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- NORA MCGUNNIGLE
- Brewstock offers home-brewing supplies and information for experienced home brewers and novices alike.
Before terms like “craft beer” or “microbrew” existed, people looking for fresh, flavorful beer had to make it themselves. As the hobby became more widely practiced, it created an industry to serve the needs of home brewers seeking ingredients and equipment. Some states were slower than others to re-legalize home brewing after Prohibition — Alabama and Mississippi finally did so this year — but the American Homebrew Association (AHA) estimates that almost one million American brew beer or make wine in their homes. The AHA has over 37,000 members (including myself) and also estimates that at least 90 percent of professional brewers in the United States got their start as home brewers.
There are more than a dozen home brew clubs in the state and five home brew shops to serve them and the many individuals who brew outside of a club. In New Orleans, home brewers and professional brewers-to-be go to Brewstock on Dryades and Peniston to get their grain, hops, yeast, sanitizer, equipment, and advice. Aaron Hyde and his wife opened the store almost five years ago, and saw demand grow every year. “Brewstock had been growing and expanding since it opened.” Hyde said. “My wife and I had been debating keeping the store smaller, keeping it less to manage, or growing it into something larger.”
Kyle DuPont, who had worked for Hyde for two years at this point, had come to him asking for advice about opening a homebrew shop of his own in a different market. “I wondered if it wouldn’t be a good time to see if he’d be interested in it. He was, and we both came to an agreement.” In June of this year, ownership transitioned to Kyle and his brother Paul, who moved to New Orleans from Chicago to help his brother realize his dream.
The DuPont brothers haven’t changed much for the time being. “We’re not looking to throw anyone a curveball,” says Paul. They plan to begin brewing classes in the fall and have been collaborating with local organizations like The Green Project, where they held a brewing demonstration this past weekend. They are also in preliminary talks to expand by moving to a larger space in the building being renovated by the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, 15 blocks downtown from their current location. For now, you can find them in the shop at 3800 Dryades Street (at Peniston), seven days a week, 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. (on Sunday they close at 2:00 p.m.) The phone number is (504) 208-2788 and the website is http://www.brewstock.com.
And what about Aaron Hyde? His long term plans to sell the shop happened about a year earlier than he had originally anticipated, due to Kyle’s immediate interest as a buyer. But he’s been busy, traveling to the United Kingdom to gain a greater understanding of malted barley, and will be starting next month as the Arabella Station Whole Foods beer and wine buyer while he ponders other opportunities such as partnering with manufacturers to open a brewery and winery distribution center here in New Orleans, selling equipment and supplies to regional breweries and wineries. He’s also been talking with local breweries about launching a contract beer label. Wherever he lands, Hyde will certainly be carrying forward the passion to bring great beer to New Orleans that drove him to open up and pass along a very successful home brew supply business.
Want to get involved? Check out these Louisiana resources for home brewers:
Home brew stores:
3800 Dryades St., New Orleans; (504) 208-2788
3956 Fire Tower Rd., Grand Cane, LA 71032-6212; (318) 858-2219
855 Pierremont Rd., Ste 124, Shreveport, 71106-2040; (318) 671-4141
Main Grain Home Brew Supplies
70271 Highway 59 Ste C, Abita Springs, 70420-3172; (985) 875-1253
Marcello’s Wine Market
2800 Johnston St., Lafayette, 70503-3244; (337) 264-9520
Home brew clubs:
Bayou Beer Society
Phone: (985) 438-0169
Bicycle Brew Club
Phone: (225) 802-1599
Brasseurs a la Maison
Crescent City Homebrewers
Phone: (504) 915-3227
Dead Yeast Society
Phone: (337) 205-2223
Malt Munching Mash Monsters (Mmmm)
Phone: (318) 759-POUR
Phone: (318) 336-0911
Mystic Krewe of Brew
Phone: (985) 630-3524
Phone: (225) 761-8698
This was the response recently posted by Strange Brew LLC, of Massachusetts, a homebrewing supply company whose Cease Desist order against Strange Brewing of Denver recently unleashed a firestorm of backlash against them…as it should have. This reprehensible practice of selectively bringing legal action against any SMALL – and that’s the keyword, here – company with whom someone perceives a conflict is so unbelievably antithetical to the entire community of American craft brewing that it seems impossible that Strange Brew LLC’s owner, Brian Powers, wouldn’t have been able to foresee the reaction to his demands. “Small” is important here, as it’s extremely rare for any allegedly-agrieved businessperson to try to sue a larger business. The whole point of the shoddy exercise is to demonstrate a willingness to sue to that will ward off anyone even considering a similar term from using it. This tactic simply doesn’t work if the business owner files and then gets his brains beat out in court by armies of feral attorneys. You pick on little guys, not those who have the ability to defend themselves; any schoolyard bully knows that.
