Shared Beer Name Puts Independent Brewer at Odds with Big Beer
No-Li Brewhouse, the small and independent craft brewery out of Spokane, Washington, has been brewing its award-winning Born & Raised IPA since 2012. The beer’s name alludes to the heritage of its contents, as all of the hops and barley used in the beer are harvested within 300 miles of their brewhouse. Now, Goose Island, the Chicago-based brewery owned by Anheuser Busch InBev, has released a beer with the same name.
As Josh Noel of the Chicago Tribune reports, No-Li was first alerted to Goose’s beer name due to some confusing Untappd check-ins. As a small, Washington-based brewer, No-Li’s distribution footprint is relatively small and nowhere close to Chicago. So when their Born & Raised IPA, complete with a No-Li Brewhouse attribution, started popping on Untappd with a geolocation at Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs, alarm bells started ringing for the No-Li team. They realized Goose Island had released a beer with the same name just a few weeks ago. The beer, a Chicago-style cream ale, included artwork from local artists and a large Chicago marketing push.
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With more than 7,000 breweries in the U.S., the process of naming and labeling new beers can often be an arduous, and duplicate beer names happen. Often times, brewers can resolve it through conversations and mutual agreements built on the shared sense of community that many craft brewers have with one another.
No-Li’s Marketing Manager Bill Powers notes that they’ve encountered this issue before, albeit with other small craft breweries. In these previous situations, Powers says that both parties were able to work things out over a “handshake agreement” where the encroaching brewer would stop production of the beer in question after the brew cycle was complete or would rename their offering all-together if they planned to keep the beer in production.
When it comes to Born & Raised, No-Li is adamant that they are the rightful, sole owner of the name.
“No-Li Brewhouse has been using the Born & Raised name since 2012 and it’s been sold all across the country and recognized worldwide through international beer competitions,” Powers says.
Goose Island says the beer and name reflects its own Chicago roots. The brewery has no plans to change the name or stop production of its new cream ale.
“We’ve been a part of the Chicago craft beer community for over 30 years, so it seemed fitting we name our Chicago-only cream ale ‘Born + Raised’ and work with local artists to create the unique tap handles,” says Todd Ahsmann, the president of Goose Island Beer Co.
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What happens now?
“We’d love to work with Goose Island and Anheuser-Busch and figure out a happy medium,” Powers tells CraftBeer.com. “No matter how big a company you’re working with on a disagreement, it’s still about people working together, understanding each other’s position. Hopefully looking at how we can be as a beer culture, not looking at what you can technically do, but how do we interact with others like they are our neighbors.”
Hopefully, the breweries are able to find that happy medium. Stay tuned.