The last two legislative sessions in Texas have seen the introduction of bills that would have drastically changed the competition playing field for beer in Texas by allowing brewpubs in Texas to self-distribute their beer off-site and allow production breweries to sell on-site in the form of beer-to-go sales. Although a bill to allow beer-to-go sales at production breweries made it through the Senate and House committees, due to opposition, it was stuck in a broom closet somewhere at the capital and never saw the light of day.
Legal action on the part of one business toward another is as old as time itself. It’s human nature. Whether a perceived infringement of a similar name or logo or even a process, many businesses feel their only recourse is to take legal action. Sure, through mediations many businesses attempt to work out disagreements, but often a lawsuit or cease and desist happens. It’s no different with the craft beer industry.
Such is the case with soon to be open Branchline Brewing Company (Formerly known as Old Boxcar Brewing Company or OBBC) in San Antonio, Texas. The San Antonio based microbrewery was set to open its doors next month as Old Boxcar Brewing Company. Before they had a chance to brew batch number one on their newly installed system, Pennsylvania based Boxcar Brewing Company served OBBC with a cease and desist order. The order stated that Old Boxcar’s name was too close to Boxcar Brewing and would confuse consumers. They requested the name be changed . Bear in mind, Box Car Brewing Company is comparable in size to Branchline, is in a state on the East Coast and their product isn’t distributed in Texas. Nonetheless, Boxcar Brewing Company (who have been in business two years) felt that OBBC was infringing on their trademark.
“Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.” writes award winning author Chuck Palahniuk in his novel ‘Invisible Monsters’. A slight overstatement perhaps, but well said nonetheless. Much of who we are is a compilation of all those who influence us. The same can be said for many successful companies in today’s world, and there is no better example of this than with today’s craft breweries.
The image of most American craft breweries is often perceived to be that of laid back, long-haired brewers with beards who are not afraid to brew what they want, styles be damned. While that image is not far off the mark in many cases, each brewery has its own unique personality that reflects all the individual personalies that make up the brewery. I had the opportunity to listen to several great representatives of the craft brewing community on this subject last month at the Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego, Ca.
The 2012 Craft Brewers Conference came to a close this past Saturday, May 5th and with it the announcements of the winners of the 2012 World Beer Cup competition. Breweries from all over the globe entered beers in the international competition sponsored by the Brewers Association. The competition has been running every two years since 1996 and sees entries in every style category imaginable.
This year saw the most entries in each category, with approximately 3,921 beers entered in 95 style categories. According to the Brewers Association, this was a 17.7 percent increase over 2010.
Yesterday the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas handed down its ruling on the joint lawsuit filed back in October of this year against the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission (TABC) by Austin brewery Jester King, Zax Restaurant and Bar and Authentic Beverage.
Essentially the Federal court states that breweries in Texas can now: label a beer a ‘beer’ and an ale, an ‘ale’, regardless of the ABV; advertise where their beers are sold; as well as describe the alcohol content of their beers with words like ‘strong’. “In a remarkable (though logically dubious) demonstration of circular reasoning” Judge Sparks states in his ruling filed yesterday, the “TABC attempts to defend the constitutional legitimacy of the Code through an appeal to the statutory authority of the Code itself.” Referring to the required use of the terms “beer”, “ale”, and “malt liquor”, he writes “TABC’s argument, combined with artful legislative drafting, could be used to justify any restrictions on commercial speech. For instance, Texas would likely face no (legal) obstacle if it wished to pass a law defining the word ‘milk’ to mean ‘a nocturnal flying mammal that eats insects and employs echolocation.’ Under TABC’s logic, Texas would then be authorized to prohibit use of the word ‘milk’ by producers of a certain liquid dairy product, but also to require Austin promoters to advertise the famous annual ‘Milk Festival’ on the Congress Avenue Bridge.’”
One of the best aspects of attending the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) each year is the education and updates on the craft beer industry that are available. This year, I had the opportunity to attend a luncheon put on by the Brewers Association (BA) on day 2 of the festival, which was held at the Denver Marriott City Center in Denver. All beers at the luncheon were from brewpubs, with the majority of the beers having been GABF medal winners the year before. Brewers Association Program Director, Julia Herz mc’d the luncheon, which discussed various industry topics. However the focus was on the influence of brewpubs within the industry.
