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Nitro Update

with 3 comments

Well, I promised to keep you up to date on Steamworks’ Owner Eli Gershkovitch’s other trademark dispute–the one against US-based Left Hand Brewing over the far too generic term “Nitro.” If none of this makes any sense to you, the words “Eli” and “trademark” entered the craft beer lexicon last fall when it was revealed that Mr Gershkovitch held (and was defending) a trademark on the term “Cascadia.” I have a summary of how things went down here. Or, if you want, just skip to Part 3 where I talk about Nitro here.

In the end, Steamworks did the right thing and allowed general usage of the term Cascadia, even though they still technically hold the trademark. In the US, though, they summoned lawyers and started to prepare a defence of Nitro against Left Hand Brewing, makers of their (quite decent) “Milk Stout Nitro.”

Lawyers and documents went back and forth. Deadlines were extended, letters exchanged, and law-talking-folk made rich. A trail of PDFs in legalize the length of my arm was generated, and it read about as exciting as one might imagine. In the end (just last week) negotiations between Eli and Left Hand concluded with Mr Gershkovitch agreeing to voluntarily give up the trademark. There’s no indication of what changed hands in the background to facilitate this, if anything.

Anyway, there you go. Presumably Left Hand will now proceed to register their own trademark on the term Nitro, but perhaps they’ll exclude more generic uses of the term when they do so (like, for instance, for beers with nitrogen in them). We can only hope. To be clear: this isn’t a win for craft beer. Neither outcome would be that. This is simply an update. So, uh, happy Friday.

Written by chuck

September 27th, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Granville Island Cloak and Dagger

with 3 comments

Well, here we are. GIB has finally let loose with the 2013 version of their Cascadian Dark Ale, the 2012 version of which started the whole CascadiaGate issue. Or, at least, that’s Steamworks’ story and they’re sticking with it.

For their part, Steamworks has since announced that everything is fine, and they realized the errors of their ways. Anyone can use “Cascadia” in the style of a beer, just so long as they don’t use it as the name (then they’ll have to pay $1). But I digress, this is not a story anyone even remotely familiar with beer in BC is not completely sick of. Kind of like our overly restrictive beer laws. What? Those are still here? Crap.


Pictured: Great beer in Costco. This is a thing that happens elsewhere in the world.

GIB also took the opportunity to relaunch their Limited Release Series as the Black Book Series. The beers themselves will be familiar versions of Brewmaster Vern Lambourne’s brews of years past, but they will have funky new labels and, for the first time, names.

Naming the beers is a concession to the “style but not name” requirement from Steamworks above, but also overdue. Good beers deserve names. The branding, though, is curious, as it de-emphasizes the “Granville Island Brewing” aspect so prevalent on GIB’s Molson-brewed beers, and instead highlights the specific beer. Frankly, the difference in quality between Molson’s “Granville Island” and Vern’s “Granville Island” has long been ill-served by the similar-looking bottles, so I say “well played, GIB.”

Anyway, back to the beer. What was the point of everyone turning towards Steamworks last fall and muttered “The fuck?” if not to protect a brewery’s right to make a fantastic hoppy beer and rightfully–truthfully–call it “Cascadian.” Sadly, that hypothetical beer is not this one (although Parallel 49 just released a Cascadian Dark Lager…)

Cloak and Dagger is a Cascadian Dark Ale, and all CDAs tend to be good, but it lacks that massive hop punch that trademarks the style. In fact, this is somewhat of a sweet ale… with an approachable taste, and that’s my main issue. CDAs are a beer nerd’s nerdy beer, and this just isn’t that. Sure, it has some of the toasted malt we all like in our CDAs, but that’s about it.

Tasting notes:

NOSE Dark malt, some roast coffee, and a mild punch of hops
APPEARANCE Black as night with light tan head
TASTE Sweet malt, although some bitterness from the roasting, not a lot of hops to back it up
SHOULD I BUY IT? Depends. Do you like sweeter, maltier IPAs? Then yes. Otherwise, give it a skip.

