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Goose Island Wins Lawsuit After Bad Batch Of 2015 Bourbon County Beer

June 15, 2018 - 10:03 am
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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The sour taste has come to an end. 

Goose Island Brewery has won a legal battle over bad beer.

"There was no public safety risk here. There was no health risk," said Chicago lawyer Ashley Brandt.

No, just bad beer. Chicago lawyer Ashley Brandt said Goose Island offered refunds when it's much-coveted 2015 batch of Bourbon County beers, which some paid hundreds of dollars or more for just a few bottles, had a sour taste. 

But two men who were offered $8,000 thought they deserved more. A judge disagreed.

A U.S. District Court judge ruled in May that the two men, who bought nearly 50 bottles of Bourbon County in late 2015, were unable to press their case because Goose Island had attempted to refund them the maximum amount possible.

The men returned the $8,000 refund and pushed forward on a class action lawsuit. However, the judge ruled that Goose Island had made a good faith effort to compensate them.

The ruling was first reported last week by Chicago lawyer Ashley Brandt, who operates a blog about beverage industry legal issues.

"They weren't under no obligation really to go ahead and offer the refunds, and yet they went ahead and did it, because consumer goodwill is important to them and people were offered a sum of money and pressing on the consumer issues when they didn't want it and said no, and the court said well you should have taken it," Brandt said.

The Goose Island lawsuit began the day after Thanksgiving in 2015, when the brewery released its annual batch of Bourbon County beers. The sour taste that was soon discovered in the beer collection was linked to the presence of lactobacillus acetotolerans, a bacteria that affects flavor, but does not make a person ill.

The brewery offered two rounds of refunds, once in January 2016, when it became clear that Bourbon County Coffee Stout and Bourbon County Barleywine were infected, and again in July 2016, when Bourbon County Stout and Proprietor’s Bourbon County Stout were found to have off flavors.

According to the Tribune, two Massachusetts residents, Jeff Roach and Scott Kaplan, sued Goose Island in February 2017, claiming they were unable to get refunds due to the process being “underpublicized and available for an unreasonably short period of time.”

Goose Island responded to the men with checks for $5,000 for Roach and $3,000 for Kaplan — “the maximum amount potentially available to them … plus additional funds to cover court costs and attorneys’ fees,” the brewery’s lawyers said.

Three weeks later, the mens’ lawyers returned the checks, insisting they wanted to press forward with the class action suit.

Goose Island lawyers argued that even though the plaintiffs returned the checks, “Kaplan and Roach’s claims are moot because Goose Island has unconditionally offered all of the relief that plaintiffs seek and there is no more relief that the court could provide.”

The judge agreed.