Food Service & Agriculture and Law

What’s the craft beer fuss?

May 26, 2013
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The brew team at Brewery Vivant said Contemplation Ale is what Belgian-style beer “is all about.” Photo via fb.com

It’s no secret that beer is huge in Grand Rapids, but it’s also all the rage in many other parts of the U.S.

And it’s stirring up some controversy.

There were a couple notable cases this past week, which I wanted to share.

Case #1: Brewery v. Brewery

Vermont’s Magic Hat Brewing Co. is suing West Sixth Brewing Co. in Lexington, Ky., for trademark infringement.

Magic Hat claims the year-old brewery is using a logo that is too close to its #9 Not Quite Pale Ale.

Like most 6s, it can be confused for an inverted 9, as noted in the lawsuit. They also use a “dingbat star,” which Magic Hat claims will “confuse consumers and trade on Magic Hat's goodwill."

The lawsuit was filed to stop West Sixth’s use of the logo and to pay Magic Hat the profits the Kentucky brewery has made.

The news of this lawsuit has started a firestorm on the Internet, including a website by West Sixth Brewery, nomoremagichat.com.

Twitter is abuzz with jokes, such as how students will no longer be taught the numbers 6 and 9 in fear of Magic Hat.

West Sixth recently had more than 11,000 signatures on an online petition to stop the lawsuit.

The co-owner of West Sixth, Ben Self, wrote on the website to stop corporate bullying.

Self also stated, as a startup company, there were no profits in the first year of operation.

Magic Hat once was a craft brewery based Vermont, but it's now owned by Cervecercia Costa Rica.

It could be a fun case to watch.

Case #2: "Hoppy Beer"

Recently, Slate.com ran a column titled “Against Hoppy Beer: The craft beer industry’s love affair with hops is alienating people who don’t like bitter brews.”

Although hops do make up a huge portion of the craft beer industry, it’s not the entire segment.

And a beer blogger took note, and wrote a column titled, “Lazy Beer Writers are Ruining Craft Beer for the Rest of Us.”

He makes some valid points.

Many major publications don’t have a writer dedicated to craft beer and end up throwing any available writers at the subject. Many of the writers aren’t versed in the industry.

He also notes how many different styles of beers exist that don’t play up the hop flavor, not to mention the two roles that hops can play: bitterness and flavor.

“Replace hops with ‘chocolate’ and craft beer with ‘cupcakes.’ Imagine you had a friend complaining that they couldn't enjoy their blueberry lemon-swirl cupcake, because chocolate cupcakes were just too popular. The horror,” the blog reads.

Variety in BeerCity, U.S.A.

Take Grand Rapids, for example. BeerCity, U.S.A. enjoys every beer, not just hoppy beers.

Brewery Vivant specializes in Belgians, many of which don’t play up hops at all, but, instead, focus on the sour aspects of the special yeast.

Founders Brewing Co. is internationally known for its Kentucky Breakfast Stout and has many other brews that rely on the dark, malty notes.

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell’s favorite beer is Founders Porter, and there’s very little in terms of hop notes in it.

Sure, most of the breweries in Grand Rapids have a variety of IPAs and double IPAs, which aren’t all super bitter.

But they also have a fine mix of stouts, porters, browns and lighter brews that vary in flavors and bitterness.

The problem might be that craft beer isn't just light lagers.

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