As this missive clearly shows, Powers is so completely out of touch with the closely-knit environment that is our national craft beer culture that he genuinely thinks the effort to raise money and rally support for Strange Brewing of Denver was just some self-serving ploy orchestrated by Strange and promoted by paid accomplices. (It’s totally understandable that he would see it that way. Look what he’s doing in this very post: ”While I am always hesitant to ask for help, I don’t think I can handle this alone.” Doesn’t that sound eerily similar to what he’s accusing Strange Brewing of – rabble-rousing in an attempt to save his own hide?) He seems totally unable to understand that the VAST majority of craft brew fans just simply do NOT agree with him and have killed his name in social media without ANY prompting from Strange of Denver. I’ve now written about this three times and I have ZERO contact with Strange Brewing, except as a fan of their beers, on my infrequent trips to Denver. Nobody is paying me squat. I routinely skewer fatheads like this, gratis, and take great delight in doing so.
How, you might ask, can a guy deal with homebrewers every day of his business life and have so little clue of what they – the spiritual cornerstone of American brewing – are all about? I refuse to accept the notion that people from Massachusetts are so overwhelmingly cynical and crass that they just see a guy who passes up on retaining a law firm and issuing imperious Cease Desist orders against the 100+ other breweries who use some form of the word “Strange” in their own names or their products as “just doing business”. In the post, Powers claims that people were confused by the two companies names and told him that they “had his beers in Denver”. Sorry, Bri, but stupidity and the inability to use common sense is not really a reason to sue somebody. And yet, nearly a YEAR later, Powers still clings to this asinine, juvenile attempt to corner the usage of a word that he stole, himself! Last time I checked, his last name has been Powers for a fairly long time, so he has no familial claim to the word and, of course, he lifted it, whole cloth, from the movie “Strange Brew”. It was, in NO way, original to him. Curiously, he saw absolutely nothing wrong with blatantly stealing the ideas of a scriptwriter, while whining pitiably below about how Strange Brewing “copied” his business name in an attempt to profit from his lofty reputation. The sheer arrogance and self-deception of this aside, Strange Brewing “stole” the name from exactly the same place Powers did: from the movie.
I’m reposting the entire response from Brian Powers in the interest of telling “both sides” of this story. I’ll let you, the craft beer fan, make your own determination about whether a fledgling brewery in Denver would have been prompted by cultural awareness of a very famous movie or the obscure reputation of some home brewing supply all the way across the country as the creative spark for naming their business. For Powers, whose inflated perception of his company’s popularity and influence seems to be matched only by his stubbornness, this has turned into a crusade, aimed – I guess; I have no clue as to what his actual motives could be – at salvaging the good name of his business, which has already (thought he doesn’t realize it) been trashed so thoroughly that the small brewery he planned to open “someday” will be VERY lucky to sell any beer at all, after making most of the nation’s craft brew fans come to see them as total and impenetrable greedheads.
So, go ahead, B-Pow: make even more of an ass out of yourself. With my compliments…
Attention loyal customers, friends of Strange Brew, and others who care to hear the whole story and who care about the truth.
