Anheuser-Busch InBev has been slapped with a lawsuit from a Florida man who claims he was deceived into thinking its Leffe beer was brewed in a Belgian abbey.
The proposed class action lawsuit, filed Friday in Miami federal court by Henry Vazquez, alleges that the beer giant used deceptive packaging and marketed Leffe as a premium product. The company uses language like first "brewed and perfected by Belgian monks" in 1240, sustained through "750 years of Belgian tradition," and depicting the bell tower of an abbey on the label, reports Reuters.
The packaging and marketing of the brand, Vazquez alleges, caused him to overpay for Leffe branded brews including Leffe Blonde and Leffe Brune, when the beer is actually mass-produced in the same automated factory that manufactures Stella Artois.
"Their marketing quite clearly shows Leffe to be a specialty craft beer," Natalie Rico, a lawyer for Vazquez, said in a phone interview with Reuters. "Consumers believe they are buying something that is limited quantity and very high quality. That is not the case."
Unlike other Belgian beers such as Chimay, Leffe has not been brewed at an abbey since the Abbaye de Leffe was destroyed in the French Revolution in the late 18th century, according to the suit.
Last year, Anheuser-Busch reached a $20 million settlement with drinkers of Beck’s beer who successfully argued that the beer giant had fooled customers into thinking Beck's was from Germany when it's actually made in St. Louis, Missouri. Vazquez has filed his lawsuit in the same court.
The plaintiff is seeking class action status for consumers nationwide who purchased any Leffe beer within the last four years. Vazquez is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, and a formal declaration from Anheuser that Leffe is not brewed in an abbey or by monks.
Leffe may not be brewed in a Belgian abbey, but Birra Nursia, a Belgian-style blonde ale brewed in Italy by American monks is now available in the U.S.