Magic Hat shows their Heart of Darkness is more than just a beer.

Somehow I managed to find a few minutes yesterday to catch up on Facebook posts in hopes of temporarily suspending or at least slowing the scroll.  Believe it or not, I really do like almost all of my old friends and try to stay connected to what they’re up to and how many times they’ve shopped at Costco for vastly underrated steaks.  As you might suspect, one or two of them share my interest in craft beer so I wasn’t surprised to see my old Audi TT buddy, Jason, post a status update involving Magic Hat.  They’ve never impressed me as anything more than modestly mediocre and after selling out to what’s now a South American conglomerate they’ve lost their identity but I thought I’d give Jason’s link a shot anyway.  Having read the recap of a lawsuit brought by Magic Hat against West Sixth, a small craft brewery in Kentucky, I became more firmly convinced that Magic Hat has lost more than it’s identity, it’s lost any semblance of the character of shared spirit and cooperation that’s been the hallmark of the craft brewing industry.  More importantly, I was left wondering if this is perhaps an example or glimpse of the inevitable types of bigger business corporate behavior that the craft brewing industry’s success was bound to generate.  Are we reaching an important tipping point in an ever more crowded landscape or this merely the result of an international bully breaking the unwritten rules?

Inverted Object or Perverted Logic? (photo courtesy of BeerAdvocate.com)

Inverted Object or Perverted Logic? (photo courtesy of BeerAdvocate.com)

So here’s the skinny: newly sold and foreign conglomerate owned Magic Hat claims that tiny independent Kentucky newbie, West Sixth copied (stole) their #9 logo.  You can read more about the suit and allegations of “enormous financial damage” here.  Before I go too much further a bit of a disclaimer is in order.  I like craft beer.  I “research”, write about, and evangelize the wonders of well-crafted ales to all who may and to some who absolutely don’t care to hear about it.  That said, my love of craft beer doesn’t pay the bills.  Never has and never will.  The bills are paid by something I don’t love – not these days anyway.  I’m a recovering litigator.  I spent over 20 years in courtrooms as a prosecutor, criminal defense attorney and civil litigator.  I’ve handled over 100 jury trials from murder, rape, child abuse, drug distribution and robbery to construction and roofing defects, commercial manufacturing disputes, products liability, and copyright/trademark infringement.  I’ve put murderers in prison for the rest of their lives and defended companies against disastrous, multi-million dollar lawsuits.  In other words, when it comes the subject matter of one brewery suing another, I know a little something (from every angle).

So what’s really going on here?  Is Magic Hat (or whoever they really are) flexing their deep corporate pockets by filing a frivolous suit betting that a small southern start-up brewery will meekly submit or do they have a legitimate, if unpopular point?  Well, the recovering litigator in me can’t help but conclude that it’s a little bit of both.  There are always many more than two sides to a story.  Don’t get too far ahead of me here.  Yes, I genuinely believe that there is some merit to part of Magic Hat’s claims but whatever merit exists is soundly overwhelmed by simple common sense and good craft beer citizenship.  When it comes to that, Magic Hat is failing miserably.

Are the logos similar?  Well, maybe a bit.  By definition a 6 is an inverted 9 but, all due respect to the legal mind that thought that argument up, it’s ridiculous.  The fonts share some style cues and they each have a special character adjacent to the number but aside from that, they aren’t easily confused except by Cirque de Soleil trainees between two-a-day tryout sessions (and that’s mostly because of their Frenchness).  “Irreperable harm” and “enormous financial damage?” I think not.  I know not.  Not now anyway.  That said, these types of suits are generally brought to protect the owner’s mark from future damage.  West Sixth certainly isn’t planning to expand into Vermont anytime soon but Magic Hat can’t know that and they’re statutorily required to aggressively protect their mark and corporate image at this stage or risk being precluded from protecting it tomorrow.  And there’s the rub.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  West Sixth has made what appear to be legitimate offers to resolve this thing like grown craft beer men – not unlike what Adam Avery and Vinnie Cilurzo did when they realized that both Avery and Russian River had a Salvation in their lineups.  The result was Collaboration Not Litigation Ale.  That’s the way craft brewers have dealt with one another (for the most part) throughout the last decade of the industry’s monumental growth.  Even the truly big boys like Sierra Nevada have gone out of their way to support the local, smaller brewers in North Carolina when they announced their new brewery near Asheville.  Sniping amongst and between craft brewers as the landscape becomes that much more saturated may be somewhat inevitable but doesn’t have to be ugly – not Magic Hat ugly in any event (I imagine I’ve just become a target of one of their cease and desist letters because I used social media to call them ugly).