As you may have recently heard, Strange Brew is in the midst of a trademark dispute with a small two year old start-up microbrewery in Colorado that “coincidentally” has decided to call itself “Strange Brewing Company.” Simply put, they are trying to profit from the valuable reputation and the good will that we have built up over the last 16 years in our brand. They have admitted they knew of us and our name when they started, but apparently they thought they would just slip under the radar. We have demanded that they stop, but instead of facing up to the situation, they have decided to “fight back” by stirring up a social media lynch mob, trashing us and our lawyer for protecting our brand. This has included several media posts that contain a completely inaccurate distortion of the real situation. This is becoming a distraction and it is time to set the record straight. Enough is enough.
Draw any conclusions you want, but please don’t do so until you have all the facts. Please consider the following.
Strange Brew LLC. in Marlborough Massachusetts is a small, family owned business, that has been in existence since 1997. We are a “local business” just like Strange Brewing Company. We sell quality products, just like they do. We have worked hard for years to provide quality home-brewing supplies and brewing advice to the local, national, and international brewing community. We currently hold a federal trademark for both beer, and beer and winemaking supplies. We are, in short, no bigger than the folks in Denver, the only difference is that we have been around for almost two decades, selling quality products and slowly building a valuable brand. We have taken the right steps to protect our brand, like any other well run business, and for that we are now being branded as bullies. We sell supplies through a number of retail, and online outlets, including dozens of current customers in Colorado, a place that has become one of the standout microbrewery capitals of the country, and we’re proud to be a part of it.
We are also currently in the process of opening a small brewery in Massachusetts. Through the years we have also sold beer products, and we are now focused on expanding that division as our business continues to grow.
Strange Brewing Co. has admitted that they were aware of us when they started their own business using our name. They have stated their belief that due to our geographic distance, and the fact that they only sell beer, not beer supplies, there should be no reason to complain. Here is the problem. First, like it or not, their decision to copy our name is causing confusion. We live in a wireless, digital age where geographic factors are more irrelevant each day. The fact that we are on the East Coast is meaningless. We continually do business with our Colorado customers, and have repeatedly had customers, both from Colorado and elsewhere, comment to us that they tried “our beer” in Denver. Some of our vendors and suppliers have also been confused, and in a couple of cases we were unable to purchase supplies on credit because of a negative credit reference that arose after payments were mistakenly applied to the wrong account, due to the similarity in our names. Finally, we have been unfairly portrayed as trying to “steal” their name, as if this is a David and Goliath scenario in which we are some corporate giant, like Starbucks or Coca-Cola, mercilessly picking on the little guy. That’s just not the case. They try to portray us as thieves – but who is the real thief here? The ones who have been around since 1997 or the ones who decided to copy our brand less than two years ago, instead of doing it the old fashioned way and coming with a brand of their own? Who is stealing from whom?
We have to protect our assets, just like any small business trying to make it in today’s world. We have struggled hard to get where we are, not through harassing our competitors with some social media rant, but through selling good products and backing up our brand. We would be disloyal to our customers and our families if we didn’t try to protect what we have earned. To maintain OUR federal trademark rights, we cannot allow another similar business to use our name and hijack the good will we have earned.
We were forced to hire a lawyer and send a cease and desist letter to the infringing company.
Knowing that they have no legal defense here, Strange Brewing Company in Colorado has decided, rather than to face up to the mistake they made, to start a social media war, hoping that they can beat us into submission. Fortunately, the U.S. system of justice is not about popularity contests, or who is better at sending anonymous (but easily traceable) hate mail through web portals. It is based on application of the law to the facts, and in this case, if necessary, a court is going to find that the Strange Brewing Company has infringed our trademark rights. It’s that simple. They claim that they want to avoid a costly legal battle and collaborate, but their only offer has been to allow us to clone their recipe kits. How exactly is that fair? They copy our valuable name, and then “offer” to let us sell their product? Seriously? We too would prefer to spend our time and money doing something besides going to court, but if that is the only offer on the table, then thanks but no thanks. We have to, and will, protect our brand and the 16-year investment we have made, and we are tired of playing games.
