Where does your beer really come from?

An interesting article in Advertising Age, the leading marketing magazine, points out that a lot of exotic beers do not come from the countries or states that are associated with those beers. Fosters (“Australian for Beer”) is made in Texas (and has been since 1993). Beck’s will soon be made in St. Louis, Missouri. Japanese beer Kirin apparently hails from Los Angeles, California and even Sam Adams can be brewed in Ohio and Pennsylvania instead of that most exotic of locals, Boston. Most surprising to me is that Red Stripe will soon be brewed in Wisconsin and other places around the U.S. Even Coors can also be brewed in Ohio. One wonders where they will get the fresh mountain spring water in Ohio.

Why the shift from importing beer to making it stateside? The explanation is that beer is heavy, especially if it is bottled in glass. This same phenomenon took place in the window industry two decades ago. Because windows have so much glass, because glass can break in transit, and because energy costs put a real premium on transportation costs, it makes sense to move production closer to the intended user.

The big difference between windows and beer is that I really don’t care if my Marvin Windows are made in West Des Moines or LaCrosse Wisconsin. They are just windows. But the only reason I buy Red Stripe is because I want to experience something from a different local. Will the brand do the same thing? Perhaps if I don’t know it actually comes from a local brewery then the effect is the same. But now that I know, I’m not about to fall for this translation of place to brands.

The article goes on to say that some importers see the fact that their products are actually imported is important to the brand and are not going to move production to the U.S. These include Heineken and Corona. Crown Imports apparently worries that its strong following in the Hispanic community might be jeopardized if it started to make Corona in, say, Indiana.

So, the next time that you tip back a beer, carefully study the label. FTC regulations do not allow misleading statements on bottles of beer, so it should be possible to determine if the beer is truly imported. If there is no country of origin outside of the U.S., then it is not imported.

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