Bell’s Debacle

Over the past couple days a storm has been brewing(pun fully intended) in the craft beer world.

According to an article posted by the Detroit Free Press on Wednesday a large Michigan craft brewer is getting into a bit of a quarrel with a considerably smaller North Carolina based brewery.

The general summary of the article is that Bell’s Brewery of Michigan and Innovation Brewing of North Carolina are heading down the road to a bitter trademark battle. Bell’s is taking federal trademark action against Innovation because they claim that Innovation’s name could lead to confusion of their customers.

How can this be you might ask. Well, Bell’s has a slogan of “bottling innovation since 1985″.  Mind you, this is an unregistered, minimally used slogan. With Innovation’s name being in their slogan they feel that customers may some how be confused between the two.

Right now the only confusion I have is how the name of a brewery that is one word in an unregistered slogan can end up as a legal battle.

As you may guess word of this impending battle has spread like wildfire through social media. Many upset people have taken to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like to voice their dismay over this issue. These voices prompted Bell’s to make a public statement on their Facebook page in their defense. The following post came less than two days after they had said they would decline further comment.

To our Bell’s customers and the passionate craft beer community,

We want to clear up a few things regarding our federal trademark dispute with Innovation Brewing.

1. We have not, and are not asking them to change their name or their logo. There is no lawsuit. We are not suing them. We have not asked them for money. We have not asked them to stop selling their beer. We are asking them to withdraw their federal trademark application.

2. Our concern is with their United States trademark application and potential impact on our brand, which we have spent 30 years building.

3. I personally reached out to Innovation Brewing to try to settle this matter in February, 2014 and attempted to talk about this brewer to brewer instead of involving lawyers. Our efforts were rebuffed and Innovation Brewing choose to pursue this in the legal system.

4. Over the last year, we have offered co-existence agreements and have offered to pay for their legal fees. We tried to find solutions that would work for both of us. Their response was to ask for an exorbitant amount of money and we did not feel that was a collaborative solution.

5. All offers that we proposed were rejected and after more than a year of discussion regrettably, this matter has moved to the federal trademark office.

We have the utmost respect for Innovation Brewing and we are going to keep any comments we have regarding this matter positive, honest, and collaborative. We want them to continue to brew and do the good work they’re doing under their own name.

We hope to resolve this as swiftly as the system will allow.

The passion that we have seen over the past few days is a testament to how much the beer industry means to those who support it and why we are proud to be a part of it. We always appreciate further feedback and invite everyone to continue to share their concerns with us directly:http://bellsbeer.com/contact/

Sincerely,

Laura S. Bell
Vice President
Bell’s Brewery, Inc.

Shortly after Bell’s posted Innovation took to their Facebook page and posted this:

To Our Wonderful Craft Beer Community:

We felt it was important to get our story out to the media because this is an important matter for the craft beer industry. We did not intend (nor do we want to) have a social media battle with Bell’s, but because of allegations posted on Bell’s Brewery’s Facebook page we now have to defend ourselves. Settlement discussions are protected communications that are not to be disclosed publicly, so out of respect to Bell’s Brewery’s rights we would never have disclosed them. Furthermore, Mr. Bell pointedly stated that he would not “play this out on social media” – and so we again respected his wishes by keeping the details to ourselves. Now, it appears they changed their mind.

We are planning to deliver a full statement of the facts and events that have brought us to this point. Until then, we feel it necessary to respond to Ms. Bell’s enumerated allegations. Thank you for continuing to support and believe in us. You keep us going through this difficult time.

1. Yes, this is a TM proceeding and not a lawsuit, although it is like a lawsuit, requiring legal representation, being personally deposed, and including a trial. They are asking us to withdraw our federal trademark application for our brand name.
2. We do not believe that any human on earth would confuse Innovation Brewing with Bell’s Brewery, despite their slogans.
3. Laura Bell did contact me at 7:00 pm the night before their opposition filing was due. They had already hired attorneys to represent them and file for their extension to file the opposition. We had not hired an attorney. After she advised us that she would “let us” keep using the name in NC only, and never expand beyond it, she said that we had until the next day at 5:00 PM to respond. That is 22 hours to find an attorney and decide on the future of our business. That was the one and only attempt Ms. Bell made to contact me. From there their attorneys took over.
4. Not a single co-existence agreement has ever been presented to us by Bell’s. In fact it was we who submitted a written co-existence agreement – subsequently declined by Bell’s. The only monetary compensation they have ever offered us was $2,500 which was to cover the inconvenience of being forced to abandon our trademark and go register a different one. The “legal fees”, as Ms. Bell puts it, brought on by their legal action against us, may exceed $50,000. We did not feel like being bought off.
5. This matter was before the TM office one day after she began talking to us. No offer has ever been presented to us other than the offer to limit our business to NC or take $2,500 to start over and build a new brand. We believe in our business, so those are not really offers at all.
6. In regards to Laura Bell stating “we hope to resolve this as swiftly as the system will allow” we suggested the accelerated trademark opposition process that would have brought this to a legal end much sooner and with far less expense, but Bell’s denied it.