I do not personally know the people from Strange Brewing Company. I am sure that they make good beer, and work hard and they obviously have a loyal following, but the issue of integrity and personal responsibility seems somehow to have been lost. I was ready to assume that they were also ‘nice guys’ but I question their approach to dealing with this clear-cut legal matter. They have posted our privileged legal communications in an attempt to paint themselves as the victim here. Not so – if there is a victim here it is us, not them. The local Denver press seems to have picked up on this as well, but so far not one of the journalists has bothered to get our side of the story or even attempt to get their facts straight.
‘Someone’ started a Facebook page called ‘Keep Strange Brewing Strange’ in support of the company that is currently infringing upon our trademark. This campaign is picking up steam, and spreading slanderous, hateful speech, which is causing damage to the brand that we have spent decades building.
We were forced to temporarily suspend our Facebook page while we deal with the barrage of untrue and hateful comments about Strange Brew. The site is back up now, but our Yelp rating is dropping fast. Please don’t let this happen. We also invite you to come sample our products as well, and maybe you will understand the reputation we have worked so hard to earn.
While I am always hesitant to ask for help, I don’t think I can handle this alone.
Any support you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
Beer and Beer and Winemaking Supplies
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Frank White, Brian Shurtleff and Matt Menard said they always had a passion for brewing beer, and now they’re getting to fulfill their passion at Bog Iron Brewery in Norton.
They all have been brewing beer individually with small brewing kits for years.
“Anybody who’s ever been a homebrewer, they sit around and daydream about this,” Shurtleff said. “We took one small step and then another, and we just kept going from there.”
The trio agreed it has been hard, but in 2012 they opened the brewery.
“It was three times the budget and twice the time frame, but we finally opened,” Shurtleff said.
White said he first started home brewing with his cousin and a friend in 1982.
“We figured we’d brew beer and sell it to our friends,” he said.
Shurtleff said he started because he was a “foodie,” and felt creating and selling beer was a natural progression.
“I got a kit close to 20 years ago and it came out pretty decent,” he said.
They said they all met at the South Shore Brew Club.
“That’s when we started talking about the brewery,” White said.
Shurtleff said beer brewing is essentially like brewing coffee.
“They’re basically the same process,” he said.
The trio makes four different beers, an India Pale Ale, a blonde ale, the Black Steam and the English Session Mild.
“The blonde is an easy drinking beer,” Shurtleff said. “The only difference is it’s 7.5 percent alcohol.”
The trio agreed their most popular beer at the moment is the English Session Mild, which is traditional English beer.
“The craft beer drinkers tend to like a lot of hops, or alcohol or some crazy off the wall ingredient,” Shurtleff said. “The English beer is a pretty basic standard ale. Not a ton of hops, alcohol or crazy ingredients.”
“It’s been amazing,” Shurtleff said. “Both Trinity and Kinsale have been amazing to work with and really supportive.”
Menard said after only being in business for three months, Trinity has put two of their craft beers on permanently, which is rare.
“For craft beers, they like to cycle the beers pretty quickly to get people to sample the new beer and get the crowd moving through,” he said. “It’s kind of unheard of.”
They said they will be going before the Norton Board of Selectmen soon to start selling the beers out of growlers and giving samples. For now, Trinity and Kinsale are the only places you can get a Bog Iron Beer.
For more information visit www.bogironbrewing.com.
(Mississippi) People in Mississippi are one step closer to being able to brew beer at home.
The House has sent a bill to Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant that would legalize home brewing, but there’s a limit.
People 21 and older would be allowed to brew up to 200 gallons of beer each year, as long as they live in a city or county where alcohol is legal.
