Lagunitas Withdraws Lawsuit, Capitalizes Random Words

Around 11:15pm last night, friend of the blog Tony Magee of Lagunitas announced via Twitter that he would be rescinding his trademark lawsuit against Sierra Nevada for the appearance of the term “IPA” on the packaging for SN’s new Hop Hunter IPA.

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What Tony Magee is after…

Me, personally, I don’t believe a lick of this nonsense. Or is it Nonsense. I don’t know Why Tony capitalizes Certain Words, and not Others, but Whatever. This seems like a colossal waste of time, money, and resources for what any trademark attorney could’ve told you in an initial consultation. So why go through with the filing? Why strain your relationship with one of the biggest craft breweries in the country? Why would the man who said this…

I told the world that I didn’t want to pretend to ‘own’ something that belongs in the commons.

regarding his public battle against SweetWater over the term “420,” turn around and decide to sue over the use/appearance of the term “IPA;” possibly the most ubiquitous term in craft beer?

I have plenty of my own thoughts and opinions on the matter, but they’re just conjecture and wild ranting… so here they are (rant incoming):

I think Magee is a hypocrite. I think he’s a product of a generation and a half of spoiled rotten brats who are used to getting everything their way. I think he’s a pot-smoking hippie when it suits him, and a litigious business man when it suits him; though he’ll only admit to the former and never the latter. His series of tweets seems to bear that out. It’s all peace and love until his market share is threatened. Lagunitas, like SweetWater, like Flying Dog, and like (unfortunately) countless other breweries are perpetuating a dude-bro culture that – in my opinion – will do more harm than good as the craft beer industry matures. Sure, you can say they take their cues from Bud/Miller/Coors with regards to sexism but excuses are like assholes. If they can take the time and effort to make their products “better,” then they can take the time and effort to make themselves and their companies better. Beers like Mouth Raper IPA, Pearl Necklace, Leg Spreader, and innumerable others are juvenile, sexist, and they implicate all of us – ALL of us: brewers, owners, homebrewers, craft beer drinkers, bloggers – in guilt by association.

In fairness to Magee and Lagunitas, their beers do not fall in with these more putrid examples of rape culture. But the mentality of Magee – this egocentric, two-faced, spoiled brat attitude that leads someone to start fights over “420” and “IPA” like he’s the only one who has ever smoked pot or brewed with hops – is indicative of what is being associated with craft beer. It is a culture of privilege, and more often than not of male privilege. It’s abhorrent and it’s time to grow the fuck up.

That’s just a little sumpin’ sumpin’ to think about next time you’re shopping in the beer aisle.

 

Lagunitas Suing Sierra Nevada Over Stupid Bullshit

EDIT: In deference to the Semantics Warriors: Lagunitas is suing over the appearance of the term “IPA”  on Sierra Nevada’s packaging, not the term itself. Because apparently that makes this totally less ridiculous, except it doesn’t. Whatever. The title’s misleading, and apparently that’s all that matters, because reasons.

EDIT v2: I’ve retitled the article. I think it covers all the bases.

As a post-script to my typo-and-profanity-filled rant, I mentioned that I thought Tony Magee from Lagunitas was a hypocrite and an asshole. A lot of people didn’t like that comment, and I backtracked a little, because I just didn’t want to bother talking about it any more (since it was a tangent to my main point).

Well, sweet vindication has arrived: Lagunitas is suing Sierra Nevada for putting “IPA” on their packaging (That link is to BeerAdvocate’s forums, but it includes the embedded trademark lawsuit filing).

I’m not a lawyer, and I try not to play one on the Internet, but this suit is so laughably ego-maniacal and baseless. And I understand that failure to protect one’s trademarks can result in them being invalidated (or some such nonsense, like I said, not a lawyer), but this is absurd. Literally absurd. As in the definition: “wildly unreasonable, illogical, or inappropriate.” Lagunitas’ filing states the following (emphasis is mine):

The unique “IPA” lettering used in the Lagunitas “IPA” Family of Trademarks has a distinctive serif font, distinctive kerning (or letter spacing), between the “P” and “A”, slightly aged or weathered look, with uneven areas on each of the letters, and the elimination of any periods between the letters.

