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Beware False Flags on Fourth of July Beer

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- When bars dye beer green on St. Patrick's Day and drop a lime into any pale lager they see on Cinco de Mayo, it shouldn't stun anyone that brewers would want to cloak themselves in the American Flag for the Fourth of July.

It's a bit more off-putting to see brewers with headquarters in London, Brazil, Belgium and Costa Rica put on their most American face just to sell a few more beers during the peak U.S. beer-drinking season.

According to the Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, July is the last of the peak summer months for beer sales. Shipments that fester around 14 million to 15 million barrels through spring suddenly jump to about 18.5 million barrels in May and June before settling in a 18 million or so in July. By August, it's down to roughly 17 million barrels before collapsing to as low as 13.6 million by december. The brewers put on their summer finery around Memorial Day and proceed to wear the Stars and Stripes throughout the season.

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Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) repeatedly uses this idea in an attempt sell Budweiser, despite the fact that parent company Anheuser-Busch was sold in 2008. The resulting company not only laid off a bunch of folks in Anheuser-Busch's old stomping grounds of St. Louis, but set up headquarters in Leuven, Belgium, to keep up appearances for Stella Artois drinkers while keeping its seat of power in Sao Paolo, Brazil, for chief executive Carlos Britto and company.

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Budweiser's red, white and blue cans launched on Memorial Day this year with a promise to donate $3 million to the Folds of Honor Foundation and provide more than 600 scholarships to families of U.S. soldiers killed or disabled in action. It's a noble gesture, but branding experts have not only questioned tying beer to Memorial Day, which is meant to be a somber occasion honoring those who died in military service, but using such a promotion to launch a summer campaign intended to sell beer.

Miller took a similar approach five years ago when it launched red, white and blue cans of Miller High Life that May. It teamed with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Operation Homefront to "Welcome Veterans Back to the High Life" by letting them throw out the first pitch at a pro baseball game or giving them great seats at NASCAR races or other events. Miller donated 10 cents for each cap or tab returned to it, but quite obviously could have made that same donation without giving its cans a Stars and Stripes paint job.

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