Thursday, October 15, 2009

High Hops?

The funny thing about working at a bar that features beers from local and independent breweries is that you start to pick up beer knowledge. I know a lot more about beer than I did six months ago, and I know more about the process and the people behind the beers.

One of these people is Matt Nadeau of Rock Art Brewery in Vermont. In celebration of the brewery's tenth anniversary in 2006, Nadeau created the Vermonster, an American Barley Wine with 110 malts per barrel and a 10% alcohol content (Clever, right?).

In September 2009, Nadeau received a notice to cease and desist the use of the name "The Vermonster" from Hansen Beverage Co., the makers of Monster Energy Drink. The company argues that the similar title might confuse consumers.

Yes. Really.

In response, Nadeau smartly took his fight to the Web where news of the battle has gone viral. In addition to trade blogs, well-read consumer blogs like Consumerist and news media have picked up on Nadeau's heartfelt plea for help.

I think it was a bold move for Hansen to go after Nadeau. Independent breweries make up a fairly tight community online. It's a niche, but a powerful one: beer affectionados blog about industry news, consumers visit brewery Web sites for information about tours or about starting their own homegrown operations and artisans connect online to share trade tips and ideas. There is a lot of intersection, and many brewers meet up at conventions or trade events--they have pride about being a part of this community. All this means that, regardless of the final outcome, Hansen will be irrevocably tied to the Vermonster, Nadeau and Rock Art Brewery for years to come.

It will be interesting to see what happens next.

UPDATE: Nadeau and Nelson reached an agreement as of October 21st. Hansen will back of as long as Nadeau does not enter the energy drink market with he Vermonster.

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