Fake Corona In China

Thursday, October 16, 2008 9:10
Posted in category Uncategorized

This evening while hosting a dinner party, one of my guests noticed something funny about his beer (a Corona).  simply put, he said “this isn’t beer”.

After a few people took their skeptical sips, we hauled out the rest of the bottles in the refrigerator to make the side by side comparison.

Which, as you will notice, showed us that we had in fact a bad batch of beer on our hands.

1) The color of the real (bottle on left) vs. the fake  (bottles on right) show distinct color differences
2) Look at the different levels on the fake ones
3) Bottle caps on real bottle curve in where the bottle cap ridges point out

so, for those of you tipping back a bottle of Corona, be careful.  I cannot say that there was melamin in the beer, but lord only knows what was really in that bottle.

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11 Responses to “Fake Corona In China”

  1. Zhou Ji-Ming says:

    October 16th, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    Ok, now I’m worried.

  2. Dan says:

    October 16th, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    One of the Chinese law firms with whom we frequently work represents a leading Chinese liquor company that sells very expensive stuff. We are told that about half the stuff out there is fake and that buying it from Carrefour changes little.

    Were these real bottles that were refilled, or was everything fake from day one? Ugh…shudder….

  3. S. Rein says:

    October 16th, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Where did you buy the fake Corona?

  4. Rich says:

    October 16th, 2008 at 8:00 pm


    they appeared to be recycled bottles with boxes that were nearly perfect (different box grade, but design was there).


  5. Kellen says:

    October 16th, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    if a trip to the dvd store tells you anything, it’s that they’ve got package duplication down to an art form.

    when i was in egypt the small stores would ask you to return the glass bottles when you buy a coke so that they can get them refilled. that just lead me to buy coke in plastic.

    if it “isn’t beer”, i shudder to think what it would be.

  6. Rich says:

    October 16th, 2008 at 9:47 pm


    Don’t know. we had 3 people bring 5 packs in total (taco night), and we are not sure from which group it came….


  7. kou says:

    October 17th, 2008 at 2:56 am

    This is common–too common–here in Guangzhou as well. It’s especially disheartening in light the ongoing tainted milk scandal. I hope none of the milk is being repackaged (or re-bottled like the counterfeit Corona you were sold). Note that I also posted on fake alcohol. I’ve included an excerpt below. Cheers.

    […] I’ve many friends in the bar business in Guangzhou and they all say the same thing about their alcohol distributors: “They ask us if we want the real version or the fake version.” This is especially common with foreign liquors (Chivas Regal, Jack Daniels, JW Red Label, and Absolute–see this BBC article or this Guardian article), Chinese baijiu (Maotai–see this Opposite End of China post), and Chinese beer (Zhujiangchunsheng and Tsingtao–see above). Here’s how it works: the savvy bar owner offers a particular bottle–and it seems to be only bottles–at an unusually low price. For example […]

  8. kou says:

    October 17th, 2008 at 2:58 am

  9. David says:

    October 20th, 2008 at 1:27 am

    Suddenly I am starting to see the virtues of home-brew…

  10. ChinaMatt says:

    October 20th, 2008 at 1:37 am

    Glad I don’t drink Corona in China. But I have heard of a bit of fake beer going around. And I realized something nice about some Chinese beers: the foil wraps over the bottle cap. I guess Tsingtao and Kingway figured people would fake the beer, so they got a little safety seal in a way.

  11. Richard Gould says:

    October 20th, 2008 at 3:48 am

    I work in anti-counterfeiting/brand protection, and this doesn’t surprise me in any way.

    Be advised that there are massive amounts of fake liquor and beer out there–both Chinese and Western brands are knocked off with alarming regularity. There have been cases in China of people dying from industrial-strength liquor passed off as whiskey or bai jiu.

    As another commenter suggested, real bottles (and even cans) are often refilled with bogus liquor and sold to distributors, stores, clubs, bars, KTVs, restaurants, etc. There is a huge margin on these counterfeits–think about the profit made from filling a Chivas bottle with 20RMB worth of liquor and selling it for 250. Many venues knowingly serve/sell fake booze; many unknowingly serve/sell fakes because they cannot tell the difference.

    There is no surefire way to distinguish genuine liquor from fake that will work in every circumstance. A taste test is your best bet, but I do have a few tips:

    -Rich, you were right to check the amount of liquor in each bottle. If a case or six-pack has bottles filled to varying heights, that means they were bottled by hand, not on an assembly line.

    -Peel back beer labels. Horizontal lines means they were rolled on a machine in a large factory; gobs of adhesives mean they were slapped on by an individual.

    -Check the color of any colored spirit. Color discrepencies from bottle to bottle should be noted, or check for a different color than what you are used to.

    -If you get bottle service, many venues will sell one genuine bottle, let you get a bit tipsy, and then sell you counterfeit booze for the rest of the evening.

    [email protected]–that foil is easily replicated and not a surefire anti-counterfeiting mechanism. Sorry. Holograms don’t work either and have an average lifespan of 6 months at best before they are counterfeited perfectly.

    -I’ve seen fake beer in real cans–the cans are simply resealed with a new metal top, just like a homebrewer would do.

    -Most fake beer is very cheap beer poured into more expensive bottles, sometimes diluted with water or chemicals. Most fake liquor comes from a bulk liquor factory; ie: fake whiskey may just be really cheap bulk whiskey, cut with water. Sometimes industrial liquors or grain liquors are used, especially in place of white spirits or to cut white spirits. Most fake booze “factories” are small shacks filled with empty bottles, a few plastic barrels of booze, and a few guys with funnels. There is pretty low overhead and a lot of money to be made.

    If it tastes wrong, don’t drink it!!