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More than 2,000 beers destroyed due to ‘Champagne’ infringement

A shipment of Miller High Life beers has been destroyed by Belgian customs officials after the brand’s slogan “the Champagne of Beers” was identified as “an infringement” on the French fizz’s designation of origin.

According to the Comité Champagne, which requested “the destruction of the illicit goods,” the decision was simply an act of being the European protector of Champagne and going to lengths to do what is necessary to defend it from counterfeit products.

Charles Goemaere, managing director of the Comité Champagne said: “This destruction is the result of a successful collaboration between Belgian customs authorities and the Comité Champagne. It confirms the importance that the European Union attaches to designations of origin and rewards the determination of the Champagne producers to protect their designation”.

The 2,352 Miller High Life cans, sent from brand owner Molson Coors in the US were en route to Germany before they were intercepted in the port of Antwerp.

In a statement, Molson Coors Brewing Company said: “Of course, we respect local restrictions around the word ‘Champagne,’ but we remain proud of Miller High Life, its nickname and its Milwaukee, Wisconsin provenance…We invite our friends in Europe to the US any time to toast the High Life together.”

For years, the Miller High Life brand has sported its “Champagne of Beers” slogan, however the Comité Champagne explained that use of the word still goes against the protected status of products from the Champagne area of France.

Kristian Vanderwaeren, administrator of the Belgian Customs Service, added: “Every year we do thousands of controls on protected designations of origin. It is very important for us to be able to work closely with organizations such as the Comité Champagne. The Comité Champagne helps train our teams and provides information that allows us to identify whether products are genuine or counterfeit. When a counterfeit is detected, as is the case here, we also agree on the decision to destroy these goods and how to get them destroyed.”

Molson Coors does not currently export Miller High Life to the European Union and Belgian customs officials have stayed silent on who ordered the beers, but the Comité Champagne did reveal that the German buyer “was informed and did not contest the decision”.

Frederick Miller, who founded the Miller Brewing Company in the 1850s and launched Miller High Life as the company’s flagship beer in 1903, has used the slogan the “Champagne of Bottle Beers” since 1906 before it was shortened to “The Champagne of Beers” in 1969.

Molson Coors said in a recent statement to the Associated Press: “With its elegant, clear-glass bottle and crisp taste, Miller High Life has proudly worn the nickname ‘The Champagne of Beers’ for almost 120 years.”

The Comité Champagne additionally confirmed that the destruction was carried out by Westlandia company in Ypres, Belgium on 17 April “with the utmost respect for environmental concerns by ensuring that the entire batch, both contents and container, was recycled in an environmentally responsible manner”.

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