The craft-brewing industry's troubles with beer and brewery names aren't going away any time soon, as the latest example shows.
Former Future Brewing, which won't open in Denver until later this year, has already been served with a cease-and-desist order over the names of its beers -- beers that it hasn't even brewed commercially or sold to a single member of the public.
Former Future owners James and Sarah Howat posted the news on their blog (you can read it below), along with a picture of a beer from Societe Brewing, a relatively new beer-maker in San Diego, which already makes a couple of beers with the same name and sent a letter from its lawyer.
"They don't have a trademark and aren't selling in Colorado, but we didn't want to end up in a situation down the road where we are fighting with them if we end up in the same markets," says James, who has chosen to change the names of his beers -- and his entire branding strategy -- as a result. "We could have ignored the letter and said, 'Screw them,' and beat them to the punch in Colorado, but we decided to avoid confusion."
And while the exchange appears to have been a polite one, and Former Future was conciliatory in its blog post, the letter was just one of many that have been sent over the past two years to and from craft breweries in Colorado and around the country.
The Howats, who will specialize in "futuristic interpretations of historical styles" along with sour and wild ales, signed a lease for their spot on South Broadway's Antique Row in July. They have a 3.5-barrel brewing system and several fermenters.
Here is the Former Future blog post:
And it was bound to happen...
A letter. Received unexpectedly from another brewery, asking that we change our branding.
It was kind, thoughtful, and firm. It was written by a lawyer. Crap.
Societe Brewing, out of San Diego, California, had discovered us via one of their employees. And, they discovered a very important and concerning piece of information: two of our beers, and theirs, overlapped in name. Both the Harlot and the Roustabout share names with Societe. But beyond that, they too use names of members/occupations in society, much like Former Future has done.
Upon reviewing Societe's letter, we gave them a call. They were gracious and understanding. But really, it boiled down to this:
They've been in business for several years now, and have won several awards for those beers with which we share names. For Former Future, it was a no-brainer. We had to not only cease the use of the Harlot and the Rousabout... we had to change our entire branding scheme.
But, we'd rather it be now than later. We'd rather get this email now, prior to opening, than later, down the road when are open and established and releasing new beers and even further building our brand. We'd rather think really long and hard about our branding and make it something truly unique to carry forward throughout the life of Former Future.And, we can't account for every brewery or homebrew supply shop or whatever... but we can try. Which leads us to now:We are going to be working over the next few weeks to develop a brand that is intriguing, thoughtful, thought-provoking, clever, and fun. Beyond that, we'll be working with an illustrator to create a new avatar, rooted strictly in the values and identity that we want to portray. Which will then lead us into the future...
For now, we'll leave you with this: We are working every day to build a space for you. To create beer for you. To remain true to who we are and what we believe in.
In the next few weeks - TTB permitting - we'll be opening our doors to you. At that time we will reveal our new branding. For now, know that it. is. coming. SOON. No one could be more excited than we are.
Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan and on Facebook at Colo BeerMan
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