Mexican Spirits Council Threatens to Sue Heineken Over Tequila-Flavored Beer
“Either they take the word tequila off it, or they put some tequila in.”
In Heineken’s portfolio of beers – which beyond the company’s namesake also includes brands like Amstel and Dos Equis – Desperados is a bit of an anomaly. Billed as the “world’s first tequila flavored beer,” the lager gets its unique taste (think a slightly sweet, slightly spirit-tinged Bud Light lime) from mixing in beer that has been aged in tequila barrels as well as the addition of some other flavors – including supposedly some undisclosed amount of actual tequila. Reactions to the product have been mixed. Since its introduction 20 years ago, Desperados has been popular in parts of Europe (you see it everywhere in France, for instance), but failed in the US where it was pulled off the market in 2015, just a year after being introduced. But regardless of how customers feel about it, Mexico’s Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT) recently made their feeling very clear: The beer sullies the good name of tequila to the point that it’s prepared to take legal action.
At the heart of the argument appears to be whether Desperados actually contains any tequila – a spirit that has a protected designation of origin, meaning anything labeled “tequila” has to be real tequila from Mexico. The CRT claims its testing shows that the beer contains no tequila whatsoever. Meanwhile, Heineken’s product info states that those aforementioned “flavors” are 75 percent tequila. “The flavoring we use contains genuine Tequila that we buy in Mexico from one of the members of the CRT,” Heineken said in a statement. “We have produced Desperados for 20 years and have enjoyed a good relationship with CRT and its members.” Of course, even if that 75 percent number is true, the question remains 75 percent of what? Heineken doesn’t say.
The Council’s demands are pretty clear. “We cannot permit someone unscrupulously to affect tequila’s prestige,” Ramon Gonzalez, the group’s director-general, told The Financial Times. “Either they take the word tequila off it, or they put some tequila in.” The CRT has threatened legal action of Heineken doesn’t respond to its warning. For its part, however, Heineken says the beer’s labeling complies with all regulations. Since the beer isn’t sold in America, this whole thing is kind of a moot point here, though in France, it could end up being a “grosse affaire.”