Black Magic Hat's Prototype Logo

Black Magic Hat’s Prototype Logo

I don’t know – that new logo concept isn’t all that ugly.  Not Mona Lisa or a Pontiac Aztec ugly anyway.  It kind of captures the spirit of the new regime.

Magic Hat's new brew cauldron

Magic Hat’s new brew cauldron

Their nifty new brew kettles fit the image nicely as well.  Looks like a batch of Odd Notion or Roxy Rolles ready for the lauter tun.

Oh, one more thing Magic Hat: don’t forget to mention in your cease and desist letter that my refusal to purchase one or two six packs of your mediocre beer this year will inflict enormous financial damage.

Cheers! (and don’t forget to chime in)

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“Nice Cans!” (you can’t judge a book by it’s cover but you can judge a beer by it’s can)

It was a really long day.  A really long day at the end of a really bad week.  I didn’t realize just how frayed I was until I noticed, after more than a few sips, that there was no glass next to my beer bottle.  Not a big deal.  I was just a bit unfocused and I must have simply forgotten where I put the glass.  Plausible but for the fact that I know I hadn’t stood up from the table in several minutes and I’d just taken another sip.  Then it hit me.  I was drinking straight from the bottle.  Once I came to grips with that I became paralyzed with the fear that I might do something else equally devastating – like ingest something containing mayonaise (look, I can’t even spell it correctly).  Thankfully this momentary bout of insanity appeared to be limited to the bottle problem.  The last beer I drank straight from the bottle was a Yuengling at a birthday party for a friend of my middle daughter’s three plus years ago.  It was 90 something degrees and so humid that I swore it felt as though we were being showered by sweat from the underbelly of a herd of giant pregnant yaks.  There were no red Solo cups to be had so I had no choice.  All I remember about the 3 or 4 of them I had back then was that they were spectacularly tasteless.

Fast forward to the beer in front of me last Friday and it was deja vu in a bottle.  Practically tasteless.  This time; however, the beer inside was a legitimate – if uninspiring – craft beer: Sam Adams Latitude 48 IPA with Mosaic hops.  Compared to any craft beer, Yuengling is going to come across as tasteless (all due respect to Dick and his 7,000 year old brewery but oldest doesn’t equal anything other than oldest – better than Bud, Miller & the rest of the Big Beer swill but far from craft beer by a very long shot) but the Latitude seemed just as hollow.  Nothing there.  Zero everything.  Might as well have been drinking something that came out of a 30 pack with a discount coupon for bail bond services like  Keystone, Natty Light, or MGD.  In that moment Bud’s latest fanfare extraordinaire made perfect sense.  After all, they know their socially engineered subjects better than anyone: Big Beer drinkers ALWAYS drink straight from the vessel – they can’t taste the stuff and have no idea how putrid it really is.  And that’s exactly the way the industrial brewers want it.

Pre-crushed for your convenience

Pre-crushed for your convenience

Seriously? What the fuck is wrong with these idiots? ABinBev spent a few gazillion dollars trying to figure out how to manufacture cans that would obviate the necessity of Buford’s having to crimp his own can at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Party while he hits on his second cousin.  Hey Budweiser, you think you might want to spend just a little bit of effort on improving the stuff INSIDE THE CANS instead of prancing around like a brood of proud neon pheasants extolling the virtues of your iconically moronic can?  My buddy, Jim of the Beer and Whiskey Brothers wrote a fantastically satirical post on the Bud Bowtie can a few weeks ago.  Take a look at it (after you’ve read every post here, of course).

Is it just me? Or is it actually vomiting?

Is it just me? Or is it actually vomiting?

