Judge: Suit that alleges Kona beer is duping drinkers can proceed

Judge: Suit that alleges Kona beer is duping drinkers can proceed

KONA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - A federal judge has shot down a bid to throw out a lawsuit that accuses the distributors of Kona Brewing Company of deceiving consumers into thinking the beer is made only in the islands, saying that Hawaii is a "state as well as a state of mind," Reuters reports.

The federal lawsuit, filed in San Jose, Calif., says consumer are paying more for the beer because they think it comes from the islands.

In allowing the suit to move forward, federal Judge Beth Labson Freeman said, "When adults want to escape the mainland, they can go to their local grocery store, purchase a package of Kona Brewing Company beer, and feel as though they are transported to the beaches of Hawaii. This case is about the importance of where that beer is actually brewed."

Freeman also argued, "The Hawaiian address, the map of Hawaii identifying Kona's brewery on the Big Island, and the statement 'visit our brewery and pubs whenever you are in Hawaii' … are specific and measurable representations of fact that could deceive a reasonable consumer."

The lawsuit claims Craft Brew Alliance Inc. intentionally misleads consumers about the origin of its Kona Brewing Company beers. The suit says the beer distributor actually makes much of its beer in New Hampshire, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington state.

The suit further alleges that the company's "deception" includes the use of Hawaii imagery (hula dangers, surfers and Waikiki Beach) on its labels, and its island-inspired beer names, including Big Wave Golden Ale and Longboard Island Lager.

Kona Brewing Company is headquartered in Hawaii, and on its website the company says it runs its "flagship brewhouse in Kailua-Kona," producing more than 12,000 barrels of beer a year.

The company also notes: "Under strict guidance, Kona Brewing Company also produces its bottled beer and mainland draft beer in Portland, Oregon, Woodinville, Washington, Memphis, Tennessee, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, as part of its partnership with Craft Brew Alliance, Inc."

The suit is the latest in a string of legal action against craft beer brewers.

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