For anyone who isn’t a typeface nerd (so like 99.9% of humans), a serif font has those little lines that come off the letters. It’s what differentiates a capital “I” from a lowercase “l”. So say that entire family of fonts is “distinctive” is to say that because the sky over Lagunitas’ brewery is blue, they have the right to sue every other brewery that has blue sky (or less absurd: no one else can use hop art or the color beige on their packaging).

As for the slightly aged or weathered look; look out Founders, Alaskan, BrewDog, and thousands of other breweries because you’ll be next in court:

And as for eliminating those periods, well…

I just hope that Lagunitas has enough money and lawyers to righteously fight all this injustice that is besmirching their good name. Or maybe Tony Magee should conduct one of his “safety meetings” and chill the fuck out.

Well, That Escalated Quickly

So… uh… yeah. Thanks to everyone – and I literally mean everyone – for reading that crazy-ass rant about Sam Adams and hipsters. Usually when I start ranting and raving like that it’s while I’m being escorted out of a place by the neck, and most people pay me no mind. But apparently I hit home with a lot of folks. Next time I wrote something that goes viral, I’ll try to do it while not hopped-up on pre-workout. That shit’s for lifting weights not pounding keys.

Anyway, I felt that I should clear up a few things that may or may not have gotten lost or misconstrued or mis-communicated (by me) in that rant. I write this blog for fun, and mostly just for myself and what I thought was a very small group of people who would read it. In the case of yesterday’s post, I wrote it stream-of-consciousness, unedited, in fifteen or so minutes while on my way out the door. So consider this a mini-addendum, which #1 being the primary point:

  1. I am NOT a beer industry person. I would like to be some day, but I’d think most places would frown on hiring a raving lunatic. I have a handful of friends and acquaintances in the industry and they are very good to me (some even shared my rant), and knowing them has really improved my beer education. Though, if I came across as a know-it-all that wasn’t my intent. I certainly do not know it all. One of the things I don’t know, for example, is how wholesale/distribution pricing works in practice. That “$3″ figure I threw out was hyperbole/out of my ass. It was an off-the-cuff “I’ve paid $4 for a pint of Sam and $7 for a pint of XYZ craft, so $3 seems reasonable” thought. I’ve been told it was way off. The actual dollar amounts, however, aren’t really what my point was. I was saying that to declare Sam Adams’ Boston Lager a “mediocre” product is disingenuous. I don’t believe any of the establishments mentioned need to sell it; I have no problem with any of them leaving Sam off their draft/bottle lists. My issue is to claim that they’re doing it for any reason other than “I can make more money by selling something else” should be treated with the same skepticism as you treat the “The End is Nigh” guy outside of Fenway. Craft beer bars know their clientele far better than some guy on the Internet, and they know what their customers will and will not buy. However, that doesn’t mean because they don’t serve something that thing is somehow “mediocre.” Just because it doesn’t sell well in a bar that caters to the “new and shiny” Millennial/hipster (more about which in a second) crowd, does not make it mediocre. This was my major point.
  2. I am also NOT defending Jim Koch’s behavior. If the events at Row 34 went down as Andy Crouch described – and I have no reason to believe otherwise – than that was a dick move by Koch, it was reprehensible, and he should offer an apology to the bar staff he berated and to Row 34’s owner. I still maintain the owner should’ve stepped in to defend his staff, but that’s neither here nor there.
  3. I’ve been told my tone was too aggressive. Fuck you. Oh okay, yeah sure, I was a little pissed off. I’m not paid to write this blog, and as you can tell by “.wordpress.com” in the URL, it isn’t monetized either. I mostly use it as my personal vent, and share it with my social media contacts because some folks enjoy reading it. I didn’t expect this much attention, and if I did I may have A. proof-read, and B. taken a more level-headed approach. Also, I’m a diet so I’m grumpy. But, meh, it’s still my personal blog and I didn’t make you read it.  If you want level-headed, fact-checked, and (mostly) typo-free there are plenty of other websites that can accommodate you. If you think these are all a bunch of excuses: screw.
  4. My post-script attack on Tony Magee. Probably not cool to attack the character of a guy I’ve never met, so if Tony read it and it hurt his feelings, I apologize. If someone else got butt-hurt about it, I don’t really care. Lagunitas makes some good beers (and some great ones), but from what I’ve read and heard from Magee I find him to be a hypocrite. If he’s interested in smoking the peace pipe and proving me wrong, I’m certainly game. Everyone else, I refer you to the part about me not caring.
  5. What is a hipster?/Aren’t you a hipster?/Am I a hipster because I do/don’t like XYZ?: go pound sand.
  6. Commenting — I have a comment filter on that’s designed to keep out spam; but it also holds any first-time comments for moderation. I’ve been blanket-approving them and responding to them as I can. I’m going to try to respond to as many of them as I can, but if you’re gonna pick a fight or be a dick I’m not going to bother with you. I’ll still approve your comment, because apparently I asked for all this attention and America and it’d be hypocritical of me to post some raving rant on the Internet and deny you a raving response. I think. I don’t know. Not even entirely sure I care…

