Follow me:

    The Curious Case of Stone vs. Keystone

    If you are new to my website you might think that this is a beer blog dedicated to beer law and all it’s legalities. Being that this is my 3rd post in my last 4th that takes on a legal aspect of the beer industry you would have a good case (pun intended) with that assumption. Alas I am no lawyer, let alone trying to run a law blog about the beer game, but I have recently found the intricacies of beer laws fascinating. With that in mind yesterday I got a nice, new story to drop many hours of my day reading about with the news that Stone Brewing Company was suing MillerCoors for trademark infringement over the rebranding and marketing of their Keystone Light brand. A craft brewery suing a big boy brewery? Woah!

    The news of the case was broken by Stone themselves through the use of a cheeky video staring co-founder and fellow graying beard enthusiast Greg Koch. In true Stone style the video includes Greg being snarky if not arrogant (get it?) while explaining the company’s thought process through the entire decision for the lawsuit. I mean do you expect Stone to be 100% straight laced?

    He sites new can designs that prominently display the word STONE separated from it’s usual partnering word KEY and, honestly, at this point the video it seems very obvious that Greg is covering the KEY word up with his hand and it can make you think that this is nothing but a publicity stunt. When this is followed up by Greg claiming that this was indeed not a marketing campaign in a five minute, well produced video with graphics, a soundtrack and an official hastag it’s hard for some to not think that it was a stunt. However when new sources received the official complaint you could tell right away that this was anything but a game. Continue reading…

    Beer Labeling Guidelines for Dummies

    First let’s get this out of the way. I am in no way calling you a dummy for not knowing or understanding the Tax and Trade Bureau’s (TTB) complex and sometimes asinine standard by which they hold labeling of alcohol to. It’s pretty intense and the documentation on their website can be either hard to understand or extremely vague when you do find something. Additionally, good luck on getting anyone over there on the phone to try to answer your questions. Government, am I right? What I’m saying is that if I can learn this stuff then I am assuming any of you can as well.

    The TTB are the federal regulating body that handles practically everything an alcohol producer does. They issue brewer’s notices, collect taxes and approve label designs. Yes, this tiny branch of the Treasury Department can have a profound say over what is one your beer label.

    Now you might be saying right now, “But Mike, I only distribute within my brewery’s home state and the TTB says that I don’t have to get approval on labels for that.” You are correct with that statement but you are still required to follow and adhere to all of the the TTB’s guidelines and rules relating to labeling your beer.

    It should also be noted that all of this applies to both kegged and packaged beer. Keg collars do not get a pass on labeling requirements. So just because you are draft only doesn’t mean that you should be skipping this lesson.

    With the recent uptick in breweries illegally using other people’s intellectual property and a brewery friend asking me for some information on labeling over the weekend it got me thinking about other common mistakes I see in labeling by breweries. Now I am writing to provide you with some information on what is acceptable and what is not when it comes to beer labeling.

    This will be the part where I say that I am not an attorney and what I say is not to be considered legal advice. This is just industry advice from my 5 years of dealing with the TTB and the whole COLA (Certificate of Label Approval) process. Continue reading…

    2018: Riding the Trends or Bucking Them?

    I think, for many of us, 2017 will be a year we never forget. The 365 days we lived the state of our world, the state of our morals and even the state of our beer seemed to be summed up into the phrase “this is not normal”.

    Last year saw the craft beer industry in a place in which it hasn’t been in for a long time – struggling with growth. Every day the number of breweries went up as operations of all shapes and sizes came on, reaching from ocean to ocean and border to border. With this growth the competition in the market for tap handles and shelf space became tighter. Some national and regional brands, long thought of as the leaders of growth, struggled to find the steady growth they’d became accustomed to in previous years or for some declines for the first time in the modern beer boom. It would seem the people were saying “Why should I drink this beer made several states away when I have this great small brewery right in my town?”

    But even small, local breweries with years of experience and acclaim, that you may have though could never waver, find themselves struggling to keep the drinkers they once had. More and more “neighbors” are opening up and offering something new or even something better and the once thought of veterans of the scene now find themselves playing catch up to the new kids on the block.

    We saw the rise in popularity of styles that has caused as many divisions as our nation’s politics. Is the push of innovation leading to the downfall of stability? Ask Twitter and you’ll see that strong divide again. Continue reading…