Never-ending Bud Light/Coors lawsuit now alleges beer-recipe theft

Photo: DebraMillet (iStock)

Eight months have passed since the start of the Great Beer Wars of 2019, which were sparked by the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand a controversial Super Bowl commercial involving knights and a barrel of corn syrup. Since then, MillerCoors and Bud Light brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev have been locked in not just a legal battle, but a battle for the sympathies of American beer drinkers. (Most of us, I think, are just tired of hearing about corn syrup.) This week, though, we learn of a new and actually interesting little wrinkle in the lawsuit: Allegations of corporate espionage!

Yes, let’s conjure images of stolen briefcases and pilfered “Top Secret Recipe” files—anything to make this saga less wearisome. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Anheuser-Busch has in court filings accused rival MillerCoors of stealing its trade secrets. A-B alleges a MillerCoors brewer gained access to photos of the recipes for Bud Light and Michelob Ultra—two of the most popular beers in America—by pressuring a former Anheuser-Busch brewer to question a current Anheuser-Busch employee. Brewing light lagers like Bud Light and Michelob Ultra is technologically advanced, involving special enzymes, ingredient selection, and brewing processes that would be of potential great interest to a rival company. Allegedly, the directive to snoop for recipe details came all the way from MillerCoors’ senior management.

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For its part, MillerCoors told the paper through a spokesperson that it “respects confidential information and takes any contrary allegations seriously.”

The spokesperson then began arguments regarding the merits of feeding yeast corn syrup during the brewing processes, which this beer writer is far too exhausted to recap here. (See my Super Bowl ad recap for the rundown.) We don’t have any ruling yet about the specific charges of corporate espionage, as the lawsuit is, I’m sorry to say, ongoing.

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Kate Bernot

Kate Bernot is managing editor at The Takeout and a certified beer judge.