New England Brew Summit

This coming Friday, April 1st (insert obligatory April Fools joke), The Abromson Center at the University of Southern Maine will serve as host for the first ever New England Craft Brew Summit. I hope all of our readers will have a chance to attend as the event looks to be incredibly informative and, obviously, a really great time.

But I think this event speaks to a larger point that is incredibly important for our community. Craft beverage makers are having an impact on the New England economy that extends far beyond their tasting rooms or storefronts. The number of supporting industry members attending speaks for itself. But it is great to see that this opportunity for Maine and New England at large is attracting the attention of some of our politicians, as both Senator Angus King and Representative Chellie Pingree will be in attendance at the event. All in all, it looks to be a great time, and the event bodes well for the growth of the craft beer and alcoholic beverage industry in New England.

Want to Operate a Tasting Room? You’ll Need to Pay Up First.

The Portland City Council voted on Monday to require Portland breweries to pay a $500 fee to operate their tasting rooms. According to the Portland Press Herald article linked below, Councilor Suslovic believes the city has a legitimate public safety concern in regulating tasting rooms. The vote is likely also in response to recent complaints from bar owners, who feel the breweries have an advantage over bars. Regardless of the reasons for the vote, the license requirement goes into effect next month.

Portland Press Herald article here: http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/21/portland-imposes-500-fee-on-breweries-with-tasting-rooms/

Will Mass. Pay to Play Scandal Affect Maine Brewers?

A ruling involving the business practices of a Massachusetts-based beer distributor may keep Maine-brewed beers out of bars, restaurants and other retailers for 90 days.

On Friday, the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission suspended the Craft Brewers Guild’s license for 90 days for engaging in a scheme in which the company gave money to bars in greater Boston to serve specific beers. CBG distributes beers for a number of Maine craft brewers, including Allagash, Sebago Brewing, Gritty McDuff’s, Geary’s and Maine Beer Company.

Stories here (playing up the Maine aspect of the ruling) and here (more Boston-centric and discussing CBG’s business practices in depth). The decision should be here, however, as of the time we posted, the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission had not yet made it available.

NYT: Blue Ox is Good for Planet

Cool story recently that gave some national publicity to a local business.

Saturday’s Times reported on cover crops – noncash crops that farmers plant between harvests to improve soil health and manage erosion. Part of the story discussed Lisbon Falls’ own Blue Ox Malthouse, including a quote from founder Joel Alex about helping farmers make money off their cover crops

Story here. More on Blue Ox here and here. More on cover crops/environmentally sustainable farming here.

Nuts and Bolts of Registering Your Brewery Name

We have previously covered the process for developing your brewery/distillery/winery’s name, including the essential step of clearance. Once you have found and cleared the perfect name, the next step is to protect it. The best way to protect your name is by registering it as a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The first step in the registration process is determining what type of mark you are going to register. There are two broad types of marks: standard character marks or stylized marks. A standard character mark protects the word or words you are using, without reference to the font, size, color, shape, etc. of the characters. In contrast, a stylized mark is designed to protect more specialized marks, such as an artistic logo or stylized fonts, shapes, colors. A standard mark provides protection for your name, preventing others from using the words you have registered no matter how they attempt to dress or stylize them. If you have developed a company name and an associated logo, often times it makes sense to register both the words (as a standard character mark) and the logo itself as a stylized mark. (more…)

Portland to Beer Drinkers: Get Your Snack On

Now that’s what we’re talkin bout.

Reversing one of the worst decisions of all time, officials in beer Mecca Portland, Maine, (known principally as the home to this humble blog), will now allow breweries located in the City’s industrial zones to sell prepackaged food at their tasting rooms. Appears, however, that this victory for snack enthusiasts will come with a price – literally. In conjunction with permitting food sales, the City looks set to create a new license for breweries, distilleries and wineries, which will cost them an additional $500.

Stories here and here.

Stroudwater Spirits: Looking for Investors

More news about Maine companies in the beer/wine/distilleries space: North Star Brands, LLC of Portland, which includes Stroudwater Spirits (maker of small-batch bourbon, whiskey, vodka and gin), recently filed with the SEC to raise $750,000 in an equity offering. The offering hasn’t gone on sale yet, however when it does, the minimum investment will cost you a cool $25,000.

Along with Bissell Brothers and Cellardoor Winery, Stroudwater Spirits has also recently announced plans to lease space at the Thompson’s Point development in Portland.

Blue Ox Malthouse Celebrates with Open House on Friday

Great story involving small business and beer in Maine: Lisbon Falls-based Blue Ox Malthouse is having an open house on Friday, January 22nd to celebrate their launch and to thank the businesses that have helped make it possible.

More details available here, however, the Reader’s Digest is that Blue Ox’s new malthouse occupies 7,500 square feet and uses traditional methods to process raw grain into malt, a key ingredient in craft beer recipes. The malthouse has the capacity to produce more than 500,000 pounds annually, placing it in the top 10 largest facilities of its kind in North America and nearly doubles Maine and New England craft brewers’ access to locally sourced and produced malts.

Nice job, Blue Ox and thanks for helping prove once again how wicked smaht Ben Franklin was.

Teamsters: Keep MillerCoors Brewery Open!

Interesting intersection between the worlds of beer and labor law as Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa sent a letter to executives at SABMiller, Molson Coors and MillerCoors, urging them not to close the MillerCoors brewery in Eden, North Carolina.

You can read the letter here, however, Hoffa essentially called MillerCoors out on its economic justifications for closing the brewery and claimed that the real reasons for doing so were to cut capacity and raise prices in the U.S. and “to avoid regulatory scrutiny during the federal government’s antitrust review of the Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) and SABMiller (SAB) merger, and the related sale of SAB’s stake in the MillerCoors joint venture to Molson Coors.”

No response from the brewers to Hoffa’s letter as of yet. And no truth to the rumor that this post was an excuse to spend 8:51 of my life watching this on YouTube.

Selecting Your Company’s Name

Like anyone who has ever been a child1, I always wanted to have a cool nickname. Unfortunately, according to the unwritten rules of coolness, you can never give yourself a nickname. Luckily those interested in starting an alcoholic beverage business of your own, one of the key steps in starting a brewery, distillery, or winery is coming up with a name for your business.

The right name can bring in customers, set yourself off from your competition, and generally bring happiness and success to you and your business. Choosing the wrong name can spell disaster. Your name needs to be original, which sounds simple enough, but with over 4,000 breweries, 800 distilleries, and over 8,000 wineries in the United States at the end of 2015, with more joining every day, originality is harder than it seems. (more…)