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Business

Beck's to refund misled beer drinkers

That German pilsner Americans thought they were drinking? Turns out it's actually brewed in St. Louis with water from the Midwest. German hops and a time-tested recipe apparently aren't enough to call a beer an "import."

A class-action lawsuit in the US has revealed that Beck's maker, Anheuser-Busch InBev, duped customers into thinking they were consuming genuine German beer, when in fact a more accurate label would have read "Made in the USA."

A district court in Florida

granted preliminary approval

to an agreement reached between the beverage giant and three plaintiffs who had contended that wording on Beck's packaging - "German quality" and "Originated in Bremen, Germany" - was misleading.

The deal foresees InBev reimbursing customers 10 cents for every bottle purchased since 2011. For six-packs, Beck's will pay 50 cents, for 20-packs, $1.75 (1.56 euros). But just presenting an empty bottle will not suffice - customers must also possess a valid proof of purchase, i.e. a receipt.

Documents made public by the court specified that the beer varieties in question included Beck's Pilsner, Beck's Dark, Beck's Light and Beck's Oktoberfest that were brewed and sold in the US.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the story, said final approval for the deal was expected to come from a federal magistrate judge later this year.

A globalized identity

On its website

, Beck's says its beer "uses only top-grade barley, hand-selected hops from the Bavarian Hallertau region, fresh water and Beck's exclusive strain of yeast." That's enough to qualify it for Germany's

much-celebrated purity law

- the "Reinheitsgebot" - but not to call all Beck's brews German.

Beck's was founded in Bremen, Germany, in 1873 by a builder named Luder Rutenberg, according to

information available online

. Rutenberg ultimately hired Heinrich Beck, a known brewer and the beer's namesake.

But since 2002, the company's identity began to change. A brand that was once owned by local German families was sold to Interbrew of Belgium prior to a merger with Brazil's AmBev. The resulting company adopted the name InBev and eventually acquired Anheuser-Busch to become

the world's largest brewer

.

Anheuser-Busch has been producing Beck's in St. Louis, Missouri, since 2012. It still maintains facilities in Bremen, Germany.

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