The bill says home-brewed beer can’t be sold and can only be taken outside a home when the brewer is taking it to a tasting event or competition.
“My interest is communicating something about microbiological sciences,” he said, sitting at his kitchen table between stages of lager making, the aroma of hops in the air. “So much of what we do in life these days is not hands on. It’s pretty much a black box, electronically speaking at least. I turn my iPhone on and I don’t know how it works really, but with beer making and hard cider making we can get our hands into it enough that we feel a connection with the process.”
For the last four years, Fogel has taught home-brewing classes at the city-owned Newton Community Farm, where he also tends a small orchard of dwarf apple trees and provides instruction on urban gardening.
The science of suds isn’t so different from his day job. Fogel and his wife, Margaret Findlay, own a lab in Watertown, Bioremediation Consulting Inc., where they breed anaerobic bacteria that eat noxious chemicals to keep them from polluting the environment. The yeasts in beer operate without oxygen just like his “bugs,” as he calls them.
“My role is . . . to explain the formation of sugars from the barley and then the ethanol from the sugars,” he said, preparing for his next round of beer-making classes. “And I sort of get a kick out of it.”
In this case, Fogel’s passion for microbiology happens to intersect with popular culture.
“There’s more people brewing than ever,” said Brian Powers, owner of Marlborough-based Strange Brew Beer Wine Making Supplies. “It’s like an experiment and you’re drinking the results.”
His customers are newbies as well as veteran brewers who are becoming more adventurous, trying out new ingredients such as acorns. Several factors have coincided to make this the “golden age of home brewing,” said Powers.
“People just like good beer,” he said. “I also think a few years back when the economy took a hit, a lot of people took up brewing at home because it’s cheaper. It’s a cost-effective way to drink quality beer. It’s the stay-cation idea.”
Stir into that the social aspect as well as the growing movement toward fresh and local in all things food related, and it’s no wonder making beer at home is a robust avocation, Powers said.
Gary Glass, director of the American Homebrewers Association, based in Boulder, Colo., said suppliers nationally saw revenue grow 24 percent in 2011 over the previous year, fueled by the growing popularity of the DIY mindset and the locavore movement.
“People are supporting their local breweries, but you’re not going to get any more local than brewing your own beer at home,” said Glass.
As Fogel starts a new batch of lager in his Newton kitchen, water heats in a giant pot on the stove. He pours barley through a funnel and into a mesh bag that will act like a tea bag. When the temperature is right, the barley bag goes into the pot and the kitchen smells alternately of pine cones, rye bread, and warm forest.
Once the barley bag has steeped, the brew is known as wort, which must be brought to a boil before malt extract, and then hops, are added. After the hops cook for almost an hour, the wort is cooled quickly in an ice bath before it goes into a fermenter, which is essentially a large pail. Yeast is stirred in and a lid and airlock are secured so the fermenting can begin.
After about two months of fermenting, and once the alcohol is at the right level, Fogel says, he will add sugar to provide natural carbonation, bottle his brew, and think about sharing it with friends and family.
“I think it’s good for him to use his scientific skills in a way that is more for fun than it is for business,” said Fogel’s son Michael.
The younger Fogel, an emergency room doctor, designed a label for his dad’s beer years ago. Squirrel Shot Ale, named after the urban gardener’s number one nemesis, is made with “two parts love, one part crazy, a dash of nut, and any of the backyard fruit that our furry little bandits didn’t steal,” according to the label.
Making beer fits nicely into an ethos that is tinged with “mad scientist” and infused with curiosity, said Michael Fogel, who fondly recalls being raised, along with his brother, by parents who both had research backgrounds (and doctorates).
“We were the sort of kids that learned about how combustion works with our birthday candles,” he said. “It’s really a way of looking at the world. They use that same approach in everything they do, from gardening to their health.”
And the same unconventionality is on display in front of their home, where the front yard has been replaced with a vegetable garden that brings passing cars to a stop in the summer, Michael said.
