Belgium has destroyed a shipment of American beer after taking exception to its maker’s slogan that it was “The Champagne of Beers.”
Belgian customs crushed the 2,352 cans of Miller High Life beer earlier this week, reasoning that they were improperly labeled as Champagne.
The move came after a trade association for the Champagne industry complained that the term should be used only on bottles of sparkling wine, made using a traditional method in Champagne, France.
By convention, true Champagne – as in, the French sparkling wine – can only be made using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes.
The Comité Champagne, a joint trade association for the Champagne industry, requested the destruction of the American beers, arguing that the label “The Champagne of Beers” infringed on the protected designation of “Champagne”.
Miller High Life was launched in 1903 by a Milwaukee-based based firm. According to its website, it began to use the slogan “The Champagne of Bottle Beer” three years later, shortening it to “The Champagne of Beers” in 1969.
The beers were headed for Germany before they were intercepted at the port of Antwerp in February.
On April 17, the cans were destroyed “with the greatest respect for environmental concerns by ensuring that the entire batch, content and container, is recycled in an eco-responsible way,” the Comité Champagne said.
“Each year we carry out thousands of checks on designations of controlled origin,” said Kristian Vanderwaeren, general administrator of the Belgian General Administration for Customs and Excise.
“If a counterfeit is proven, as is the case here, we also consult each other on the decision to destroy these goods and on the way in which we have them destroyed.”
Charles Goemaere, managing director of the Comité Champagne, said the move is the result of successful collaboration between the Belgian customs authorities and the services of the Champagne Committee.
“It confirms the importance that the European Union attaches to designations of origin and rewards the determination of the inhabitants of Champagne to protect their designation,” he said.