ABinBev has plenty of company in ranks of the stupid swill vessels.  Miller Lite is a close second with their sophomoric frat party punch top can designed to “reduce glug.” Huh? How about the nice marketers at Miller tell us what this can is really designed for: shot-gunning brews with the other high school dropouts in mildew-laden basements with mismatched ratty, threadbare plaid couches.  Duck Dynasty or Reality Swamp Wife Swap in standard def on the circa 1991 Trinitron optional.

Coors goes about it a bit differently with their “Super Cold” blue mountain labels.  Might as well be drawings of tongues on the labels because what they’re really aiming for is just that: frozen tongues.  Their beer is only safe to drink at ridiculously low temperatures to ensure frozen taste buds, otherwise they run the risk of having some of their disciples actually taste the stuff and, well, that would only contribute to the already growing flight to quality craft beer.

The constant theme behind all this malarky is simple: get the beer as quickly as possible and as frigidly as possible past the drinker’s tongues before he or she notices how awful it tastes.  Once Bobby Ray pounds 4 or 5 he won’t care what it tastes like anyway in the event he starts to slow down to compare tattoos and fishing scars as he tries to impress a redhead who didn’t notice that halter tops weren’t exactly in style in 1975 either.  Contrast that to the efforts of Sam Koch of Boston Beer who, along with others in he craft beer world, designed a can to enhance flavors and experience.  Sly Fox also introduced the disappearing top can to highlight the can’s contents – substance over sub-standard.

Let’s give credit where credit is due.  Industrial Big Beer has spent billions upon billions cultivating an impressively loyal base.  Market research has shown them that idiotic gimmicks like pre-crimped Bowtie and shot gun ready punch top cans will draw their core demographic to the flashy retail displays at the liquor stores, groceries, and gas stations.  This summer they’ll be installing these things at retail end caps as well:

Sure to look great above the Bud Lime-a-Rita displays

Sure to look great above the Bud Lime-a-Rita displays

If they brand it, they will come

If they brand it, they will come

Hopefully they’ll work out the hygiene issues before rolling these things out.  In the end, they know their customers really don’t care what’s inside the cans or bottles as long as it has the right name on the outside, a childish gimmick, gives them a buzz, and promises to make them attractive to scantily dressed bimbos or talking horses just like they see on TV.

Then again, who doesn’t like an indoor communal salt lick?

Cheers!

Guest Post: Ready, Set, Cook with Booze!

I came across a guest post of Jake’s on home brewing a while back while reading one of my favorite craft beer blogs, The ALEHEADS.  I added a comment to his post and a few days later Jake reached out and asked if I’d be interested in having him do a guest post over here.  Seems he’s been doing more than just brewing beer in his kitchen, he’s been cooking with it as well (not all that uncommon for many of us).  I’m infamous around here for my Unholy Hand Grenades – matzo balls cooked in Stone Smoked Porter then wrapped in bacon and roasted.  A favorite with my twisted friends but not so much with the rabbinical set.  When he mentioned that one of his recipes was called Mikes Hard Lime Pad Thai I was too intrigued to say anything other than “write it up and I’ll put it up” (or something like that).  Anyway, without further nonsense…..

Cooking with Booze

Author Bio: Jake Metzler spends his time at Midwest Supplies and writing about it to trying to make some money. He also enjoys learning about new and old brewing techniques.

I’ve been brewing my own beer for a couple of years, and I think the only reason I stuck with it is because I love to cook. Don’t get me wrong, I love beer. But my first foray into

When in doubt, pour

When in doubt, pour

making my own, well… it wasn’t great. It wasn’t terrible, but if I had thought that all my beers would taste like that, I wouldn’t have made any more.

But I like to think of myself as a kitchen scientist, so I continued to experiment until I got something that I was proud to share with buddies. Brewing is cooking in a sense; you just end up with a drink instead of food.

Besides cooking my alcohol, I like to cook with alcohol. I know that often the alcohol burns off, but it can add some great flavor. I’ve experimented with the usual; stout stews, beer batters, red wine spaghetti sauces. But there are a couple recipes I’ve played with that I’m pretty proud of.