Sam Fogel is optimistic that his experimental brew will yield a successful German-style, dark brown lager.
“It’s always more interesting than most bottled beers,” he said. “It’s always the sort of thing where you say, ‘Hmm, I did pretty good.’ ”
Lisa Kocian can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeLisaKocian.end of story marker
One thing about the winter season is the lack of beer festivals around the state. Luckily, The International Great Beer Expo will be making its way to Jersey for the third year on February 2nd, and two weeks later the Morristown Armory (430 Western Ave., Morristown, NJ) will play host to The Big Brew Beer Festival on February 16th, 4:30-8:30pm (VIP starts at 3:30pm)
In addition to some of the more well-known breweries like Lagunitas, Stone, Green Flash, Founders, Long Trail, Sixpoint, New Holland, Weyerbacher, Troegs, Yards, Left Hand, Oskar Bluues, Flying Dog, Dogfish Head, Bear Republic, Allagash, 21st Amendment, Ommegang, Magic Hat, Harpoon, Brooklyn, Guinness, Sierra Nevada, and Samuel Adams, some smaller and local breweries will be present, like Lake Placid, Fegley’s, Butternuts, Climax, Sly Fox, Evil Genius, Lancaster, McSorley’s, Summit, River Horse, Port, The Lost Abbey, Avery, Crispin, Captain Lawrence, Blue Point, Horny Goat, and Flying Flying Fish.
Tickets can be purchased online for $80 (VIP), $50 (General Admission) and $10 (Designated Driver). General Admission includes a 4 oz glass with unlimited samplings, and VIP tickets include an additional one hour early entry, one hour of hors d’oeuvres provided by Morris Tap and Grill, and a limited supply of special beers. Ticket prices at the door increase to $90, $60, and $15, respectively.
Readers of NJ.com can use the promo code “NJBEER” to receive $10 off a General Admission ticket, and the promo code “NJBEERVIP” to receive $15 off a VIP ticket.
In addition to a lot of great beer, The Nerds will providing some music and there will be a doubles beer pong tournament with a $500 cash prize. The Morris Area Society of Homebrewers (MASH) will also be on hand to answer questions about brewing and will provide a home brewing demonstration.
For more information, visit the Big Brew Beer Festival website. The event should make for a great day, so please enjoy responsibly (Designated Driver tickets are just $10) and have fun.
Chris Morris runs his own beer blog Black Dog Brewhouse where he discusses everything beer. His articles can also be found at www.NJ.com/beer. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMorrisBeer or email him at Chris@BlackDogBrewhouse.com.
For months, the impressive new building that will eventually house the Old Rail Brewing Company in the heart of Old Mandeville has remained locked up and void of activity – all dressed up but with no place to go. The two-story, 12,000-square-foot structure adjacent to the popular Tammany Trace recreation trail is fully landscaped and filled with tables, kitchen equipment and massive tanks that will one day brew beer to be consumed by patrons looking for a taste of the north shore city’s unique character.
All that’s missing are the federal and state licenses to produce and sell alcoholic beverages. Until they’re in hand, the only thing brewing for Old Rail operators and prospective customers is anxiety.
Vanessa Gomes, marketing manager for the brewing company, said the permit applications were completed long ago, but the process can take up to a year because of the popularity of brew pubs, which are sprouting up all over the country. She said industry insiders say thousands started up over the past year, clogging up the application system.
With the popularity of specialty craft beer rising quickly, owners are foaming at the mouth to get the Old Rail up and running. Gomes said the auspicious building on Girod Street adjacent to the Mandeville Trailhead has generated countless queries as to when the business will open. The answer remains elusive, but sometime this spring appears to be the best guess.
“It’s just the nature of the game, something that any start-up brewery has to go through,” Gomes said. “We’re very anxious to get going. We’ll all collectively exhale when we finally get the permits.”
Gomes said she and owner Nick Powers are doing everything they can to prepare for an opening this spring. Powers is also owner of the Barley Oak Old World Draught House on the Mandeville lakefront, about six blocks from the brewing company.
