University of Miami Law Review


Following the line of cases asking questions such as what is a chicken, and is a burrito a sandwich, comes the next deep legal issue, what is beer? How do we determine this seemingly simple question? Do we simply know it when we see (or taste) it? Does it require a mix of specific ingredients or certain processes? Or, if we should rely on definitions, do we look to the dictionary, history, or statutes? In a dispute in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, the court is asked to resolve this question. Courts have long used tools of contractual interpretation to determine the meaning of terms to which the parties involved have agreed. Sometimes though, it is not always so easy to determine what the parties meant, even when they provide definitions in the contract. This is further confused when the terms in controversy have historical, scientific, social, industrial, and legal definitions. Through the history and science of beer, principles of judicial contract interpretation, and judicial contract interpretation case law we will explore how the courts determine these issues, and whether there are better ways to answer life’s hard questions.