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St. Louis Riverfront Times

Missouri's Crown Valley Winery Being Sued Over Bacteria in Iced Coffee

By Ryan Krull,

There's a trouble brewing over a spiked coffee line in Missouri.

A company that produces alcoholic coffee drinks filed a lawsuit yesterday in federal court seeking more than $20 million in damages from the Missouri winery that canned its beverages. The suit alleges the product became contaminated with an alcohol-resistant bacteria during the canning process, ruining thousands of cases of product.

According to the suit, the San Diego-based Cafe Agave entered into an agreement with Crown Valley Winery in Ste. Genevieve for the winery to can Cafe Agave’s Spiked Cold Brew line of beverages, specifically the flavors espresso wine, mocha wine specialty, salted caramel and vanilla cinnamon. The ingredients in the drinks include an alcoholic cream base and grape wine, the suit says.

Throughout August and September 2018, Crown Valley bottled the four flavors at its winery, but numerous bacteria were allegedly detected in the coffee drinks, including what the lawsuit refers to as the “the notorious wine spoiler” Zygosaccharomyces bailli .

The suit alleges that the winery was aware of the bacteria in September, yet they continued to can the products. Cafe Agave did not become aware of the bacteria issue until October.

Enter Pabst Brewing Company, maker of Blue Ribbon beer.

According to the lawsuit, Pabst wanted to license the Spiked Cold Brew from Cafe Agave with a 15-year distribution agreement. The agreement was contingent on Agave showing they could have the product ready for distribution in test markets by November 30, 2018.

Despite the detection of bacteria, the suit says Cafe Agave hoped it could still meet that deadline. The company “hoped that the alcohol in the products would eventually eliminate the bacteria.” That hope was dashed when the salted caramel became the first drink to coagulate.

“Ultimately, and despite Cafe Agave’s hope that the alcohol in the Vanilla Cinnamon, Mocha Wine Specialty and Espresso Wine flavors would eventually eliminate the contamination, all flavors coagulated and became unsaleable, and Cafe Agave was left with no option other than to destroy all 14,294 cases of its Spiked Cold Brew beverages,” the suit says. Cafe Agave subsequently had to pull out of the agreement with Pabst.

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