Miller Genuine Draft takes a hit in Reading court

HAVING turned its product into tasteless industrial swill, the Miller Brewing Co. must now face the cold, hard facts:

Miller Genuine Draftis not “genuine,” it’s not “draft.” It’s not even beer.

And that’s not just the opinion of Joe Sixpack. In a stunning decision issued last week, a county judge in Reading, Pa., declared that Miller isn’t – at least, legally – a true beer.

Judge Jeffrey K. Sprecher didn’t say what Miller is, though I certainly could ‘ve provided him with a few adjectives for the brewery’s fizzy yellow water. Instead, he ruled that the prosecution in an underage drinking trial hadn’t provided adequate evidence that MGD is, in fact, beer.

As you might imagine, there were some legal technicalities at work in this case, first reported by the Reading Eagle.

It centers on a 44-year-old Kutztown man named Gregg R. Hartman who’s accused of buying a case of Miller for his 17-year-old neighbor. The kid downed five cans, got caught by the cops and dimed out the old man. Now, the Berks County D.A.’s office is prosecuting Hartman for furnishing alcohol to a minor.

It seemed like an open-and-shut case after the teen testified against Hartman. But then Sprecher tossed it out of court, ruling the D.A.’s office had failed to submit evidence – empty cans or lab tests – to support its prosecution.

Defense attorney David R. Eshelman told reporter Holly Herman that “there is no testimony on the record that the beer contained any alcohol.”

For the record, Miller Genuine Draft contains about 5 percent alcohol by volume. The prosecutor has already filed a motion to reconsider the case, this time including the state Liquor Control Board’s list of licensed malt beverages.

Sprecher isn’t publicly explaining his ruling because it’s still an active case. But I like to think there was more here than legal technicalities.

What I imagine is that Sprecher actually sampled the so-called evidence and, in his judicial wisdom, concluded that even the Miller Brewing Co. had failed to establish a prima facie case that its industrial swill is bona fide beer.

Indeed, that’s the assumption thousands of other beer lovers made when word of the ruling hit the Internet.

After Herman’s story was linked at Fark.com, the newspaper’s Web site recorded more than 15,000 hits from readers, many of them gleefully agreeing with Sprecher.

“I dare anyone to sample a Genuine Draft and then a Samuel Smith Aleand still claim a beer is a beer,” one visitor to Herman’s court blog wrote.

“This is truly a momentous court decision,” wrote one reader at BeerAdvocate.com, where Miller Genuine Draft gets an “Avoid” rating of 67 (out of 100). Another advocate said of Sprecher, “Now, this is a Supreme Court nominee.”

And blogger named The Countess echoed many calling for a blanket ruling: “I’d even go as far as to say that Coors Lightand Bud Lightaren’t really beer. They ‘re pisswater.”

Lest Judge Sprecher be accused of improper judicial activism, allow me to argue that this is a long-overdue court ruling. Miller is finally facing the gavel for decades of criminal assault on American taste buds.

The evidence: Miller Lite… Icehouse… the bastardization of Lowenbrau… Red Dog… Miller Clear… Skyy Blue… Brutal Jack Daniels Hard Cola… the phony Plank Road Brewery…

Beer freaks rejoice: The days of factory breweries calling their mass-produced malt byproduct a “beer” are coming to an end. And now we’ve got the law on our side.

Beer radar

Downingtown’s Victory HopDevilplaced third among American draft beers earlier this month at the Great British Beer Festival. Rogue Chocolate Stoutand Smuttynose Shoal’s Pale Alewent one-two…

From the When Will They Every Learn Dept.: Anheuser-Busch, still unable to understand why its beer sales are drooping like Barry Bonds without steroids, is launching yet another boneheaded malt beverage. Tilt, containing caffeine, guarana and ginseng, is advertised as the “5 p.m. after-work drink… suited to a variety of drinking occasions.” Right, like that drinking occasion when you were 14 and puking up your guts after consuming your mother’s cooking wine. Oh, and while I’m ranting, I’m curious how A-B managed to get that tipsy brand name past the federal government’s humorless alky authorities…

Oktoberfest, despite its name, is already gearing up, and it’s not even Labor Day. McGillin’s Old Ale House (1310 Drury St., Center City) kicks things off starting Monday, when the tavern adds German food and a selection of Oktoberfest beers to its menu. Meanwhile at your local distributor, Oktoberfest beers are pushing aside the summer’s hefeweizens. Already seen: Victory Festbier, Stoudt’s Fest, Flying Fish Oktoberfish, Samuel Adams Oktoberfestand German-made versions from Paulanerand Hacker-Pschoor.

Also new on area shelves: Sierra Nevada Crystal Wheat, Brasserie Fantome Bris BonsBonsand Kapuziner Schwarts Weizen.

Hear, hear

 “If our troops are going to die by being blown up by a car bomb, at least let them have a beer first.” – Ex-State Rep. Ronald P. Goebel, in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, urging lawmakers to lower the drinking age for members of the military.

Calendar

Tomorrow: Grand opening, Destiny Brewpub (119 South Main St., Phoenixville). The former steel town gets its second brewpub, this one in a former Moose Lodge in the center of town. Info: 610-781-4303.

Thursday: Yards Brewing and BBQ at Coleman Restaurant at Normandy Farm (Route 202 & Morris Road, Blue Bell), with a guest appearance by yours truly. The Kensington brewery matches its Saison, Philadelphia Pale Aleand George  Washington Porterwith a spread by celebrity chef Jim Coleman and finger-licking commentary by Joe Sixpack. Tix: $24.95. Dinner served: 6:30-9 p.m. Info: 215-616-8300.

Aug. 27: Brewing Exposition And Talent Show at World Cafe Live (3025 Walnut St., University City). Local performers and brewers hook up for an afternoon of blues and brews. Taps open: noon-5 p.m. Tix: $28/$33 at the door. Benefits Ann Hsu Memorial Fund. Info: 215-222-1400.

 Joe Sixpack, by Staff Writer Don Russell, was written this week with a bottle of Heavyweight black Saison.

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