Kona Brewing Company, arguably Hawaii’s most popular and well-known brewery, is being sued by two Californians who say they were tricked into thinking all of Kona’s beer is made in Hawaii. News flash: If you’re drinking Kona on the mainland it’s not made in Hawaii, and it hasn’t been for years.
Sara Cilloni and Simone Zimmer filed a case against Craft Brew Alliance Inc., the company that owns Kona, on Feb. 28, Reuters reports. The lawsuit demands unspecified damages for anyone who bought one of Kona’s beers in California in the past four years.
“Consumers purchase items, and are willing to pay more for items, because they are from Hawaii,” the lawsuit states. “Craft Brew is well aware of this.”
A similar lawsuit was filed against Walmart for its higher-priced “craft beer” in early February.
It’s easy to see why people believe Kona is pure Hawaiian. Kona makes beers with names like Castaway IPA, Fire Rock Pale Ale, Longboard Island Lager, and Hanalei Island IPA. Images of hula dancers, surfers, beaches, and volcanoes cover the packaging. Americans are visual people, bombarded with an uncountable number of advertisements every day. The truth of the product is usually right behind those advertisements.
The truth is something that Kona is very aware of and happy to share. The brewery says on its website that it brews on the mainland — specifically in Portland, Oregon, Wooinville, Washington, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Mainland breweries give Kona the opportunity to ensure “beer drinkers are receiving the freshest beer,” and allows it to “minimize its carbon footprint.” The packaging has reflected where the beer is brewed on its labels since 2012.
And this has been happening for years. Kona was the third brewery to join Craft Brew Alliance in 2010. Suddenly Kona had the power of a brewery multiple times its size in a company that creates an advantage by “having the soul of a craft brewer in the body of a big brewer.”
Cilloni and Zimmer are correct that their favorite Hawaiian beer is not made in Hawaii (unless they were drinking it at the original Kailua-Kona brewery on the islands). They may have even been legitimately duped by branding. But in the end, it’s right there on the packaging and Kona’s website: If you’re drinking its Hawaiian beer in the contiguous 48, you’re drinking a beer made on the mainland.