By Sam Stanton / The Sacramento Bee
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Most people who don’t care for a beer they’ve purchased simply switch brands.
Brendan Peacock goes a bit further. He sues.
The 37-year-old Sacramento man filed a federal lawsuit last week against Pabst Brewing Co., alleging false advertising in the sales of its Olympia beer products.
At issue, which Peacock’s lawsuit says is important enough to be considered a class-action matter covering all drinkers of the beer, is the slogan “It’s the Water.”
Peacock’s suit says the beer company falsely implies that the beer comes from artesian spring water in Tumwater when, in fact, the company brews Olympia in the San Gabriel Valley city of Irwindale, California.
“It is unclear where the water is actually from,” the lawsuit claims, adding that parts of Irwindale are served by a utility that chlorinates its water and that the area’s water supply “has been contaminated by industrial solvents in the past.”
The Olympia website says its beer “blends nature’s finest raw materials from the fields of the Great Northwest into an icon as stunning as the land itself. Pure mountain water and golden barley tan this smooth sculpted beer like Mount Olympia itself.”
Peacock, who has brought two similar suits in the past — one against the 21st Amendment Brewery Café, another against a guacamole maker — declined to comment Monday when reached on his cellphone.
Pabst also did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.
But Peacock’s suit says his disenchantment with the beer stemmed from his April 21, 2017, purchase of some Olympia from a Rancho Cordova Grocery Outlet store.
Peacock’s suit says he bought the beer because of the Olympia marketing efforts and that he was “deceived” by the advertising.
Peacock, whose suit describes him as “a beer, and craft beer, consumer,” apparently takes his beer very seriously.
He sued the Bay Area’s 21st Amendment Brewery Café last April after purchasing the company’s “Brew Free or Die!” IPA and its “Hell or Highwater Watermelon Wheat Beer” at the BevMo on Arden Way.
That lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, also sought class-action status and alleged that 21st Amendment’s marketing falsely duped consumers into believing all its beer is brewed in the Bay Area when, in fact, some is made in Minnesota.
Court papers say Peacock “would not have bought Defendant’s beer, and paid a premium price, if he knew it was not brewed in San Francisco as advertised, but brewed in an ‘old (out-of-state) brewery known to make kind of crappy beer.’”
21st Amendment replied in court papers that it never made a secret of the fact that it brews some beer in Minnesota.
That case is being settled, although court papers do not indicate the terms of the settlement.
In the guacamole case, filed in federal court in Los Angeles, both sides agreed to dismiss the case in January.
The craft beer industry in Sacramento has experienced tremendous growth in recent years, with visitsacramento.com estimating more than 50 breweries have opened in and around the city, and the University of Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law hiring a professor to teach the first craft beer law class in a U.S. law school.
Daniel Croxall, an assistant professor of lawyering skills, said California has roughly 920 craft beer breweries statewide and the Sacramento region now has around 60.
Olympia, of course, is not a craft brew, and Croxall said the lawsuit is “a tough claim.”
“It’s definitely not an open and shut case,” said Croxall, who maintains a blog called Craft Beer Law Prof. “I would expect Pabst is going to move to dismiss this one.”
But it’s difficult to determine just how important beer is to Peacock. He would not discuss anything about himself or if he works in Sacramento, and his Miami-based attorney, Elizabeth Lee Beck, did not return a telephone call.