Belgian Customs Destroys Miller High Life for Masquerading as Champagne

Apparently, administrators for the French wine region took that "Champagne of Beers" slogan literally.

When Miller High Life debuted on the market 120 years ago, it was one of the first beers that people could buy already bottled. According to Molson Coors, early 20th century beer drinkers had to buy their favorite brews directly from a bar — and they’d have to take it home by the bucketful. Since Miller High Life came in a much more elegant package, the company decided to make the containers look like miniature Champagne bottles and used clear glass to show off its contents. At one point, the bottles even had ornate foil wrappers around the neck, to make each bottle appear even more elegant.

Miller High Life Beer Champagne Bottle


The company started referring to High Life as “The Champagne of Bottle Beers” in 1906, and then it dropped the “bottle” part of that slogan in 1969 to become “The Champagne of Beers.” Despite printing those four words on its labels for well over a century, it seemed to take Belgian Customs by surprise when a shipment of MIller High Life was received at the port of Antwerp.

According to a joint statement from French champagne trade organization Le Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC) and the General Administration of Belgian Customs, 2,352 cans of Miller High Life were destroyed earlier this week, all because of that “Champagne of Beers” thing.

A shipment of Miller High Life was sent through Belgium on its way to Germany, but customs workers looked at the packaging and decided that the “Champagne” on the label was in violation of France’s protected designation of origin (PDO) for Champagne. (A longstanding piece of legislation determined that the term "Champagne" can only be used for wines made using a particular process and that are produced within a specific geographic area.)

Because of that PDO, the Comité Champagne was alerted about the Miller High Life label, and it ordered the Belgian authorities to destroy all 2,352 cans of beer. The beer was demolished in Ypres Belgium earlier this week “with the utmost respect for environmental concerns by ensuring that the entire batch, both contents and container, was recycled in an environmentally responsible manner.” The German company that was expecting the delivery was informed of the beer’s fate and did not try to contest the Comité Champagne’s decision.

"This destruction is the result of a successful collaboration between Belgian customs authorities and the Comité Champagne, Charles Goemaere, the Managing Director of the Comité Champagne, said in a statement. “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”. He would also like to “congratulate the Belgian Customs for their vigilance with regard to the Champagne designation and for their responsiveness.”

A Belgian customs official echoed those sentiments. “Every year we do thousands of controls on protected designations of origin,” Kristian Vanderwaeren said. “It is very important for us to be able to work closely with organizations such as the Comité Champagne.”

Frankly, if were in the champagne people's shoes, we'd be less worried about beer slogans more concerned about folks like Tom Hanks mixing our precious champs with Diet Coke.

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