If I pissed you off in some other way, you can feel free to leave a comment. It’ll probably say awaiting moderation (like I noted above), but I generally just approve anything that isn’t appallingly racist/sexist/homophobic/pro-New York.

In all sincerity, though: thank you all for reading. It’s been a little overwhelming, but mostly positive and I appreciate it.

Further Reading

This article from MarketWatch was sent to me today: “Why these craft beer pioneers hate snobs.” I haven’t had the chance to read it yet, as I’m a slow reader,  but it was pointed out to me by a number of folks, so I’m gonna go head and judge a book by its cover and assume it’s at least tangential to the topic at hand. MarketWatch is one of them sites that has editors and fact-checkers and shit.

Sam Adams and Why We Need To Stop Listening to Hipsters

The phenomenal beer writer Andy Crouch penned this interesting (and if you’re of the TL;DR generation, long) piece about Boston Beer Company, its founder Jim Koch, and their overall place in The Craft Beer Movement™. If you’re interested in beer – and since you’re reading some shithead’s homebrewing blog, I’m gonna assume you are – you should take the time to read the whole article. But the long-and-short (or TL;DR) of the piece is that despite being the founder of the Craft Beer Movement™, Sam Adams is being “left behind” by the shifting tastes of craft beer drinkers and the changing marketplace.

Crouch talks to a lot of respected industry folks and gathers a lot of perspectives and opinions for this piece and presents them fairly and evenly. The article starts with Koch essentially pitching a shit-fit in a Boston bar called Row 34 (full disclosure: never been. It’s an oyster bar and I don’t like seafood) because they don’t have his beloved Sam Adams Boston Lager available (or any other Boston Beer Company products, I’d assume). It doesn’t paint Koch in a particular nice light, but it is what it is. Crouch then gets the co-owner of Deep Ellum and the owner of Lord Hobo to essentially say Boston Lager is a mediocre product.

And that pissed me right the fuck off.

The reason that bars like Deep Ellum, Lord Hobo, and Row 34 don’t serve Sam Adam isn’t because it is a mediocre product – though they’ll swear to that, up and down – it’s because they can make an extra $3 a pint on a truly mediocre product (from say, Night Shift) and that in turn makes them more money. That business decision, that doesn’t upset me, and I’d assume if the owner of Row 34 – who apparently sat quietly by while Koch berated his staff (nice) – had simply said that to Harvard MBA Koch, that would’ve been the end of the discussion.