The Old Rail has hired a chef – Brett Monteleone, former executive chef at Brady’s Restaurant in Hammond – to design a menu for the new business and to redesign the food offerings at the Barley Oak. Once opened, the Old Rail will offer a substantial food menu and as many as seven beers brewed in the building. Beer brewed at the Old Rail will be for on-premises consumption only, Gomes said.
Gomes said the business hopes that within the next two months it will receive its federal brewing license, which is needed to acquire a state license. Once the federal license is granted, Old Rail can begin to produce test batches of beer while awaiting state permission to open the doors and begin selling it.
Americans’ beer consumption has remained relatively level over the past few years, according to the Brewers Association, but research has revealed a spike in sales of beer from local, independent brewers. Experts say the trend is part of an emerging American culture that supports a “buy local” approach to consumerism.
Craft brewers sold an estimated 11,468,152 barrels of beer in 2011, up from 10,133,571 in 2010. In 2011, 1,989 breweries operated for at least part of the year, the highest total since the 1880s.
Ready, set, brew!
Beer enthusiasts from all over Chicago are getting ready for Winter Brew, a competition that defines home brewing.
Brewers can enter their pride in 86 categories ranging from Blonde Ale to Belgian Dark. Each entry costs $10 and requires two 12-ounce capped bottles.
Square Kegs of Lincoln Square — a home brew club for North Siders that originated in the neighborhood — hosts the competition.
Organizers instate a 200-entry cap and have already received 27 submissions.
Entries started Dec. 14 and will run through Jan. 18 at 3 p.m. Beer can be shipped or dropped off at Ruff Haus Pets, 4652 North Rockwell Street.
Judging will be on Jan. 26 at 8:30 a.m. for an awards ceremony Feb. 9 at Dank Haus, 4740 North Western Ave. Tickets will go on sale in January and last year, the event sold out.
More information on entering beer can be found on the competition’s website.
In September, as Denver’s Strange Brewing was gearing up for a small expansion as well as the Great American Beer Festival, owners John Fletcher and Tim Myers got a letter from a lawyer demanding that they change their name.
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“Your continued operation of a microbrewery establishment under the name ‘Strange Brewing Company’ is causing and is likely to continue to cause consumer confusion, deception, damage to my client’s good will, brand name and reputation, and constitutes a direct infringement of my client’s federal trademark rights,” the lawyer wrote. “We therefore demand that you immediately undertake steps to cease any further commercial use of the term ‘Strange Brewing Company’ in connection with your business establishment and that you adopt a term that is entirely dissimilar to this term in the continued operation of your business.”
The lawyer’s client: Strange Brew Beer Wine Making Supplies, a shop located across the country in Marlboro, Massachusetts.
Myers responded with a letter offering to team up with the homebrew shop by marketing its kits in the Colorado brewery and by licensing one of its recipes to the shop — something that would benefit both small businesses and avoid legal hassles.
But the shop’s owner, Brian Powers, turned him down. And on November 2, Powers’s lawyer officially rejected Myers’s offer, calling it “offensive,” and threatening to sue. (Find both letters from the lawyer, as well as Myers’s response, below.)
“This is a homebrew shop that sells Mr. Beer kits,” says Myers. “He trademarked Strange Brew for homebrew supplies and wine supplies and beer. But he has never sold a commercial batch of beer since he opened in 1997. So now I have to consult a trademark lawyer and argue that while he may have maintained his trademark on the homebrew side of it, he hasn’t brewed, at least legally, any commercial batch.”
Strange Brewing opened in 2010 after Fletcher and Myers were both laid off from their jobs. It pioneered a new wave of more than fifteen small breweries that have opened in town since then. Strange itself recently added brewing capacity and a back patio, and plans to expand into a space next door early next year.
Continue on to read both letters.
1330 Zuni St., Denver, CO
It takes a village to raise a child, according to an African proverb.