You great people don’t deserve to be peppered with sides of the story. So we will give you a full account of the facts so you can decide for yourself. We are good people and we know we have your support. Stay tuned.

-Chip and Nicole

So there you have it. As always I’m sure there are three sides to this story, what Bell’s says, what Innovation says, and what really happened. I’ll try to post up any pertinent updates to this as time goes on. In the meantime I’d like to ask everyone, what do you think? Do you think Bell’s is picking on Innovation with a baseless claim but deep pockets? Or do you think Innovation should be abandoning their brand because of possible confusions with Bell’s slogan?

Preparing Cherries

This past weekend it was time to take the chocolate covered cherry beer to secondary. It was also time to add some cherries and coco nibs.

To flavor this beer I’m starting with nearly 10 pounds of dark sweet and Rainier cherries. They were frozen in the fall to preserve them and also to help prepare them because freezing fruits breaks down cell walls and helps release more flavor into the beer.

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As you might guess dropping 10 pounds of frozen cherries into a  fermenting beer probably wouldn’t be a good plan. They needed to be thawed. In the past I have just thawed out things like blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries, but this time I wanted to do something a little different. My plan was to cook them down a bit. Doing so should release more of the juice and flavor along with helping sanitize the fruit to kill off any wild yeasts that may be present.

Luckily I had kept around the little 5 gallon kettle that my first brew kit came with. The largest pot we had in the kitchen wasn’t even close to having enough room for all the cherries.

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It didn’t take long, on a low heat, to get them all thawed out and cooked down a bit. The goal is to get them to a point where they simmer, but not boil.

After an hour or so I turned off the heat and went about my day while they cooled. Adding near boiling cherries also wouldn’t be good for my beer.

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At this point I also mixed in 4 ounces of coco nibs that had been marinating in vodka since brew day. The vodka helps pull out flavors as well as sanitizing the nibs.

As I have discussed before with the conical there is really no transferring to a secondary fermenter. Blowing the trub off was a simple task. There were no clogs and I drained off a quart of trub and beer. I noticed though that I was going to have an issue with head space as I had roughly 6 gallons of beer in my 7 gallon vessel. Adding a gallon of  cherries wouldn’t give me any room if fermentation took back off again. That could potentially clog my blow off tube which could result in a huge mess.

I had to drain off some of the beer. Luckily I had some empty one gallon wine bottles in the basement and after sanitizing one I began to drain some of the beer into it. After I had gotten down to 5 gallons in the conical I capped off the wine jug and put an air lock in it. I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet with this extra bit of beer, but I think it might be good to see what kind of flavor the base beer has. I will probably just put it into a couple 2 liter bottles and force carbonate it just like I would a keg.

After the trub was gone and the extra beer was in a different jug I pulled a sample from the conical for tasting and gravity tests. The gravity going into the secondary was 1.022, down from an original of 1.064. Based on my recipe this is right about where we should finish. I suspect it to drop a bit though as the cherries will kick off fermentation again. That however will also make the final reading a bit unreliable. As it sat the beer had a great flavor. It still had a lot of malty sweetness that should go very well with the cherries and coco nibs.

I slowly added the cherries to the conical and capped it back up to finish out its fermentation. Somewhere around March 22nd it should be ready to keg.

Last night I pulled a little sample off and I’m really looking forward to this beer. The cherry flavor is beginning to develop and there are hints of chocolate. The malty sweetness has not faded much either. Along with kegging this beer I think I might bottle a little bit to cellar for awhile and see how it ages.

Northern Brewer: Free Big Mouth Bubbler

I just received an email from Northern Brewer with the following promotion:

 

It’s pretty easy to dump $125 into this hobby at a time when you are acquiring your equipment. Do yourself a favor and get a little extra bonus too. It looks like you only have until 11:59 pm CST on 3/8/2015 to make your order so don’t wait around.

While I’m a huge fan of using my SS Brewtech 7 gallon stainless steel  conical I have a pair of these that I will always keep around the brewery. The large open mouths make them incredibly easy to clean. Being made of plastic makes them light, easy to move around, and most importantly safe. Last summer I had a glass carboy crack and was left with a pretty bad cut because of it.

From here on out its stainless or plastic for me.

 

 

 

Stone’s Pale Ale Recipe

It looks as though after 19 years of service Stone is decommissioning their Pale Ale. Interestingly enough, a comment from a concerned fan has lead to this long time mainstay’s recipe being published for the general public to duplicate on their own.

Stone’s Pale Ale Recipe

You can read the entire story at the link above. Below you will find the recipe extracted from the article for your viewing.