And that’s the crux of what upset me. Jim Koch is an excellent businessman who became a disruptive force in an industry with a high barrier to entry, fought tough and nail for three decades to establish his brand, and created a niche market and then WILLINGLY HELPED other people get in on his market share (which ultimately boosted his own profits, so it wasn’t purely altruistic). And now Boston Beer is “too big for craft.” People get upset that the Brewers’ Association definition of what is “craft beer” has been extended to continuously include Boston Beer, while casually forgetting that Jim Koch helped found not just the Craft Beer Movement™, but also the Brewers’ Association. And then they point to the fact that he sits on the board as to why the definition shifts with his company, ignoring the fact that there would be no association, no market, and none of them if it weren’t for him.

It’s this dis-ingenuousness that is infuriating. Koch, a businessman who helped found a market, is being disrespected for being too good at making money, by the people making money off the market he created. And for any and all of Koch’s downsides, he’s passionate about his product, and he’s honest about it (save for the marketing fluff that Crouch touches upon in his piece). So I totally understand his frustration when people call his product “mediocre” or “middle of the road” and claim that is why they won’t serve it, when what it really comes down to is that they can swindle Johnny Ironic-Mustache out of an extra $3 for a truly inferior product.

A side tangent on Boston Lager’s “mediocrity”: fuck you if you think you’re too good for Boston Lager. Your palate isn’t “sophisticated,” it’s scorched earth from the ridiculous hop-bomb West Coast IPAs. Most of the IPAs that people love: they’re garbage. Beer snobs – the hipsters with the fedoras who want to know if this beer is vegan – confuse scarcity with quality and ubiquity with mediocrity. Even Dann Paquette of Pretty Things, who is essentially King Hipster, had this to say:

“annoying young hipster attitude toward beer. It’s the same sort of attitude that you find in music. ‘Oh, that brewery was so last year.’ People want to try new stuff all the time, [and] there are two sides to the coin on that for Boston Beer. They’re so big nationally, but I’m sure they’d love to be back on the scene in these beer bars.”

(Another side note: Pretty Things makes some excellent beers, and every time I’ve met Dann and his wife Martha they’ve been super-cool people)

And Dann’s absolutely right. And he’s echoed by my friend Jamie, who is also quoted in the article: “Right now, it’s about what is shiny and new.” Which is true, but it’s also fucking bullshit and it’s why Koch is so pissed off. Here’s a quote from a friend of mine/fellow homebrewer/beer retailer on Facebook (emphasis is mine):

My biggest complaint with all of “you” (“you” being consumers) is that no one cares, at all, for beer that they can pull off the shelf every day. GI sits, unless it’s BCBS or a variant, Wormtown Hopulence, or MassWhole, or Sweet Tats sits for weeks, while Be Hoppy causes fist fights, even MBC isn’t immune: with Mo and Peeper and even Red Wheelbarrow becoming “shelf turds” because it isn’t Lunch, Nightshift started with a bang, now only Morph draws customers in. I see people in the store everyday who buy no beer, unless it’s tough to get. The “I’ve never had Founders, give me four 4-packs of KBS…” customers. I call them “beer poachers”, and they were created by the breweries, in conjunction with guys like me (beer sales), and their killing the industry.

Hipsters. I knew it was them! Even when it was the bears, I knew it was them!

My favorite (read: most infuriating) quote is this gem:

“Authenticity is extremely important to millennials, more so than any other generation that we’ve seen before,” says Michelle Snodgrass of Vizeum, a strategic marketing agency that works with global brands such as Anheuser-Busch. “Millennials can see right through insincerity, and they’re actually looking for it.”

BULLSHIT.

Authenticity might be important to millennials because they have absolutely none of it themselves. They may actually be looking for it, but they wouldn’t know what it was if it latched onto their balls like an angry wolverine. My generation, sadly, was raised on instant gratification, participation trophies, garbage food, mind-numbing media and a constant feedback loop that your opinion is totally relevant and important regardless of how little you actually fucking know about it. Millennials are leaving, breathing manifestations of Holden Caulfield that lack the sort of self-awareness to realize their own irony.

