Beck’s is among the most popular German beers in America. Or it would be, if it really were German. While Beck’s labels proclaim “originated in Bremen, Germany,” and “brewed under the German Purity Law of 1516,” the beer sold in the US actually has been brewed in St. Louis for the past several years. (Anheuser-Busch InBev, which owns Beck’s, recently settled a class action and agreed to make the fact that the beer is made in America more visible on the label. Beck’s drinkers who feel duped may be eligible for a refund of as much as $50.)
Beck’s is by no means the only “imported” beer that isn’t really imported. If you drink Foster’s Lager (marketing slogan: “Foster’s: Australian for beer”)…Bass Ale (“the original English pale ale”)…Kirin Ichiban (“Japan’s Prime Brew”)…Red Stripe (“The Taste of Jamaica”)…or George Killian’s Irish Red in the US, you are drinking a US-brewed beer.
There is nothing wrong with drinking American beer, but it is a breach of trust for breweries to market domestically produced beers in a way that implies they are imported. People who buy these “imports” are paying a premium because they want something that’s different from a mass-produced domestic beer. What’s more, differences in the barley, water or other ingredients used to brew these beers in the US might mean that they don’t taste quite the same here as they do abroad.
The good news is, there’s so much good distinctive beer being made by small and midsize American brewers these days that drinkers in search of something different and better can easily find it without resorting to fake imports—or real imports. Example: If you have been drinking Beck’s, try Firestone Walker Brewing Pivo Pils…or Victory Brewing Company Prima Pils. Both are brewed by midsize American breweries in the style of Czech and German pilsners such as Beck’s. They cost more than Beck’s, but they also have a lot more flavor—and they’re not pretending to be something they’re not.