Carter Park resident Jerrad Isch’s philosophy is that it takes a neighborhood to brew a batch of beer.
Isch’s beer-brewing equipment was gathering dust in the basement for about a decade. The discovery in spring 2011 that nearly all of his neighbors were brewers, however, revived his enthusiasm for the craft.
“I thought, why not brew together?” Isch said.
Isch resumed his brewing hobby and invited his brewing neighbors — Dylan McGee, Dutch Brooks and Craig Fitzherbert — to join him in the craft at a gathering at his house.
“I am kind of an instigator,” Isch said. “Dylan had been brewing beer (for eight years) on his own; I tend not to do it without 10 other people around.”
The gathering marked the first meeting of the 29th Street Brewers Guild, an informal gathering of Carter Park neighbors who brew beer together and swap tips, praise and critiques.
Isch knew for some time that McGee and neighbor Brooks sometimes brewed beer together the old-fashioned way, a method known as all-grain brewing, which doesn’t use extracts and takes nearly all day. But it wasn’t until spring 2011 that Isch found out another neighbor on the four corners at West 29th and Daniels streets was a brewer.
Isch was outside on 29th and noticed that the tailgate was left ajar on Fitzherbert’s parked SUV. Isch shut it, then called Fitzherbert to let him know. During the conversation, Fitzherbert revealed he also was a brewer.
Isch started to count. There were at least four brewers who lived in houses around the intersection.
“Jerrad decided to have a gathering,” Fitzherbert said. “We were kind of doing our own thing, bringing beer to each other. Then, we decided, ‘Let’s get together and brew together.’ It’s good community-building; it brings the neighborhood together.”
Since then, Isch’s brewing equipment is back in working condition. He’s planted hops in his backyard. He even won a third-place award in a brewing contest held by the Timbers Army, a fan club of the Portland soccer team.
Isch said the social aspect of the 29th Street Brewers Guild fueled his enthusiasm for brewing, Without it, that brewing equipment might still be in the basement.
“I love gathering people, connecting neighbors together,” Isch said.
That enthusiasm was contagious. A fifth neighbor at the four corners — Gary Kokstis — recently retired from a career at Nike and decided to take up brewing. He took a brewing class in August at Vancouver’s Bader Beer Wine Supply.
He said he’s also learned a lot from his neighbors. Many of the gatherings are spontaneous, and other neighbors who join in to taste the beer also get to know each other better, said neighbor Angie Russell.
“One of us will have a brew idea, and one of us will call and see if we want to get together,” McGee said.
At a guild gathering Sept. 17 in Kokstis’ backyard garden, Fitzherbert brought an idea for an Earl Grey IPA. Meanwhile, Isch decided to craft a traditional American pale ale with an infusion of peach blossom honey. Both Fitzherbert and Isch prefer extract brewing, which is quicker than all-grain. But they opt to bottle their beer, while McGee and Brooks store their beer in kegs.
“I’ve been impressed with Craig’s tea infusions,” Isch said.
Fitzherbert also has made a pale ale infused with Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice tea and a black IPA with Tahitian vanilla.
“It’s like cooking,” Fitzherbert said. “You just find something. If you want to try it, you try it. It’s usually drinkable.”
The brewers whipped up their concoctions on two propane grills in Kokstis’s backyard garden.
“We’re missing an important part; we’re not drinking beer,” Kokstit said, heading for some coolers.
He presented a bottle of one of Fitzherbert’s brews to the brewers and some of their friends and spouses. Fitzherbert called the beer Silenus after the Greek god of drunkenness; alcohol content: a wee bit. That’s a running joke among the guild.
“You can come up with something you like, which isn’t always the case with things you buy,” Kokstis said.
Once Kokstis brews his first batch of beer, the four corners will be a perfect square of beer brewers.
“He better make a lot; he owes you a lot of beer,” quipped Kokstis’ wife, Katlin Smith.
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