Beer Man

Sonic Drive-In's Lawyers Crush the Slush at Wiley Roots Brewing

The infringing label (see new one below).
The infringing label (see new one below). Wiley Roots Brewing
When Wiley Roots Brewing began serving beer slushes last summer, the owners took their flavor inspiration from their favorite fast-food joint, Sonic Drive-In, known for its own iconic slushes and for delivering "service with the speed of sound." The beery fruit bombs, with flavors like watermelon limeade and orange blossom, were so popular that the brewery began canning them, paying homage to Sonic with a parody on the label.

Last month, however, shortly after Wiley Roots owner and head brewer Kyle Carbaugh announced that he was bringing the sour slushes back with new packaging, he got a three-page letter — also delivered with the speed of sound — from Crowe & Dunlevy Attorneys and Counselors at Law, the firm that represents Sonic.

It turns out that the packaging refresh, which included references to Sonic's logo and Route 44 branding, may "have strayed from parody to infringement," Carbaugh admits. (See the full letter below.)

click to enlarge The new label will pay tribute to the slushy machine. - WILEY ROOTS BREWING
The new label will pay tribute to the slushy machine.
Wiley Roots Brewing
So the Greeley brewery says it will once again change its branding on the beer and "remove all references to their muse including brands (including the Double Delta Logo and Route 44 marks) from their products, the website, and all social media accounts." The new branding will pay tribute instead to the brewery's original slushy machine; it now has three to keep up with demand.

“We completely understand where they [Sonic] are coming from. What initially started off as a bit of an inside joke between the brewery and our fans gained far more momentum than we had ever anticipated," Carbaugh says. "Once we saw the trending popularity of this series, we figured it would only be a matter of time before the inside joke grew beyond its means and would require rebranding."

And he bears no ill will toward Sonic: not only will Carbaugh continue to frequent his local Sonic, but he is having the cease-and-desist letter framed and hung on the taproom wall.

You can see the letter starting on April 12, when Wiley Roots kicks off a three-day Slush series party, complete with patio games and corn dogs from Wing Shack (in a nod to Sonic's corn dogs). As for the slushes, there will be cans of Purple Slush, Blue Slush and Raspberry Limeade Slush with on-site only variants of Real Dill Slush, Frozen Double Cherry Limeade Slush, Frozen Slusholada and Frozen Slusharita.

It remains to be seen which beverage, Sonic's or Wiley Roots', pairs better with tater tots.

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes