stone sues millercoors

Breaking Stones: Stone Sues MillerCoors

It was a big week in San Diego craft beer. Stone Brewing announced in a cheeky video that they were suing MillerCoors for trademark infringement. In the video, Greg Koch holds a Keystone Light beer (owned by MillerCoors) with the large, incredibly visible word, “Stone,” spanning the entire can and announces the suit. Watch for yourself below…

Koch states, “We believe that MillerCoors is intentionally and deliberately trying to create confusion in the marketplace with the Keystone brand.” He holds up the can and well, it sure looks like he’s holding a can that says “Stone” in big letters on the side. What’s the issue with this? Well, perhaps, Koch says it best when he says definitively, “In the world of beer, the name Stone is ours.”

After the video dropped, MillerCoors shot back, “Since Keystone’s debut in 1989, prior to the founding of Stone Brewing in 1996, our consumers have commonly used ‘Stone’ to refer to the Keystone brand and we will let the facts speak for themselves in the legal process.” Interestingly enough, MillerCoors attempted to register the word “Stones” in 2007 and was turned down. The Stone suit says that MillerCoors “abandoned its application, admitting that confusion with Stone beer was likely.” Thanks to The Full Pint, you can read the entire suit here on their page.

Stone vs. Keystone

I took to Facebook to decide for myself just how “Stoney” Keystone had become in their branding. Not only do most of their social media pics highlight the word “stone,” but in July of 2017, Keystone changed their Facebook profile picture from a logo that had been their logo for many years, to the one on the top left corner:

millercoors keystone light

Sure, every company needs to rebrand to stay fresh. The question is, why would they split up the name Keystone into Key Stone? Keystone is a place; a mountain in the Colorado Rockies. With the previous mountain ranges on full display in their logo and the fact that Molson Coors (which acquired MillerCoors in 2016) is headquartered in Colorado, it’s not a stretch to assume that Keystone is named after that mountain. So how does it make sense to break up the word?

Once broken up into two words, there is no relation to the place it’s named after. The only reason to break up those words would be to highlight the word “stone,” and this is where it may get them into trouble.

What’s a Key Stone?

This works with other names too. Let’s say there was another brewery that wanted to distribute in the same area Thorn is distributed in, called Hawthorn Brewing. They had been called Hawthorn brewing for many years, longer than we were in existence even. What if they decided to change their logo and marketing to separate Hawthorn into Haw Thorn Brewing and started calling their beer Thorn Beer in that marketing? Not cool. Not cool at all. Whether or not it’s illegal would depend on a lot of other factors, though.

Since Stone is way more established and not only a national brand but really global one at this point, they have a strong claim on the term Stone when it comes to beer. Still, the point stands that Haw Thorn wouldn’t make much sense as a stand-alone logo just like Key Stone doesn’t make sense unless it’s Keystone.

Let’s hope that Stone is successful in their suit. Big Beer has been pushing craft beer around for years with their money and influence so to have a craft brewery that is not only willing to stand up to them but has the financial capabilities to do so, is really cool. We support Stone whole-heartedly in their quest to protect the brand that they have worked so hard to build and can’t wait to see how this all shakes out.

 

 

beer board with triple ipa pliny

Triple the Hops, Triple the Fun

It’s that time of year again when select craft beer bars (mostly in CA) have to field the same question over and over, “When are you tapping Pliny the Younger?” It’s triple season!

The triple IPA hoopla all started in 2005 with a “little” beer called, Pliny the Younger from Russian River Brewing. Pliny the Younger (pronounced, Pline-y not Plinny, like the man) is a bigger version of their popular, Pliny the Elder Double IPA. Double IPAs should be hopped twice as much as the regular recipe and in the case of Pliny the Younger being a triple, it’s got 3 times the hops and then is dry-hopped 4 different times. Clocking in at 10.5% ABV, it certainly packs a punch but as it often happens with high alcohol beers, it’s incredibly balanced with the extreme bitterness of the hops offsetting the sweetness of the sugars from the high alcohol.

This beer is in incredible demand with people waiting in lines for hours and kegs getting kicked in minutes at popular spots. Russian River shows their marketing mojo by only having this beer available for 2 weeks every year in their Santa Clarita’s tasting room with daily allocations. Since it’s human nature to want what we can’t have, creating that kind of limited-time demand is a proven method to increase buzz and desire for a product. This wouldn’t work if the product itself wasn’t high quality and this beer is definitely impressive.

Pliny Hunt 2018

Pliny the Younger is not going to get a wide release anytime soon. Most of the beer is distributed to the same OG spots that Russian River has been gracing with their Pliny for years. In fact, last year, Russian River announced that they were expanding production of Pliny but that expanded production would benefit the bars they already serve, getting more kegs vs. selling kegs to new bars. If this is the case, then we can use the 2017 list of San Diego bars that got Pliny the Younger as an idea of where to possibly find the elusive beer this year. Here’s a working list of place that MIGHT have Pliny the Younger this year too and the date that they tapped their allotted kegs in 2017:

Hamilton’s Tavern – 2/22/17

SD Taproom – 2/25/17

O’Brians – 2/22/17

Blind Lady Ale House – 2/22/17

Tiger Tiger – 2/18/17

Pizza Port Carlsbad

Toronado – 2/13/17

Encinitas Ale House

PCH Sports Bar

Small Bar – 2/14/17

Urge Gastropub – 2/21/17

Live Wire – 2/16/17

Regal Beagle – 2/21/17

Fathom Bait and Tackle 2/21/17

Please don’t call these places daily asking if they are tapping the beer. They’ll definitely hate that. But you can use this list as an idea of when you want to stop by the bar and see if, by chance, they have tapped it yet. Some of these spots had actual events where they promoted that they were tapping the Pliny, but a lot of them just put them on tap one day and let the word of mouth spread like wildfire. This list is not a guarantee though, it’s really only a best guess, so please take that into account when searching.

