Can you identify the imports? It’s not always easy.
Let’s start with Kirin Ichiban over a bowl of miso soup and teriyaki chicken. Named after a mythical creature said to bring good luck, Kirin is a German-style lager that originated in Japan in 1888. But the fine print on our bottle reads, “Brewed under the strict supervision of Kirin’s brewmaster at Anheuser-Busch, Inc. in Los Angeles, CA.” Anheuser-Busch, however, is a subsidiary of AB InBev, an international conglomerate headquartered in Leuven and run by a native of Rio de Janeiro named Carlos Brito. So what is Kirin… Japanese, American, Belgian or Brazilian?
Let’s move on to Blue Moon Belgian White. The label identifies the manufacturer as “Blue Moon Brewing Co.” in Golden, CO, but that’s just a corporate pseudonym for Coors Brewing Co. Coors is a division of Molson Coors Brewing Co., the result of a 2005 merger between the third largest U.S. brewer and the second largest Canadian brewer. Since that time, Blue Moon has been brewed on both sides of the border. In 2007, Molson Coors entered into a joint venture with SABMiller, a London-based company with roots in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Johannesburg, South Africa. Ironically, Belgium appears to be the only country not involved here. In 1999 the Confederation of Belgian Brewers sued Coors, arguing that the term “Belgian White” misled consumers about the origin of the beer.
How about a nightcap of Three Philosophers from the Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY? Since 2003, Belgium’s Duvel Moortgat Brewery has wholly owned this bucolic farmhouse operation. Three Philosophers consists of a strong, malty quadrupel-style ale brewed in upstate New York blended with Liefmans Kriek from the Liefmans Brewery in Oudenaarde, Belgium, which Duvel Moortgat recently rescued from bankruptcy. Can a beer have dual citizenship?
Kingfisher Premium Lager? Glance at the label the next time you enjoy this popular Indian import with chicken vindaloo, and you’ll learn that it’s brewed under license at the Olde Saratoga Brewing Co. in Saratoga Springs, NY, or at Mendocino Brewing Co. in Hopland, CA. Both breweries are owned by the Bangalore, India-based United Breweries.
Labatt Blue? The best-selling Canadian import in theUnited States is owned by the New York investment firm KPS Capital Partners, LP, which set up a subsidiary called North American Breweries to run Labatt USA and the Genesee Brewing Co. in Rochester, NY.
Conversely, what used to be the Joseph Huber Brewing Co. in Monroe, WI, is now owned by a Calgary businessman named Ravinder Minhas and renamed Minhas Craft Brewery.
International borders count for little in this new era of brewing.
Greg Kitsock writes a biweekly column for the Washington Post and is editor of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News.