Since it was first introduced in 1903, American beer Miller High Life has always used the slogan “The Champagne of Beers” (even if that’s wildly optimistic). Yet that boastful tagline has caught the ire of the French, leading to a spat that’s seen a huge shipment of the brew destroyed.
A shipment of 2,352 cans of Miller High Life was recently destroyed by Belgian customs after a request by the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC), the trade body defending the interests of houses and growers of the northeastern French sparkling wine, raising the eyebrows of beer lovers across the globe.
The consignment, which was intercepted in Antwerp in early February and was destined for Germany, was destroyed on the grounds that the century-old motto used by the American brewery infringes the European protected designation of origin (PDO) for Champagne.
The Europeans take PDOs and other protected appellations incredibly seriously – especially the French, and especially the CIVC. “Champagne”, especially when not capitalised, is commonly used to describe any type of sparkling wine but actually, Champagne strictly describes sparkling wines from the Champagne region, made in accordance with CIVC regulations. The French are famously litigious when it comes to protecting these terms.
WATCH Belgian customs destroying these “Champagnes of Beers” below.
American brewing giant Molson Coors, which owns the Miller High Life brand, does not currently export it to the EU, and Belgian customs declined to say who had ordered the beers, Associated Press reports.
While we can kind of understand why the Belgians (really, the French) did this – they are well within their rights to protect their PDO – it does smack a little bit of overkill.
It’d be one thing if Millers High Life was an American sparking wine calling itself Champagne, but it’s a beer. Maybe the French were just insulted that such an average beer was marketing itself as Champagne?
Indeed, that’s the bit of the story that really shocks us: that it was being imported to Germany. Germany, with its legendary Reinheitsgebot (beer purity law), is home to some of the best beers in the world, as well as easily the best beer-drinking culture – why on earth would they want to import a crappy American beer?
This isn’t the only time Europe has flexed its muscles when it comes to American beer. Budweiser, arguably the most famous American beer globally, is not allowed to be called Budweiser in most of the EU thanks to a trademark dispute with the Budweiser Budvar Brewery of České Budějovice, Czechia.
Instead, the American beer may only be marketed as ‘Bud’, while the Czech beer is sold as ‘Czechvar’ in the United States. It’s all very confusing… We’ll stick to Crown Lagers, thanks.