01 Nov Doubling Up on Indiana Brewery Names – Twin Children of Different Mothers
A couple of weeks ago we talked about the dreaded cease & desist letter that every brewery has received at one point or another (here). It most likely comes in response to a beer name, too much like another that happens to be in distribution. Or it could be for the brewery name itself, too much like another brewery or some other entity or person. Or in the case of Blind Owl Brewery in Indianapolis, it could be over a logo.
The rapper, Drake, took offense at the logo that Blind Owl had originally chosen for their brewery. Drake’s record label is called OvO, which stands for October’s Very Own – like the month has elected him as its representative since he was born in October. He said that OvO reminded him of an owl, so he took an owl for his brand image. According to Drake, Blind Owl’s owl was too close to his own so the brewery changed theirs, but it gets more interesting. Drake was sued for selling knock-offs of a Beverly Hills jeweler’s owl creations made for Drake’s posse in 2014. Drake said he didn’t rip off the jeweler, the jeweler ripped of the Egyptians – his owl logo was based on a hieroglyph. I guess legal outrage is relative.
Luckily, Blind Owl has an artist on staff in the person of Josh Brinson. He is the company’s beer buyer and manager of the bars for all the Lux establishments, and he happens to be very talented in the visual arts and graphic design. Those branded T-shirts they have for their core beers – he did those; that large murals on the walls by the patio, he painted those. Josh redesigned the logo and now everyone is happy. Some day, I’ll tell you the story of why the brewery is called Blind Owl – or you could go drink a beer there and ask Jess, Bandi, or Lisa.
Last time we decided that we were going to limit our discussion to brewery names when talking about Indiana names, so I looked into the names of all the breweries in Indiana. It turns out that a whole bunch of them share names or parts of names with breweries in the US or around the world. And as we discussed last week, having a name close to a brewery in another country makes it less likely that you’ll get one of those letters or be forced to send one, but it doesn’t eliminate the possibility.
So, which breweries in Indiana share a name or have a similar name to another brewery – you’d be surprised to learn how many. You might even be more surprised to know how many breweries know about their doppelgangers and have spoken to them. Maybe it’s a Hoosier Hospitality sort of thing, most have no problem with sharing a name with another beer maker. I like that in general, but if someone is going to cost you money, something must be done – breweries are businesses after all.
Lets go down a partial list of those breweries I talked to about the issue or lack of one:
Redemption Alewerks on the north side of Indianapolis opened in 2014, but there was already a Redemption Brewing in London since 2011. Brandon Smith of Redemption states that he just didn’t consider a brewery in another country when he decided on the name. Plus, the use of the unique “Alewerks” made it even less likely there was going to be a problem. This, of course, has not prevented problems when it comes to checking in beers on Untapped or posting beers on Digital Pour.
Brandon told me, “We have had some issues with our Digital Beer board/keg inventory system in regards to beer names and how they are categorized by brewery. Many regular bars and breweries use Digital Pour in their tap rooms as well. They have a user generated database of breweries and beers within their software that bars and breweries use when adding beers to their “On Deck” inventory system prior to actually tapping the keg and adding it to the digital menu. For a while, we had a lot of issues with users adding Redemption Brewing beers to our catalogue of offerings and vice versa. I know that Digital Pour had some conversations with them on our behalf during this time and has all been corrected now.”
Along those same lines, Redemption has had people check in beers that they drank in England and vice versa. Brandon said that he has even had phone calls asking if they distribute beer in England or Europe. Oh, the issues that brewers have to deal with that we drinkers have no idea of….but it get’s weirder. Another Indiana craft beverage producer almost took the name of Redemption.
As Brandon tells it, “I was working a beer fest sometime in the summer of 2016 and happened to be given a table next to Ash & Elm Cider Co. They were very new at the time and I had only just heard of them and not sampled any of their product. One of the owners, Andrea, was working the table for them and I got to chatting with her quite a bit. She is very nice and I think they produce a very good product. She opened up to me a little bit and explained that they had worked for quite some time on their business plan and general organization of their business with the plan of calling it ‘Redemption Cider Company’.”
He added, “Then one day, less than six months before they eventually opened their doors for business, she happened to be driving by on 96th Street and saw our sign out front.” Long story short, Ash & Elm changed their name within that few months of opening because they were unaware of Redemption Alewerks. It hasn’t seemed to hurt either of them at all, but it pays to do the due diligence early in the process – it can save some headaches later.
Broken Barrel Brewing in New Haven isn’t even open yet, but my search for similar names did bring up a Broken Barrel Brewing in St. Louis. The good news is that the other Broken Barrel has only every released one beer; the bad news is that they are a subsidiary of AB-InBev.
