How an American distributor convinced people that Corona beer contains urine
For those who love beer very much, the expression “tastes like warm urine” is perhaps the most powerful insult that can only be thrown towards this drink. And although you are unlikely to envy a member of the public who has made such a statement about beer, you might think that the brewers themselves will never stoop to such a thing. But even among them there was an exception. In the 1980s, an American distributor was able to convince the general public that Corona beer literally contained human urine.
The origins of this dirty tale of corporate fraud can be traced back to 1979 and Corona’s debut in America. Officially presented as a “light lager”, urine-colored beer is the flagship product of the Mexican brewery Grupo Modelo and is quite popular in many countries.
After its debut in the United States, beer became a hit. It instantly turned into one of the most well-known and sought-after varieties of imported beer. In particular, it was noted that Corona was especially popular with “young urban professionals” who were attracted by the “surfer aesthetics” cultivated by the company in product advertising.
According to industry experts, by 1986 the Corona brand had captured about half of the entire American beer market. Grupo Modelo Brewery sold about 13 million crates of beer per year (total revenue was over $ 300 million in today’s money). Mexican beer Corona became the second most popular imported beer in America after the Dutch beer Heineken.
All this smoothly brings us to 1986, when Corona producers began to notice that beer sales began to plummet throughout the United States for no apparent reason. In fact, in some regions, Corona beer sales fell as much as 80%, while in others, strangely enough, nothing really changed. Embarrassed leaders turned to their suppliers in the US regions, where sales declined significantly, and found that beer was not just selling poorly: some stores refused to buy it at all.
Corona producers then investigated and found that bars across the United States were rumored that Mexican workers at the main Corona brewery often pissed into the vats used to ferment the beer.
Although this may seem far-fetched, it should be noted that earlier beer manufacturers actually practiced this, believing that urine gives the beer a stronger taste. In fact, in 1742, the London and Country Brewer brewery regretted this, saying: “… adding the contents of a night pot or human urine to … a light or amber cheap malt drink … [is] terrible, disgusting insidiousness and cheating … ”
There are many references to such practice in history, but in most cases we do not know whether this was really true.
Be that as it may, people blame the producers for adding urine to the beer, apparently, from the very time that this drunken drink appeared.
Thus, it is not at all surprising that at some point someone came up with a brilliant idea to start a rumor that Corona, a pale yellow beer sold in transparent bottles, also contains urine. And the strangest thing was that people really believed it, because at that time they were biased against all Mexican products.
This rumor has put Corona manufacturers in an awkward position. They were forced to explain to everyone that they did not allow anyone to urinate in tanks with beer, and spent 500 thousand dollars (about 1.1 million in terms of modern money) on advertisements informing the public about this. Moreover, company executives took part in dozens of talk shows to confirm this.
They understood that a vigorous denial that they did not add human urine to beer could cause rumors to continue to spread with greater intensity. Nevertheless, as noted by Michael Mazzoni, one of the distributors of Corona: “We know that we are at great risk, however, in our opinion, people should know the truth.”
While they were trying to convey the truth to the public, the Chicago-based Corona beer distributor, Barton Beers Ltd, where the aforementioned Mazzoni worked, decided to play detective and find out where the rumors came from.
In the end, they tracked them to Renault (Nevada). Further investigation revealed that it was the employees of a competing distributor called Luce & Sons Inc, who imported Heineken beer, who were the ones who started to spread unflattering rumors.