Stop giving power to these trolls. They know nothing, they do nothing, and pretty soon they won’t be able to buy your shit anymore when the trust fund runs out. The best part of Jamie’s quote from above is “Right now, it’s about what is shiny and new.” Right now. That’s the key insight here: all of this is temporary. That doesn’t make it any less annoying or infuriating when I’m stuck sitting next to five dude-bros at a bar who ordered a flight and can’t figure out which is the IPA and which is the stout but are still totally beer geeks, bro. It doesn’t make it any less annoying to see an eyeroll when I send a beer back for having an off-flavor that fuck you, yes I can detect, because I’m not so fuckhead 21-year-old from Emerson having his first brown ale.

Craft beer – including Sam Adams – is amazing, it’s everything else about the Craft Beer Movement™ that fucking sucks.

———————

Post-Script: I couldn’t fit it into the screed above but I want to just say that I think Tony Magee from Lagunitas is a pompous whiny douchebag and he’s an ungrateful shit.

EDIT: Hi, folks. So this got a lot more attention that I ever expected. Thanks to everyone who shared and commented. I appreciate all the discussion, opinions, feedback, and insults about my appearance (okay, less so on this one). I just wanted to drop a quick note to say I have to stop responding to all the comments because they’re coming in quicker than I can keep up. I will try to check in periodically to make sure they get posted/approved. Cheers.

Beer Review: Traveler’s Jolly Traveler Shandy

It’s been a while since I’ve done a commercial beer review, and this one is a little something different. Normally when I review a beer it is because I wanted to try it, went out and purchased it, and decided on a whim it was worth writing about. In this case I was contacted by the fine folks at Traveler’s and asked if I wanted free beer, an offer I would only say “no” to if it came from Heineken.

That said, when I wrote my Pumpkin Beer Ranking for Deadspin, I was pleasantly surprised with Traveler’s Jack-O Shandy. I’m not normally a shandy drinker – being that I am burdened with so much testosterone and machismo – but the Jack-O, and before it Narragansett’s Del’s Shandy, have flipped my opinion on the style.

This is all to say: Jolly Traveler was given to me by the company to review, I’m reviewing it with an improved eye towards the style, and since I make no money off this blog, I’m still just a poor dork like the rest of you. Now avert your gaze as I pour this beer into my crystal goblet…

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Promotional image. Their professional photographers take prettier pictures than my iPhone.

The Vitals

Malt Varieties: 2-row malted barley, malted wheat
Hop Varieties: Hallertau-Hallertau
Special Ingredients: Holiday Spice, Orange and Pomegranate
ABV: 4.4%
BUs: 7

The Hype

Driven by a desire to embrace all things wintry, the Jolly Traveler warms the spirit during the months when it’s needed most. Embracing the flavors of the season, Jolly is the first-ever winter shandy with notes of orange, pomegranate and spice.
We proudly introduce the Jolly Traveler, a cool fellow with a WINTRY disposition.

Beer Advocate: 81, N/A
RateBeer: Unranked
Untappd: 3.46

The Review

A surprising clear brew given the added spice, orange, and pomegranate, Jolly Traveler is a looker with a burnt orange/copper color and a thin white head of tiny bubbles. There is a little haze, but not much and the head persists, with fine lacing, despite being diminutive.

Jolly Traveler smells amazing. I’m reminded of mulled cider (one of my favorite non-alcoholic beverages. Try it with rum), but fruitier. Orange is the most dominating smell, mostly due to familiarity but there’s hints of the pomegranate that give Jolly an almost tropical vibe. I don’t pick up on too much of the spice, though I’m guessing cinnamon and nutmeg with maybe clove and ginger. And of course, there’s hints of lemon as well. The beer smells sweet, but that’s to be expected with the style I’d think.