While Herz kicked off the luncheon, attendees were treated to a wonderful Belgian white from Taps Fish House and Brewery in Brea, California. Soon after the first course arrived, Roasted Beet Salad with fennel, green apples, goat cheese and bacon with vinaigrette. Paired with this was a Vienna style lager from Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen in Bellingham, Washington, as well as a Belgian Saison from Mckenzie Brewhouse in Malvern, Pennsylvania.
The Great American Beer Festival. The name alone conjures up visions of yummy malted goodness, but the festival is much more. It is a celebration of American craftsmanship, pride and ingenuity. The festival, known to most as GABF, began way back in 1982 and although it may seem not that long ago, with all that has transpired in craft beer in the last 30 years, it feels like a lifetime.
30 years ago the American Home Brewers Association (AHA), the precursor to the Brewers Association, was in its 4th year of existence, having formed in 1978 when the federal government officially legalized home brewing. Coming up on(Approaching) its fourth annual conference, AHA decided to hold a festival celebrating American craft breweries. This was a momentous occasion, as the beer scene in the United States was virtually non-existent since prohibition ended and the U.S. was only recently seeing a resurgence of breweries opening up, with Jack McAuliffe’s New Albion Brewing having kick started the revolution in the mid 70′s. Although New Albion lasted only a few years, Jack inspired many to start their own breweries, most notably the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Formulating your own recipe to create what you hope is an unbelievable Homebrew is probably the most difficult part of brewing your own beer. However, it can be the most rewarding as well. Maybe you’ve gathered the equipment needed, books and even talked to veteran brewers. You might even have many partial mash or all-grain batches under your belt. Something is missing though. While you are enjoying the brewing process, getting to know your equipment and honing your techniques, however you want more control over the process, more of a challenge.
I confess, I probably brewed at least 4-5 all-grain batches before I finally felt ready to try my hand at creating my own recipes. I was scared to death. Trying someone else’s proven recipe is safe and if you make a mistake or two, it’s likely to be close enough. Working on your own recipe puts the added stress of not getting the recipe right. That can make or break your beer, even if your brew day is perfect.
There are dozens of books out there that will assist with recipe formulation and getting to know everything that needs to be considered, however there are a few in particular that I keep close at hand: Ray Daniel’s ‘Designing Great Beers’; Randy Mosher’s ‘Radical Brewing’; and the recently published ‘Brewing better Beer’ from Gordon Strong. I suggest looking at these and any others as your resources.
These days, you wouldn’t have enough fingers to count up all the production breweries in Texas. Although Texas is still very far from being what it has the potential to be, this is still a great problem to have. Even the smaller towns like New Braunfels, are getting in on the action. However, one city in Texas seems to be rising above all others in its numbers of brewpubs and production breweries to the point that comparisions to Denver, Colorado and San Diego, California have been mentioned. Austin, Texas has become a hot spot for craft beer these days, but is there too much?
The Craft Brewers Conference blew into San Francisco this year and took the town by storm. The Craft Brewers Conference (CBC), is the preeminent conference for packaging breweries, as well as brewpubs and is sponsored by the Brewers Association, which is made up of more than 1,000 US brewery members. This years CBC saw more than 3,900 industry attendees and 53 seminars, and shaped up to be quite a week for members of the craft brewing industry. The conference also featured BrewExpo America, a trade show that features vendors from all over the world showcasing the latest products and services available to the brewing industry.
Day one of the conference really began the night before with the welcoming ceremonies which were held at the California Academy of Science in Golden Gate Park. Sponsored by Briess Malt and Hopunion, it featured beers poured by Moylans, Beach Chalet, Russian River. It was an amazing night and a great way to ease everyone into the task at hand: establish life long business relationships that would allow growth with America’s beer culture and expose brewers big and small to industry best practices.
Keynote Speakers for this years conference were Sierra Nevada founder and pioneer Ken Grossman and Fritz Maytag, former owner of Anchor Brewing and often thought of as the father of craft brewing in the United States. Grossman and Maytag sat in lounge chairs sharing a beer together, while regaling the audience with tales of their beginnings. Rather than just giving the usual stand at the podium speech, they engaged in a conversation with each other that was as educational as anything you could ever watch.