"Beer in Colorado" is dedicated to that divine elixir born of the marriage of water, malt, hops, and yeast as interpreted
by those living in Colorado. Follow the author as he visits every brewery in the state, creates experimental homebrews,
attends beer festivals, tries interesting beers from around the world, and spreads the good word of beer. Prost!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Colorado/Massachusetts War -- Pt. 2

What’s your beef, Massachusetts?  Did we insult your mother?  Did we sleep with your girlfriend?  The malice you’ve shown Colorado’s favorite industry is unacceptable.  First, Boston’s Mayor Menino, in full-on douche mode, disparaged our state’s great beer scene thus insulting our small business entrepreneurs.  In hindsight, that was a minor incident.  Menino looked like a jackass, Colorado kept on brewing, and life went on as usual (except in the case of Denver’s Mayor Hancock who knows how to keep a good grudge going).  Now, however, the Bay State’s gotten really nasty: the homebrew shop Strange Brew Beer & Wine Making Supplies of Marlborough, Massachusetts has threatened litigation against Denver’s own Strange Brewing Company for trademark infringement (read the whole story here).  As the man behind a blog titled Beer in Colorado, I feel it is my duty to protect my local brewery like a mama bear defending her cubs.  Look out, Chowdah-Heads, here come the claws.

Legal Distinction
Strange Brewing Company (which will hereby be referred to as “Strange”) is, of course, a brewery and Strange Brew Beer & Wine Making Supplies (which will hereby be referred to as “those jerks”) is, obviously, a homebrew supply store.  Ergo, there is no direct competition.  They both concern beer, true, but they are not the same type of business.  Furthermore, a quick Google search brings to light the fact that there are a ton of businesses with similar names—mostly coffeehouses.  Why aren’t those jerks going after them, too?  It’d make as much (non)sense.

Location, Location, Location
Massachusetts Man #1: “Hey, meet me at Strange Brew; I wanna make some bee-yuh.”
Massachusetts Man #2: “Wicked awesome!  See ya they-uh.”
Two weeks pass
Massachusetts Man #1: “I missed ya at Strange Brew. Where’d ya go?”
Massachusetts Man #2: “I got in the cah and drove to Calaradah.  That’s where Strange Brew is, yeah?”

The previous conversation is a work of pure fiction—it never happened.  Only an idiot could confuse an East Coast business for a Denver business.  Even if Strange and those jerks were in the exact same industry, the sheer distance between the two would ensure customer overlap.  There is no possible damage that could occur due to the shared name.

Who’s really infringing on a trademark?
Do those jerks think they’re the first to put the words “Strange” and “Brew” together?  “Strange Brew” existed before they ever opened for business and Bob and Doug McKenzie should be the ones suing thosejerksThe band Cream also has a case against them since they has a song titled “Strange Brew.” 

If you really want to talk about trademark encroachment then consider the dancing bear logo those jerks use on their website.  I think a certain hippie jam band may take issue with that image.  Jerry Garcia was apt to roll a joint but, with those jerks blatantly ripping him off, all the rolling he does now occurs in his grave.

Collaboration not Litigation
If you don’t know the story of Avery Brewing’s Collaboration not Litigation Ale then click here immediately.  It’s a feel-good story that exemplifies the mutual respect and support present in the craft beer industry—an industry with a “never sue” mentality.  If you got a problem, you settle amiably and without lawyers.  This is the approach Strange took, suggesting they co-market by selling those jerks’ products in their Denver taproom, but they were rebuked by the litigious pricks who deemed such an offer “offensive.”  I’m not sure what universe Massachusetts is in whereby providing more customers is considered offensive but that’s how they saw the situation.  Strange took the high road, those jerks took the low road and, when somebody breaks the unwritten law like that, it makes beer geeks question whether or not that person belongs in the brotherhood/sisterhood of craft beer.

Homebrew supply stores are, in large part, responsible for the beer craze we’re currently experiencing; hug and thank your local store manager today for all they do for beer.  However, when I think of those jerks, a few idioms come to mind: thin the herd, trim the fat, lose dead weight.  They’re a blemish on the face of craft beer and need to be removed.  It feels counterintuitive to call for the head of a business that’s moving craft beer forward but their antagonistic attitude makes them a liability, not an asset.  We can’t have them further ruining craft beer’s image. 

What can I do to help?
Support Strange in their time of need by “liking” Keep Strange Brewing Strange on Facebook.  Get on beer-related websites and encourage those on the East Coast to boycott those jerks’ store.  Spread the word of this injustice any way you can.  If you have a Twitter account, show your support for Strange (@StrangeBrewCo) and keep encouraging them.  Most importantly, go to Strange and enjoy one of their finely-crafted beers; our devotion to their beer is the best assistance we can give.  

Lawyers are intimidating but they cannot overcome our undying support of local beer so join the fight and save Strange.



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