Goose Island wins lawsuit over infected Bourbon County

From www.chicagotribune.com by Josh Noel
Goose Island wins lawsuit over infected Bourbon County

The long, sour saga of Goose Island’s infected Bourbon County beers has taken another turn, with a judge dismissing the claims of two men who rejected an $8,000 peace offering in the midst of arguing that the brewery’s refund process was insufficient for the tainted brews.

A U.S. District Court judge ruled in May that two Massachusetts men — who between them had 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 in a bid to push 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.

Goose Island’s long-simmering saga began the day after Thanksgiving in 2015, when the brewery released its annual batch of Bourbon County beers. Though the brand makes some of the most heralded beers in the industry, drinkers quickly began complaining of sour and rancid off flavors. The off flavors were later 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 to consumers: 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.

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.”

Roach said he had spent about $600 on 32 bottles of Bourbon County Stout, two bottles of Bourbon County Coffee Stout and six bottles of Bourbon County Barleywine, according to the lawsuit. Kaplan said he bought 12 bottles of Bourbon County Stout, two bottles of Bourbon County Coffee Stout and one bottle of Bourbon County Barleywine.

In April 2017, 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.

However, 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.

jbnoel@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @hopnotes

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