Irish Cream Waffles

I’ve made beer batter pancakes before, but for some reason when I was out of milk and wanted to make waffles, I didn’t think of substituting beer. Instead, I scoured the house for any milk product I had. Baking cupboard: powdered milk? Nope. Evaporated milk: all gone. I had nothing.

But the cupboard I keep my baking supplies in has another very important item in it. Liquor. I had Bailey’s Irish Cream! That would substitute for milk, right?

Well, kind of. Cream is obviously thicker than milk so I had to add some water to the batter. But I loved the flavor and will definitely be experimenting with the recipe some more. Plus, it’s a great way to work a kick into a weekend breakfast.

Mike’s Hard Lime Pad Thai

I admit, when I came up with this idea, my whole goal was to find a new recipe with alcohol in it. I was being cheap and trying to use stuff I already had and wouldn’t mind pouring into my food instead of straight into my liver.

I had some vodka, but that didn’t really inspire any ideas. I looked in the fridge and saw a couple of stout beers and… Mike’s Hard Limeade (don’t judge).

I started to think of things that have lime in them. I considered a chicken marinade, but I wasn’t sure how the carbonation would do in a marinade. Then I thought of pad thai, which often has a peanut butter sauce with lime juice and sugar in it. I figured the Mike’s could substitute for the lime and the sugar. And since I was pretty sure none of that 6% alcohol content could stand up to any heat, I decided to soak some shrimp in it and throw those on at the last minute (so I did some marinating after all).

As much as I like to cook, I don’t really follow recipes (except when brewing) so my pad thai dishes are always a jumble of rice noodles and whatever veggies I have around – snap peas, mushrooms, bell peppers. Basically a random stirfry with a peanut butter sauce. I always throw the typical Asian flavors into the sauce as well: soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes.

It actually turned out really well! I threw some more of the Mike’s in at the very end just to make sure the lime flavor didn’t get lost. It came through wonderfully.

If you’re anything like Jake (or me) you’ve probably poured an adult beverage into the pan as well.  Chime in with your booze cooking adventures and misadventures.

Cheers!

Friendship at the Speed of Social Media – Compassion Lost to the Scroll

Dissonant notes colliding and speeding by

Nighttime’s dissonant cacophany

The country goes by quickly through the driver’s side window at 70 MPH.   Headlights and neon a streaking dissonant cacophony of notes in nighttime’s orchestral performance.  Each straining to be seen and heard above all the others without regard for harmony.  A blur of trees, plains, mountains, roadside restaurants, cars, and the people inside.  No time to focus on anything or anyone for more than brief second, if that.  I learned that lesson almost thirty years ago when I drove from New Jersey to California for law school.  Staring out at the Pacific from the beaches in Malibu upon arrival allowed ample opportunity to look forward in anticipation of friendships to be made, experiences to come, and hopes to be fulfilled.

Life goes by even more quickly through a 4 inch smartphone screen.  Headlights replaced by opinions.  Trees replaced by photos of children in celebration, ribs on the grill, abandoned pets in distress, and shoes to be purchased.  Roadside attractions replaced by corporate offers, suggested recipes, recaps of last night’s hot date, raves about Dorito’s great new flavor, and triumphs over vacation packing and lawn care challenges.  One another’s cares, hobbies, causes, victories, and failures fly by in a blur of likes and rants that make the headlights and neon at 70 virtually stand still.

 

Online diaries can’t be read during a screen refresh or pull down update.  The vortex of social media values quantity and snappy pontification over meaningful communication as each of us turns the dial of our bullhorns up to 11 lest we be ignored over the din.  Forgotten at the bottom of the screen.  Hoping to be buoyed by a like to a post but knowing that few took the time to read it.  Have we come to a point where the more we share, the less we care?  Are we losing compassion to the scroll or has it already been lost?  Can we care and meaningfully engage at the speed of social media?

Quantity Over Quality

Quantity Over Quality

I recently had the occasion to stare out at the Atlantic from the Boardwalk in Atlantic City.  A symbolic bookend to those days gazing over the Pacific, though lacking the past’s anticipation of friendships to be made.  Lacking anticipation of friendships became liking antics and posts by friends already made.

And I even read almost every one.