Champagne sellers wouldn’t allow anyone to take the name of a champagne drink in vain, not even an American beer giant.
For many years, Miller High Life used the “Champagne of Beers” slogan. This week, that attribution has become impossible to swallow.
At the request of the professional organization that defends the interests of families and winegrowers in northeastern France, Belgian customs crushed more than 2,000 cans of Miller High Life that were the subject of such advertisements.
The Champagne Commission ordered the destruction of a shipment of 2,352 cans on the grounds that the century-old logo used by the American brewery violated the “Champagne” protected designation of origin.
A spokesman for the Belgian customs department said on Friday that the shipment was intercepted in the Belgian port of Antwerp in early February and was bound for Germany.
Molson Coors Beverage, which owns the Miller High Life brand, does not currently export it to the European Union, and Belgian customs refused to say who ordered the beer.
The trade organization said in a statement that the buyer in Germany “was informed and did not object to the decision.”
Frederick Miller, a German immigrant to the United States, founded the Miller Brewing Company in the 1850s. Its oldest brand, Miller High Life, was launched as a registered trademark in 1903.
According to the Milwaukee brand’s website, the company began using the “Champagne of Bottle Beers” moniker three years later. It was shortened to “Champagne Beers” in 1969. Beer was also available in 750ml champagne bottles during holiday periods.
“With its elegant, clear glass bottle and crisp taste, Miller High Life has proudly held the title ‘Champagne of Beers’ for nearly 120 years,” beverage company Molson Coors said in a statement to the Associated Press.
No matter how popular the logo is in the United States, it runs counter to European Union rules that clearly state that goods that violate a protected designation of origin can be treated as counterfeits.
The group of 27 countries has a system of protected geographical designations that was created to ensure the true origin and quality of artisanal foods, wines and spirits, and to protect them from imitations. This market represents nearly 75 billion euros ($87 billion) annually, half of which is in wine, according to a 2020 study by the European Union’s executive arm.
Charles Gemmier, director general of the Champagne Commission, said the beer’s destruction “underscores the importance the European Union places on appellations of origin and rewards the determination of Champagne producers to protect their designation.”
Beverage company Molson Coors said it “respects local restrictions” around the word champagne.
“But we remain proud of Miller High Life, its moniker and its source in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,” the company said. “We invite our friends in Europe to the United States at any time to drink a toast to the high life together.”
Belgian customs said the cost of destroying the cans was borne by the Champagne Commission. According to their joint statement, this was done “with the utmost respect for environmental concerns by ensuring that the entire batch, content and container is recycled in an environmentally responsible manner.”
Share Mark D. Carlson Brussels.