Maybe you’ve seen Kona Brewing Co.’s Longboard Island Lager or Kanaha Blonde Ale on shelves, their distinctive oceanic labels conjuring images of hula dancing, luaus, and surfing off the Big Island. But while Kona Brewing began in Hawaii and continues to operate pubs there, since 2010, it’s been owned by Craft Brew Alliance (CBA), a Portland, Oregon-based group that also owns Red Hook, Widmer Brothers, and beer brands. If you feel duped by that fact, a recent court settlement means you may be owed a little bit of money.
Reuters reports CBA has agreed to offer partial refunds to settle a federal class-action lawsuit that alleged it misled consumers into thinking Kona was brewed in Hawaii. Kona beer sold on tap in Hawaii is brewed in Hawaii, but bottled and draft Kona beer in the U.S. is brewed at CBA’s facilities in New Hampshire, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington. Consumers represented in the lawsuit claimed that Kona violated consumer protection laws by “packaging and advertising Kona Brewing Company Beers as brewed in Hawaii when they are actually brewed in the continental U.S.”
Significantly, the settlement also requires Kona to rework its packaging to better clarify where its beers are brewed in the U.S. Labels will now list the actual city in which it is brewed, or will list all cities in which Kona is brewed, for a minimum of four years, per Law.com.
As for what you, a person who has purchased Kona, might get out of it: Terms of the settlement promise refunds “of $1.25 to $2.75 for purchasers since Feb. 28, 2013 of four-, six-, 12- and 24-packs of Kona, with maximums per household of $20 with receipts and $10 without receipts,” according to Reuters. The settlement is expected to cost Kona approximately $4.7 million. If a judge approves the settlement, a claims website will be created to handle consumer refunds.
While some drinkers may be skeptical that anyone would be duped into spending more money for a beer they believed to be brewed in Hawaii, there is precedent for such lawsuits. In 2005, Anheuser-Busch paid $20 million to settle a suit claiming consumers were misled into thinking Beck’s was a premium German pilsner, when in fact it was brewed in America. If you haven’t heard where Goose Island brews 312, I hope you’re sitting down.