I talked to Ashlee Hanley of Indiana’s Broken Barrel to see if they had considered this problem – and they have. She said, “When we learned about the AB-InBev connection we had our attorney look into it and we learned that the name was used in fine print for a beer called Oculto that was discontinued in 2015 and which they never trademarked or branded. We then proceeded to file for the trademark for Broken Barrel with the United States Patent Office and had no opposition to our application; it’s all good.”
Even a big brewery like Sun King can have a potential issue (although I don’t think it will ever be one). There is a macrobrewery in China called Sunking (one word) that has produced a single beer since 2015. One, you don’t want to get mixed up with a huge company, and two you don’t want to get mixed up with a huge company in China, but our Sun King seems to have done their due diligence. I asked Beth Belange about it and she said, “Chinese trademark and patent law is a whole different animal and US laws do not apply, nor are they enforceable, so we don’t have much to say or do about it.” I trust them, Sun King definitely knows what they are doing.
Indiana’s Four Fathers Brewing predates Ontario’s Four Fathers (a very popular brewery in Canada) by a solid year, so if anything was going to be done about it, they would have a solid footing – of course they don’t cross distribution territories, yet. This is a good story for this article though, because Beth and Jason of Indiana’s Four Fathers get confused with the other Four Fathers all the time on social media, they just use it as an opportunity to talk about Indiana beer. Beth said, “We’ve been complimenting each other on beers that sound good, etc…We opened a year before they did and oddly enough one of the owners stopped in a couple years back and brought us Four Fathers T-shirt’s and other stuff which we traded for some of our own swag.” Yes indeed, I like the way this was handled.
Cedar Creek Brewing outside Martinsville has built a small empire out in the country with a brewery, distillery, and winery all with same base name. But there is a Cedar Creek Brewery in Seven Points, TX that has been opened three years longer than their Indiana cousin.
I talked to owner Bryce Elsner about having a name so close to another brewery. He said, “Yes, we are aware of them. We go by Cedar Creek Brewing Co. on all business paperwork. But most people know us for having all three alcohol types. So we typically go by Cedar Creek Winery, Brewery, and Distillery even though we are three separate businesses. We also go by Drink at the Creek.”
He added, “As far as distribution, I don’t believe they do much, if any, distribution out of Texas. We’re happy with just distro. in Indiana for now. Maybe at some point we could send product to surrounding states, but that will take a lot of growth, which with us being a destination location could either come quick or slow. People seem to want to come here to visit rather than buying our product in their own town.”
Wildrose Brewing in Griffith is named for the street where they started brewing, so the one word thing was never an issue for them – “wildrose” instead of “wild rose.” The two word version is probably more common, so it isn’t strange to see that there is a Wild Rose Brewing in Calgary, Canada. The Canadian brewery predates Indiana’s by five years and is pretty big in Canada (over 77,000 Untappd check ins, 300 beers produced and recently purchased by the 3rd largest brewery in Canada, Sleeman Breweries), but since co-owner Karen DeJong also works for lawyers and Wildrose incorporated the name here in the US, they are confident that they are safe.
Karen says that they haven’t met or talked to their namesake across the northern border, but they do occasionally talk to their fans and people upset with them. They sometimes get praises on Facebook meant for the Canadian brewery, and then there was the one direct message note from someone who was upset that they got cut off in traffic by the Wild Rose delivery truck. Karen was forced to answer, “We‘re in Indiana and have no tagged company vehicle, lol.”
Cannon Ball Brewing in Indianapolis is named for the motorcycle racer Erwin, “Cannon Ball” Baker. The newspaper writer who dubbed Baker as such used it as two words, so brewery owner Mark Swartz stayed true to tradition and used it as two words also. Today, however, the motorcyclist is more often referred to as Cannonball Baker, and if Mark had used that version, he would be even closer to the name of another brewery.
Cannonball Creek Brewing in Golden, CO has been around since 2013 and has had much success. They are the only brewery that has medaled at GABF every year since they opened. Yet Mark says he has spoken to them and, “They aren’t too worked up about a neighborhood brewery in Indiana that does very little distribution and does nothing outside the borders of Indiana.”
Conclusion. It seems as if most naming issues aren’t really a problem at all, and that is reflective of the community feel amongst breweries, even across state or national borders. However, these are businesses and confusion amongst brands can lead to lost revenue. Therefore, next time we can look at a few more Indiana breweries that have name close to others and where letters have been sent – or may be sent soon.