Loveland's Verboten Brewing tells a craft-beer trademark story with a happy ending
Verboten Brewing, which will open its doors this weekend in Loveland, takes its name for the German word for "forbidden," and is a reference to German beer-purity laws, or Reinheitsgebot, which forbade brewers in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries from using anything but water, barley and hops in their beers.
But Verboten's owners could have been forbidden from using something else late last summer when they discovered that their chosen name nearly ran afoul of another set of rules: United States trademark law.
Weyerbacher Brewing, an Easton, Pennsylvania company, owns the nationwide rights to the name because it trademarked the name of its Belgian-style pale ale, Verboten. But unlike some other recent trademark battles in the craft-brewing industry -- most notably those involving Denver's Strange Brewing -- this tale has a happier ending.
"We found out about it right around the Great American Beer Festival...so, we met with two lawyers who said we'd have to change our name," says Angeline Grenz, who owns the brewery along with her husband, Josh, and another couple, Joe and Keri Akers. "We love the name, but we were really sweating because of the whole Strange thing."
So, Grenz e-mailed Dan Weirback, who founded Weyerbacher in 1995, to explain the situation. "He sent us back a really nice e-mail and said he wasn't into litigation. He was very generous, and he said that that was the way the industry should be."
Although Verboten's owners are still awaiting the final paperwork, Grenz says they worked out a legal agreement with Weyerbach that allows Verboten to use its name and logo in Colorado as long as they don't actually brew a beer called "Verboten."
So when Verboten opens on Saturday as Loveland's fourth independent craft brewer, it will focus on serving beers that use fruit, spices, oak and all of the ingredients that were forbidden by the Reinheitsgebot -- but it will abide by Weirback's request.
Weirback didn't return a call seeking comment for this story, but Grenz says his attitude epitomizes what most relationships should be like in the craft-brewing industry.
"Breweries spend so much money to protect or defend themselves...and some of it is legit and some is excessive, especially when you are attacking breweries that are hundreds or thousands of miles away," she says. "It's lose-lose in a way, so we felt very fortunate in this instance."
At some point, the Boulder-based Brewers Association, which represents the interests of craft brewers nationwide, should get involved, she adds: "They are going to have to wade into this on some level. It would be nice if there was some mediation there to help brewers wade through laws and see what is acceptable."
Verboten will be open for a preview from 3 to 9 p.m. on Friday, January 11, and Saturday, January 12; they'll be serving three beers -- an IPA, a lemongrass wit and a caramel porter - and will welcome the Ablaze Food Truck on Saturday. Regular hours will follow sometime soon, and Vertboten expects to hold a grand opening on February 2.
The brewery, which makes its beers on a three-barrel system, plans to have different beers on tap all the time depending on how the brewers feel. "We like being able to change it up. It's very organic," Grenz says.
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