Coles notes:

Brewery Granville Island
From Vancouver
Name Cloak and Dagger
Style Cascadian Dark Ale
SOA Now None Awarded
SOA Potential Not a cellaring ale
Drink Now.
Lawsuit odds I’ll give you 4:1. I just don’t see them doing it.
Availability Widely available at LRS
Cost $? per 650ml bottle (free sample).
Similar BC Beers Howe Sound Gathering Storm

Written by chuck

April 30th, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with ,

Trademark Storm’s A-Brewing

with 6 comments

Here’s something I’ve been pondering recently: what with all the questions around brewery trademarks in the past year, it looks like we might be on a collision course for another round. Two new breweries are opening in BC this year, and both are rather curiously appropriating the names of existing beers produced by other breweries.

The two breweries (and their similarly named beers) are:

1. Beachcomber Brewing, in Gibsons, similar to Vancouver Island Beachcomber Blonde Ale
2. Deep Cove Brewing, in North Vancouver, similar to Bridge Brewing’s Deep Cove IPA (brewed just down the street)

In both cases the new breweries have a bit of an uphill battle, as the established guys have done their homework and registered their trademarks here and here.

To recap, I am absolutely for registering trademarks on brewery and beer names. It’s a little bit of bother that can save you a lot of headache down the line. That we might be seeing a fight between two craft breweries is unfortunate, but it just as easily could have been MolsonCoors coming to town with bright ideas on changing the beer game.


Pictured: Bright idea on changing the beer game. Seriously, it’s shit like this that makes you guys so easy to hate.

What do I think? For starters, this isn’t like that other famous beer trademark case (Cascadia) where the term was no longer used by the TM holder and, what’s more, had come to be widely used in the brewing industry to denote a generic style of beer instead of a specific brand. Both these new terms are very specific to the TM-holding breweries, and are not commonly used in the brewing industry at all.

So here’s my (completely ignorant, lay-person) thoughts on each:

Beachcomber. There are lots of old trademarks for this term in the database, including an abandoned application for a beer name by a now defunct brewery that I only just heard of this instant (Gibson’s Landing Brewing). Curiously, there aren’t any TV related TMs, but maybe the CBC wanted us to use the term for ourselves.

So what do I think of this situation? Does Mark Brand (of Save On Meats, Diamond, Boneta & Portside fame) have a case? I think not. Beachcomber is a broadly produced brand that VIB has used effectively in their product line for almost a year now. Maybe VIB might hand over the name to a start-up but I don’t see why they should have to give up all that investment in artwork and advertising just because a new guy didn’t do his homework–homework that someone like Mark Brand should KNOW to do.


Aside: How awesome would
Relic Brewing be?

Deep Cove. Okay, but what about Deep Cove? In general, I don’t like the too-common practice of using placenames for breweries or beers, since they’re not unique to you or yours. Bridge Brewing isn’t even in Deep Cove, so their claim might be a bit looser should a new brewery open up actually in said town. Luckily for them, this isn’t what happened. Deep Cove Brewing has reportedly secured some space on Dollarton Highway, just down the street from Bridge Brewing, if anything a bit further from Deep Cove than Bridge. If a new guy actually started up in Deep Cove then yeah, I’d have liked to see Bridge hand over the name in a gesture of goodwill but in this case, keep it.

I know what you’re muttering under your breath right now: “Why can’t they just live and let live?” Right? Why can’t both breweries use the name in the friendly spirit of craft brewing? Problem is, trademarks don’t work that way. Should VIB reach a “gentlemen’s agreement” with Beachcomber to “let this one slide” another brewery could use the existence of that agreement to (validly) argue that the TM is defunct and that, therefore, THEY should be able to use the term, and with the TM thrown aside this new guy doesn’t have to play nice and respect VIB’s branding.

Sure, we like to villainize the big guys in these cases (and not without cause), but if you were a small startup why bother building up a brand when you can just use this well-known one VIB has kindly made available free of charge? Sure would save having to run ads of your own. Basically, by allowing anyone else to use the term VIB would be voluntarily giving the TM up and they have no incentive to do so, and lots of incentive to not let that happen.

So what we’re left with is the reality that these two pairs of breweries will need to sit down and have a frank talk sometime soon (assuming they haven’t already) because the trademarks absolutely force them to do so. I just hope it all ends well, and without involving suits.

Psst: Seriously, though: RELIC BREWING! You know you want to!

Written by chuck

March 12th, 2013 at 2:51 pm