Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dank 'craft' beer spat.

The brew-ha-ha in a hop-cone.

  • 1835: The first recorded use of the term India Pale Ale (aka IPA).

  • 1995: Lagunitas Brewery in California first brews its IPA. Names it "IPA India Pale Ale". The label prominently features the lettering "IPA" in slightly distressed typeface.

  • January 2015: Sierra Nevada Brewing, also in California, annnounces plan to release Hop Hunter IPA, a beer it will brew with oils distilled from freshly-picked hops.

  • Some beer writers reveal their wine envy, inaptly and ineptly comparing the beer to the French wine industry's gimmicky and inferior Beaujolais nouveau wine.

  • The Hop Hunter label prominently features the lettering "IPA," with similar spacing as the Lagunitas label (but dissimilar typeface, label coloring, artwork, etc.)

  • Lagunitas informally (non-legally) complains to Sierra Nevada about label similarities. Sierra Nevada allegedly ignores complaint.

  • 13 January 2015: Lagunitas announces that it will sue Sierra Nevada over trademark infringement.

  • 'Craft' beer drinkers express indignation, and plan for boycotts of Lagunitas' beers. "Je Suis Sierra Nevada"?

  • 13 January 2105: Sierra Nevada posts this response on its blog:
    We’ve been making IPAs since 1981. Hop Hunter IPA is the latest product in our portfolio, with the bright Sierra Nevada banner prominently displayed across the top of the design, and the beer style underneath—an IPA in this case—so that beer drinkers know exactly what beer they are reaching for. We have no interest in our products being confused with any other brand.

  • 13 January 2015: Lagunitas relents. Owner Tony Magee tweets:
    Today I was seriously schooled & I heard you well. [...] Tomorrow mornin we'll Drop the Infringement Suit.

  • On a related note, Anchor Brewing, also of California (coincidence?), first released its "Anchor Steam Beer" in 1971, using wavy, slightly distressed typeface on the beer's label, trademarking that. Since then, other breweries, when bullied with threatened lawsuits, have incorrectly assumed that the words "Steam Beer" are themselves protected.

  • As a result of this imbroglio, 'craft' brewers realize that beer is a business. Act accordingly, but cordially.

  • 'Craft' beer drinkers realize that beer is a business. Relax; don't worry; have a pro brew.

Those last two bullet points are fanciful. The rest of the story is true ... at least as reported on the interwebs.


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