Jolly Traveler reminds me of fruit snacks, the ones shaped like sharks. This beer is sweet, like candy, but isn’t cloying. In fact, it’s actually quite pleasant. Fruit is the defining characteristic, unsurprisingly, but it is a dark fruit flavor – most likely from the pomegranate – that takes the lead. There’s nice hints of citrus that balance out the pomegranate’s slight tartness, but I think the combination is too strong to allow any of the spices through; though I do catch a hint of cinnamon on the finish.

Jolly is crisp with bubbly carbonation that is light, but about right. I might like a tad more effervescence but just typing that makes me feel ashamed. The body is light-to-medium, tending more towards light,1 and finishes dry and crisp like you’d expect from a lager (this is an ale). The overall flavor is almost syrupy without any of the cloying, syrupy texture. A neat trick at the least.

Final Verdict

I’m going to knock Jolly Traveler for the same reason I knock most shandies: it doesn’t taste like beer. Of course that’s a subjective and ill-defined critique; after all what does “beer” taste like? ‘Craft Beer People’ – who I’m not a fan of – tend to like XXXTREME beers: the hoppiest IPAs, the heaviest stouts, the sourest sours, et cetera. I made the joke in the opening that I had too much testosterone to enjoy a shandy; sadly, for a lot of Craft Beer People that’s not a joke. Those assholes need to lighten up, because Jolly Traveler is delicious. I wouldn’t drink it in the shower after a hockey game, I wouldn’t drink it when I wanted an DIPA or a stout, but I would drink it at a holiday party (despite there being little about the flavor profile that says “holidays” to me, but I digress) as a nice reprieve from those stouts or winter warmers.

I wouldn’t recommend this beer to beer snobs whose blind devotion to ‘The Movement’ has them yammering about “whales” and “sell-outs”, but that’s because I tend to ignore those turds and their fedoras. More importantly, if you don’t like sweet drinks this probably isn’t for you. Jolly feels/tastes more like juice than a typical ale. It would not be my standard fare, nor probably something I’d have more than two of in a given drinking session.

I would recommend Jolly Traveler to anyone who appreciates something sweet, but without the heft of a stout or porter. If you’re into witbiers, hefeweizens, Harpoon’s UFO beers and that ilk, you should check out Jolly. This is fruity, juicy sweetness and not the vicious chocolate you’d usually expect from a sweet beer. I wouldn’t recommend trying to kill a six-pack by yourself; the ABV is low enough but that’s too much sweetness for one sitting.

Kudos to the Traveler’s folks; I’m pleasantly surprised again.

A Good Beer Goes A Long Way

When I first went to bottle this year’s Symphony of Decay (pumpkin ale) something looked off with the beer. The pumpkin matter and krausen created a gnarly looking film over the top of the beer. And it smelled yeasty and sour. Needless to say, I thought the batch was infected. I was pretty bullshit for a number reasons. Symphony is one of the more expensive beers I make and I didn’t want to have ~5 gallons of infected crap to pour down the train; I was responsible for giving a presentation on pumpkin beers for my homebrew club and naturally wanted to have a solid brew of my own to show off; and I suggested a pumpkin beer “best of show” for the club and not even having a beer to enter would really suck. On top of that, I really enjoy Symphony. It was the quickest beer to disappear last year and looks to be again this year.

So I finally did bottle Symphony and after two weeks of bottle carbonating I was able to crack open a bottle. As was my friend Joe and my ex-girlfriend. And you know what? It’s excellent. The body is just a bit lighter than I wanted (I mashed in a little cold), but it is fantastic tasting and smelling and even pretty clear considering all the pumpkin matter. More importantly it was a big confidence boost to my brewing, and part of what inspired me to upgrade my set-up. The fact that I was able to repeat my success from a year ago is a nice shot in the arm, and it feels really good. It makes me feel better about my decision to dump a ton of money into new toys and a bunch more time into this hobby.

So yeah, a good beer can go a long way.