier) at 3,000 locations, and has told media that they’re Walmart exclusives brewed “in collaboration” with Trouble Brewing — like how Evil Twin might custom-brew something for a restaurant.
But there isn’t really a Trouble Brewing “brewery” in America. (Googling it does get you a real one in Ireland, though, so Walmart might have another lawsuit on its hands soon.) A California-based distributor called WX Brands owns the trademark, but lists a business address for Genesee’s brewery in Rochester, New York. WX is in the contract-brewing game, and distributes a few other winners as well — those estimable beer brands Dieselpunk and Goldmine, for example, and also something called Merit Light. It apparently settled on Genesee to make Walmart’s Trouble Brewing line.
Besides making its own beers, Genesee contract-brews Narragansett and Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and owns the rights to Seagram’s Escapes and Labatt. It’s not a craft brewer per the Brewers Association’s definition, which reserves that label for breweries that produce fewer than 6 million barrels per year, are independently owned, and use traditional brewing methods. The lawsuit claims Trouble Brewing meets none of these criteria, and that Walmart is perpetuating a “wholesale fiction.” The plaintiffs add that Walmart is clearly trying to trick customers, because stores stock these beers “next to other ‘craft beers’ for sale … rather than with other mass produced beers, such as Budweiser, Miller or Coors products.”