Suit over Kona Beer Not Being Brewed in Hawaii Allowed to Proceed

September 18, 2017

Calling Hawaii “a state as well as a state of mind,” a federal judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit accusing the maker of Kona craft beer of misleading consumers into believing the beer was actually made in the 50th U.S. state, causing them to overpay.

A decision earlier this month issued by U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman in San Jose, Calif., said the plaintiffs could pursue claims for damages over Craft Brew Alliance Inc.’s packaging for six- and 12-packs of Kona.

Freeman said that while the defendant’s use of the phrase “Liquid Aloha” and images such as hula dancers, surfers and volcanoes was acceptable, other images could prove problematic.

She said this was despite a disclaimer on Kona packaging saying the beer was brewed in New Hampshire, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington state, as well as Hawaii.

“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,” Freeman wrote.

Freeman also said the disclaimer left a reasonable consumer with “no way to tell” where such Kona beers as Big Wave Golden Ale, Castaway IPA and Wailua Wheat were brewed.

The case is Broomfield et al v Craft Brew Alliance Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 17-01027.