At Craft Brewing Business, beer is brain food. Pour, sip, think and repeat. Imagine a Rodin sculpture, a bronzed statue of a man sitting on marble, deep in thought, one fist propping up his chin and the other holding a pint of strong ale. It’s how CBB editors like Jason Morgan look on most days, but always on Friday. By Friday, the CBB squad is ready to crack open the fridge (or kegerator), pick a beer and discuss this week’s big news in craft brewing. We suggest you do the same thing. Because this isn’t a one-way conversation — we want to hear from you too. Let us know what stories caught your attention and what craft beer you’re looking forward to enjoying in the comments below. Cheers!
Keith Gribbins, editor:
Today, we’re social media monsters. It’s how we discover news. It’s how we keep in touch. It’s how we meet our husbands and wives. It’s also how we do business — albeit sometimes we can get carried away with our open forum (on all accounts). The trademark dispute between Magic Hat and West Sixth Brewing might be an example of that.
Every week there are trademark disputes in the craft beer industry. The craft scene is on fire these days, which means many more breweries are entering the segment and clamoring for unique and interesting names and logos for their products. In fact, there are more 14,000 beer product names currently registered or in the process of registration at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. As the craft scene changes, protecting one’s brands through trademark registration is a greater necessity, much more so than even a few years ago. Still lots of folks run into problems — Great Lakes and Widmer Brothers — Sierra Nevada and Finback Brewery — No-Li and Star Hill Brewing. Most of these craft breweries have handled these situations rather swiftly and professionally.
We can understand it makes people angry. Northern Lights Brewing certainly didn’t want to change its name to No-Li Brewhouse. Why did they? We interviewed founder Mark Irvin in April:
“We saw the potential for Northern Lights Brewing, founded in 1993, on a national and international scale, but also recognized the inherent risks of customer brand confusion and the cost associated in defending the Northern Lights Brewing Co. name,” Irvin said. “We attempted to contact and seek a remedy for the obvious confusion over our uses of the Northern Lights name. Despite our best efforts, we were not able to have meaningful communications, i.e., they gave us the silent treatment. Once we decided to move on, it allowed us a fresh canvas to focus on the positive aspects of creating beers.”
The response was to get back to making great craft beer. That’s hard to do that when you’re busy defending a logo or brand trademark suit. In my opinion, the best solution is to find a quick and amicable solution, so you can move on, even if that means biting the bullet and saying you were wrong (even if you weren’t).
Craft Choice: Sierra Nevada’s Ovila Abbey Saison (props to communications manager Ryan Arnold for sending it along)
Chris Crowell, editor:
I like so many aspects of the craft brewing industry, from my outsider, editorial perspective: the small businesses, the entrepreneurial spirit, the innovation, the camaraderie of both the creators and customers and (obviously) the product itself. But one aspect that is most interesting is the near-endless possibilities that exist in the market, both national and local.
Another industry I cover is the title insurance industry, which couldn’t sound like more of a polar opposite subject matter, but the title industry is also a very close-knit community made up of many small businesses and entrepreneurs as well. Their businesses though, for the most part, are directly tied to the static whims of the housing market, which is cyclical. Is the market on the rise? Is it declining? And the last four years the question has been: Have we hit bottom? Economists and CEOs are always looking at the numbers and trying to pinpoint when consumer demand for housing will start its upswing again.
The practice of brewing itself predates U.S. land records, but, amazingly, the industry catering to this time-honored tradition is just now really taking off. What is exciting about craft brewing, I think, is the market (at least right now) isn’t defined by a finite space with floors and ceilings. We’re talking beer here. People are always drinking it. Sure, the numbers may fluctuate for the big guys, but craft brewers have all sorts of room to breathe and convert new customers. What will be your plan to help drive the enthusiasm for new beer within these growing customer segments? How will you establish or reestablish yourself in the existing market? There might be a ceiling or a floor in this world as well, but might as well keep pushing boundaries until we find it.
Craft choice: Great Lakes Brewing Lake Erie Monster
Jason Morgan, editor:
Sure, there has been serious craft business this week – from trademark disputes to industry numbers and business plans – as the other esteemed editors highlighted. But let us not forget that this is also a fun-loving industry that isn’t afraid to put some personality into creative marketing.
Stone’s latest hilarious, hop-huffing, viral video has me hyped for several reasons. First, w00tstout sounds awesome. Second, it’s a collaboration with Wil Wheaton of Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) fame. Sci-Fi fits with summer as well as wheats and IPAs. I’m finishing up season four of TNG and already miss Wheaton’s wacky Wesley Crusher experiments. Luckily, the release of Stone and Wheaton’s craft beer collaboration is just around the corner. Time to set a course for deliciousness. Engage!
Craft choice: Stone IPA