Are flavored malt beverages — namely, hard seltzers — considered beer? While this query has sparked debate for as long as White Claws have eluded laws, one legal case may actually settle the argument once and for all.
In a lawsuit filed in February 2021, Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Mexican division struck a claim against U.S.-based Constellation Brands over a supposed breach of an agreement about the usage of the Corona name. Grupo Modelo — a division of Anheuser-Busch InBev — has bid for a pre-trial win and Constellation has requested a dismissal, both of which have been rejected.
The product in question is Corona Hard Seltzer, a Corona-branded product launched by Constellation in spring 2020. Grupo Modelo claims that Constellation violated a licensing agreement and its trademark, according to recent coverage by Reuters. The licensing agreement states that Constellation may use the Corona name for beer products only.
While Constellation claims that hard seltzer is contained under the “beer” umbrella, Grupo Modelo argues that the drinks wouldn’t be considered as such by a jury. Manhattan federal Judge Lewis Kaplan stated that Modelo’s argument is stronger, but the exact definition of beer remains unclear.
Flavored malt beverages such as hard seltzer are brewed and fermented in a similar manner to beer but often have a sweeter taste without any bitter hoppiness. They often have similar ABVs — around the five percent range — and are typically found in the same retail spaces.
The court date hasn’t yet been set and judging by the lengthy timeline of pretrial processes, we might not learn the results anytime soon.
So is seltzer actually perceived as beer? That’s difficult to say.