No Pliny, No Problem

So you don’t want to go on a Pliny hunt but you do want to taste the sweet, sweet nectar of a triple IPA? You are in luck! There are a handful of San Diego breweries, including Thorn, who put out their own triple IPAs around this time of year. Thorn releases our own triple Brother Scotty’s IIPA (named after one of our beloved employees).

Brother Scotty’s IIIPA clocks in at 11.2% ABV. This beer is big, hoppy and balanced with notes of pine, citrus and pineapple lingering together from the Simcoe, Citra, Centennial and Amarillo hops. While it’s a hop-bomb for sure, it’s still a smooth drinker with a lingering sweetness that’s neither cloying nor overpowering. Here are some more San Diego triple IPAs to check out this month:

  • Thorn Brewing Brother Scotty’s IIIPA 11.5% – release on 2/13/18
  • Benchmark Brewing Hildegard IIIPA 13.5% – release party on 2/24/18 (more info here)

Other triple IPA that have been made in the past but with no info on future releases…

  • Monkey Paw Muriqui 10%
  • Societe The Miser Really Big IPA 10.5%
  • Stone RuinTen Triple IPA 10.8%

Please comment here or email us at info@thorn.beer if you have any SD triples to be added to this list.

Cheers and happy Triple Hunting!

 

super bowl

Budweiser’s Super Bowl Strategy

The 2018 Super Bowl is just around the corner and while many Eagles and Patriots fans will be watching to see what if their team comes out on top, there are lots of other people who are all about the ads. At least, that’s what the hope is for the businesses that spend more than $5 million for a 30-second spot. What’s interesting is that many of the big super bowl spots are already released to the internet, days before the big game, giving us a sneak peek. Budweiser is a favorite topic of super bowl commercial conversations because they spend a ton of money on the Super Bowl. In fact, this year, they are going to have six Super Bowl spots to the tune of $30 Million. $30 million for 3 minutes of TV time. That’s an impressive ad budget.

What’s also interesting is that Budweiser seems to be moving away from the “us against craft” mentality they have had in previous Super Bowl commercials, like in 2015 with their “Brewed the Hard Way” commercial, where they say how they are “Proudly a Macro Beer.” They doubled down in 2016 with another commercial that insinuated craft brewing was just a hobby for people who like fruity beer that is made to be fussed over.

The Good

This year, their main commercial is all about their ability to can clean water at their Cartersville facility, where they have shipped over 2.9 million cans of water to areas of disaster relief during 2017. And good on them. They were incredibly smart to use this as their main Super Bowl ad because they are highlighting something that only a brewery of their size could do; take weeks off of normal beer production to can and deliver fresh cans of water. Most if not all craft breweries don’t have the capabilities to do anything on this scale so Budweiser has figured out a way to differentiate themselves from craft beer in a positive way, rather than the mud-slinging they have done in the past.

 

The “Eh”

Recently, Goose Island (owned by AB InBev) released a video of their own. In it, you see the president and one founder of Goose Island head to NYC to meet with Felipe Szpigel, the president of the High End, AB InBev’s craft beer division. They meet to ask for a Super Bowl spot for Goose Island so that it can be the first craft beer commercial featured at the Super Bowl. They get shut down because apparently, 1 week isn’t enough time to come up with a $5 million commercial (giant eye-roll here).

The funny thing is that while this commercial is obviously a joke and supposed to be funny, it’s being reported on by the Chicago Business Journal as if this set up was real. They start off their article with the line, “Give the guys at Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Co. credit for thinking big. Really big.” I don’t know how they thought that this was a real business meeting when every person in that meeting is shown drinking a different Goose Island beer with the labels facing the camera.

Furthermore, this video seems like it could be a teaser to an actual Goose Island Super Bowl spot, giving them the platform of being the first “craft” beer to be featured during the Big Game. We will have to see…

Many people viewing this video will realize it’s satire. That’s all well and good, but by Chicago Business Journal writing about it as if it were a real business meeting, it definitely blurs the line between fake news and satire. Obviously, since Goose Island is from Chicago, there would be love for the brewer in the city. Maybe the news organization is in on the joke too, but it seems a bit disingenuous to report on this like it was ever actually a real scenario.

The Payoff

Budweiser’s strategy for winning at Super Bowl marketing is on-point. They focus on something that is unique to them (canning water for disaster relief) while also releasing this other video that seeks to separate Goose Island from their macro-beer parent company and paints them as the “little guy.”

So have fun watching the Big Game this year while remembering to always keep a discerning eye on how you are being marketed to and let us know what your thoughts are on the Super Bowl commercials for 2018.