Thursday, May 23, 2013

Trademarks: Here We Go Again

It seems like we can't even blink between trademark disputes in the craft brewing industry. And it also seems like each dispute grows uglier than the previous.  Today, we see two breweries engaged in this ugliness: Magic Hat Brewing Co. and West Sixth Brewing, with the former suing the latter for trademark infringement. Social media sites just ooze of nastiness, mostly from supporters of each brewery, but occasionally from the breweries themselves--at least, they have not done much, if anything, to stop the flow.

Some of the rancor stems from the image of a giant beer company picking on a weaker one. And this does not sit well in a culture that has only recently become aware of the affects of bullying. Magic Hat is the playground bully; West Sixth is the new kid at school. The fight has begun.

Sadly, it could have been avoided. Private phone conversations, one-on-one discussions and even email would have been preferable to social media, lawyers' letters and lawsuits. Even though it sounds like attempts at personal contact were unsuccessful, going from discussion to lawsuit is a giant leap over some critical steps. Facilitated dialogue, mediation, and settlement conference are always options for disputants.  While more effective prior to retaining legal counsel, these options are still on the table.

Still, it surprises me that Magic Hat and its corporate connections have not figured out the power of social media. A power that can build and destroy. West Sixth knows this and are using it to their advantage. At least, so far. While I'm no prognosticator, this dispute will harm both breweries. And that's sad. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

ROY G BIV at Crooked Stave

I gotta say, I had a blast at Crooked Stave's release party of Wild Wild Brett Violet this past Sunday. While I didn't get there super early, 2 bottles of this rare beer ended up in my hands and later in my "cellar". Honestly, though, I would not have cared all that much if no bottles made it to my humble abode.  Why? Well, I'll tell ya...

If there is one "duh" moment I've ever had, it was on Sunday when I said, a little under my breath, that craft beer lovers really do love craft beer. I know, duh!  But really, looking back on that day, through pictures or stories, there endured that one constant. Craft beer lovers love craft beer, and because of this, grabbing two bottles of WWBV was just a bonus, even an afterthought. The brewmaster, Chad, spoke individually to each person purchasing WWBV, thus keeping the spirit of craft brewing alive: it's about the relationship, community and atmosphere, with great beer added.

See, the line stretched around the corner, and then the next corner of the building outside. It moved slowly. Waiting time to get a beer from Crooked Stave's rather small bar was about 20 minutes. To get a bottle was 3 hours, with many in line not getting even one before the bottles ran out. Tap times were discombobulated.  WWBOrange wasn't tapped (as far as I know) due to massive foaming. It was crowded. One bathroom was hammered with...well, beer-sidules.

But get this: I drank more different (and delicious) beers at this event than any other, maybe...maybe excluding GABF. When craft beer lovers get together, they bring craft beer. They dive into their cellars and private collections and offer bottles to beer geek friends and strangers. And most of these beers, if not all, are hind to find and obtain: i.e. the white whales.
Here, look at this:
This is just a glimpse of the bottle share...the lineup continues...

Beer wasn't the only thing brought along.  Cheese, grapes, water, soup, was a backyard gathering with friends and strangers who just love craft beer. It was a great time. It was Craft Beer fun.

Oh, and there was some sort of bottle release inside.