May 28, 2023

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Miller High Life shipment destroyed over ‘Champagne of Beers’ logo: NPR

A worker unloads empty Miller High Life beer cans into a machine to be crushed at the Westlandia plant in Ypres, Belgium, on Monday.

Comes with champagne via AP

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Comes with champagne via AP

A worker unloads empty Miller High Life beer cans into a machine to be crushed at the Westlandia plant in Ypres, Belgium, on Monday.

Comes with champagne via AP

BRUSSELS – Champagne’s custodians won’t let anyone take the sparkling drink’s name in vain, not even the beer giant in the United States.

For years, Miller High Life has used the “Champagne of Beers” slogan. This week, that allotment became impossible to swallow.

At the request of the trade body that defends the interests of homes and sparkling wine growers in northeastern France, Belgian customs crushed more than 2,000 cans of Miller High Life that had been so advertised.

Comité Champagne ordered a shipment of 2,352 cans destroyed on the grounds that the century-old logo used by the American brewery violated the “Champagne” protected designation of origin.

A spokesman for the Belgian customs administration said on Friday that the shipment was intercepted in the Belgian port of Antwerp in early February and was destined for Germany.

Molson Coors Beverage, which owns the Miller High Life brand, does not currently export it to the European Union, and Belgian customs refused to say who ordered the beer.

The trade organization said in a statement that the buyer in Germany “was informed and did not object to the decision.”

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Frederick Miller, a German immigrant to the United States, founded the Miller Brewing Company in the 1850s. Miller High Life, its oldest brand, was launched as its trademark in 1903.

According to the Milwaukee brand’s website, the company began using the “Champagne of Bottle Beers” moniker three years later. It was shortened to “Champagne Ale” in 1969. Beer was also available in 750-milliliter Champagne-style bottles during the holiday seasons.

“With its elegant clear-glass bottle and crisp taste, Miller High Life has proudly worn the ‘Champagne of Beers’ title for nearly 120 years,” beverage company Molson Coors said in a statement to the Associated Press.

The logo is against EU rules

No matter how popular the logo is in the United States, it is inconsistent with European Union rules that make it clear that goods that violate a protected designation of origin can be treated as counterfeit.

The 27-nation conglomerate has a system of protected geographical designations created to ensure the true origin and quality of artisanal food, wine and spirits, and protect them from imitations. This market equals approx 75 billion euros ($87 billion) annually Half of it is in wines, according to a 2020 study by the European Union’s executive arm.

Charles Guimeyer, managing director of Comité Champagne, said the beer’s destruction “underscores the importance the European Union places on appellations of origin and rewards the determination of Champagne producers to protect their designation.”

Beverage company Molson Coors said it “respects local restrictions” around the word champagne.

“But we’re still proud of Miller Hi Life, its moniker and its Milwaukee, WI source,” the company said. “We invite our friends in Europe to the United States at any time to drink a toast to the high life together.”

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Belgian customs said that the cost of destroying the cans was charged by the Champagne Commission. According to their joint statement, it was implemented “with the utmost respect for environmental concerns by ensuring that the entire batch, both contents and container, is recycled in an environmentally responsible manner.”