Stone Pale Ale

Yield: 5 Gallons (about 54 12-ounce bottles or 30 22-ounce bottles)

  • 10 pounds plus 7 ounces crushed North American two-row pale malt
  • 1 pound plus 4.2 ounces crushed 60L crystal malt
  • 4.8 ounces crushed 75L crystal malt
  • About 9 gallons water
  • 0.44 ounce Columbus hops (12.9% alpha acid)
  • ½ tsp Irish moss
  • 0.77 ounce Ahtanum hops (6.0% alpha acid)
  • 1.19 ounces Ahtanum hops (6.0% alpha acid)
  • 1 (35ml) package White Labs WLP007 Dry English Ale Yeast or WLP002 English Ale Yeast
  • 1 cup plus 3 Tbsp light dried malt extract

Clean and sanitize all of your equipment.

Mashing

In a 10-galloln insulated cooler, combine the crushed malts with 3 gallons plus 12 cups of 172°F water. The water should cool slightly when mixed with the grain. Hold the mash at 156°F for 20 minutes.

Add 2 gallons plus 2 cups of 184°F water. The mixture should come up to 165°F.

Lautering & Sparging

Lauter the mash. Once the liquid is lower than the level of the grain, begin to slowly sprinkle 3 gallons plus 1 cup of 168°F water over the grains to start the sparge. Continue sparging.

The Boil

Set the brew kettle of wort on top of a propane burner and add water to bring the wort level up to about 6 gallons plus 12 cups, if needed. Bring the wort to a rapid, rolling boil. As it begins to come to a boil, a layer of foam and scum may develop at the surface. Skim it off and discard. Once the wort is at a full boil, put a hops bag containing the Columbus hops in the kettle and set a timer for 90 minutes. Stir the wort frequently during the boil and be watchful to avoid boil-overs.

At 15 minutes before the end of the boil, stir in the Irish moss. At 10 minutes before the end of the boil, put a hops bag containing the 0.77 ounce of Ahtanum hops in the kettle. When the boiling time is over, turn off the heat and put a hops bag containing the remaining Ahtanum hops in the kettle. Cover the kettle and immediately begin cooling the wort as quickly as possible.

Pitching Yeast & Fermentation

Once the wort has cooled to 72°F, discard the spent hops and check the specific gravity of the wort with a hydrometer. The target starting gravity is 1.057 (14 Plato).

Transfer the wort to the primary fermentation bucket. Pitch the yeast (or prepare a yeast starter).

Allow the wort to ferment through primary and secondary fermentation at 72°F until it reaches a specific gravity of 1.014 (3.5 Plato).

Bottling

When you’re ready to bottle, clean and sanitize the bottles, caps and bottling equipment. Put the dried malt extract in a medium saucepan and stir in just enough water to dissolve it. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat, cover and let cool slightly. Proceed with bottling.

palealecover

Stone Pale Ale (Advanced)

Yield: 5 Gallons (about 54 12-ounce bottles or 30 22-ounce bottles)

  • 87.0% crushed North American two-row pale malt
  • 10.5% crushed 60L crystal malt
  • 2.5% crushed 75L crystal malt
  • Conversion temperature 156°F
  • Mash out 165°F
  • 0.171 lb/bbl Columbus hops (12.9% alpha acid)

[90 minutes]

  • 0.30 lb/bbl Ahtanum hops (6.0% alpha acid)

[10 minutes]

  • 0.46 lb/bbl Ahtanum hops (6.0% alpha acid)

[0 minutes]

  • White Labs WLP007 Dry English Ale Yeast or WLP002 English Ale Yeast
  • Pitch rate 16 to 18
  • Starting gravity 1.057 (14 Plato)
  • Final gravity 1.014 (3.5 Plato)
  • Ferment at 72°F

This is definitely something that I need to keep around just in case I get bored some day and want to make a clone of a beer that helped define a company.

Now we just need them to release the recipe for Arrogant Bastard.

Brew Day Saturday?

Right now I’m trying to decide if I want to brew again this weekend. My goal for this year is to brew at least once a month. My February batch was technically in March, but it was close enough.

A driving factor to brew this soon again is that I have a bunch of coconuts and key limes sitting around the house that are going to start going bad. I guess I could freeze them and use them at a later date, but with spring and summer right around the corner I want to begin to bolster my selection of lighter summer beers.

Right now the brew from last weekend is hanging out in my conical and will be there for another two weeks. If I want to brew this weekend it’s going to have to go into one of my carboys, which isn’t a huge deal.

My real dilemma is that I just have too much beer around. Most people would probably think that’s a good problem to have. I disagree. Since last fall I’ve consistently had all 6 of my tap handles full. With the second batch of cider and my brew of the Debbie Does Amarillo Dirty Blonde Ale I filled up the kegerator as well. At this rate I’m going to run out of empty kegs as well.

I’ve got 99 problems and a beer shortage ain’t one…

Mike Schaffer's Home Brewing Site