Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cease. And Desist. (A Prelude to My Year in Lists.)

Last week, I played journalist and broke a story that DC Brau, a local brewery that makes a beer called "The Citizen," had sent a cease and desist letter to a yet-to-open local brewery that wanted to call themselves Citizens Brewing Company. This after some conversations between the two parties.

I thought it newsworthy because while DC has been a nice place to drink beer for some time, we've only had production breweries for about four years, following a period of nearly sixty years without. It was our first public conflict over trademarks. It was a learning experience for brewers and consumers alike. No doubt other news outlets thought it merited articles as well, and hey, it's nice to claim "firsties."

However, I was a bit taken aback by the reaction, which, in many parts of the internet I frequent, portrayed DC Brau as bullies. All this for defending and protecting a brand they had spent four years creating and maintaining.

So I took off the journalist hat and put on the op-ed one. To wit:
Imagine walking into a bar in Silver Spring and ordering “a Citizen.” “Which one?” replies the bartender. To further complicate the matter, continue the hypothetical and say you don’t like the beer you’re handed. This being 2013, you tell your friends on social media that you didn't like said beer. Now you, dear reader, know the difference between these two brands, one the name of a brewery, the other the name of a beer made eight-and-a-half miles away. The well-trained bartender also knows the difference. But as we play the game of Telephone, things get muddled. At some point, someone will say “Oh yeah, my friend had a beer called Citizen in DC and didn't like it.” In that case, both brands, both the beer’s and the brewery’s, suffer. In a similar scenario in the craft beer alternate universe, you have a beer from Citizens and like it, and then a confused friend, one who happens to not like Belgian-style ales, orders a Brau based on that, and dislikes it. Brand confusion is the name of the game here. 
A large problem stems from the perception that though people pay for craft beer, it is somehow exempt from the forces that govern other economic transactions. Craft beer is a business.
Some of the nicest, most generous people I've met in any business are in the beer business, but it’s a business all the same. Craft beer is not a hobby. That would be homebrewing. Craft beer does not come from magic elves. It comes from businessmen and -women, with employees and bills to pay. The notion that craft breweries are somehow separate from other businesses because of the products they make is false and harmful.
For more on this, heavily excerpted above, please go here.

Let's debate!

Citizens Brewing Company is now Denizens. You can meet them here.

From Denizens, via DCBeer.

Elsewhere on this site, vaguely related: Copyright for Educators.

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