Hard Seltzers Declared a Form of Beer in Corona Lawsuit
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Jury Sides Against Corona, Modelo in Major Lawsuit; Hard Seltzers Declared a Form of Beer


In a case that hinged on the definition of “beer,” a federal jury ruled Wednesday, March 15, 2023, that Constellation Brands can still sell Corona and Modelo hard seltzers in the U.S. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

A Manhattan federal jury has decided that Corona Hard Seltzer and Modelo Ranch Water can be classified as forms of beer for distribution purposes.

The trial began in February 2021, when Grupo Modelo filed a lawsuit against Constellation Brands Inc. for selling hard seltzers in the U.S. under the”Corona” brand name.

Constellation’s distribution license allowed them only to distribute beers, leading to a spirited debate in court that attempted to pin down the hazy distinction between the two categories.

Similar to brands like Truly and White Claw, Corona Hard Seltzer is made from a fermented sugar base. Though these products may not be perceived as beers among the public, the process of brewing and fermenting flavored malt beverages is remarkably similar to that of beer minus the hoppy bite.

As a result, neither the Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) nor the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has any definition for what constitutes a hard seltzer.

In court, Constellation successfully argued that hard seltzers fall under the vaguely defined “beer umbrella” even if consumers don’t perceive them as such.

Court documents state; “Defendants concede that the Corona Hard Seltzer Products do no possess the defining characteristic of ‘beer’ as ordinarily understood by the ‘average person on the street’ […] but nonetheless contends that these products are a (hops-free) ‘beer’, (malt-free) ‘malt beverage’, or ‘version’ of beer.”

Constellation’s victory is the latest in a string of lawsuits that have blitzed the hard seltzer market over the past few years.

Drinks like Bud Light Platinum Hard Seltzer, Travis Scott’s Cacti Agave Seltzer and Topo Chico Margarita Seltzer have all been named in class action suits alleging the misleading advertising of products that are essentially “flavored beers.”

Budweiser owner Anheuser-Busch was even forced to pay out $6,000,000 on behalf of its popular Lime-A-Rita line of mixed drinks.

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Pedro Wolfe is the managing editor of Tequila Raiders. With several years of experience writing for the New York Daily News and the Foothills Business Daily under his belt, Pedro aims to combine quality reviews and recipes with incisive articles on the cutting edge of the tequila world. Pedro has traveled to the heartland of the spirits industry in Tequila, Mexico, and has conducted interviews with agave spirits veterans throughout Mexico, South Africa and California. Through this diverse approach, Tequila Raiders aims to celebrate not only tequila but the rich tapestry of agave spirits that spans mezcal, raicilla, bacanora, pulque and so much more.