Bell’s Boycott


Just minutes after I posted a feel-good story about the growth of craft beer, posted another ugly legal story revealing the dark side of the industry. This time, the transgressor is none other than Aleheads favorite, Bell’s Brewery.

It seems that Northern Brewer, a huge internet beer community and one of the best homebrewing sources in the country, sells a clone (a homebrewing kit) of Bell’s classic Two Hearted Ale called “Three Hearted Ale”. And Bell’s Brewery, in all their wisdom, has decided to issue a Cease and Desist letter to force Northern Brewer to change the clone’s name.*

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About mrhopsbeertalk
Avid homebrewer and craft beer taster. I love all the hops I can get. #hops #ipa #iipa #ipl #porter #dipa #specialtyale #saison #craftbeer western mass ·

14 Responses to Bell’s Boycott

  1. I whole-heartedly advocate boycotting Bell’s and Sweetwater Brewing for a similar situation involving Lagunitas. Self-serving greed will not be rewarded or tollerated in the craft industry!

  2. Does it surprise you at all? Bear Republic sent cease and dismiss orders to Red Racer Beer (Brewed by Central City Brewers &Distillers) when they expanded from Vancouver BC into the United States Because Red Racer was to close to their Racer Five IPA. Much like the Brewery here in Vancouver named Steamworks who sent cease and dismiss orders to any brewery on the West Coast using the word Cascadian in the name such as Cascadian Dark Ale as they once had a trademark for a beer called Cascadian Cream Ale. They also tried it with the word Nitro for the same reason before they pulled back in the law suits. There are always some bad apples who either try to exploit the breweries or overzealous owners that try to be disks.

  3. i don’t quite understand why people think that craft breweries, which are BUSINESSES, don’t want other businesses making money off their namesake. Bells was once a startup, and they succeeded in building themselves into a well-established and recognized brewery. Why should business laws not apply to those in the beer biz? How much more blatant can “Three Hearted Ale” be? If you want your favorite breweries to survive for the long run, they do need to act like a business, not someone serving homebrew out of their garage. And I think it’s safe to say that “Three Hearted Ale” is being bought because people want to brew Bell’s Two Hearted. So NBrewer is making money using Bell’s product. This isn’t a commune. Pro Breweries are paying plenty to the government in taxes, and investing lots of their own cash to get off the ground. Why should someone already established, like Norther Brewer, be able to make money off their name (of blatant wordplay based off their name)?

    • Interesting opinion, but unfortunately somewhat irrelevant and ill-informed. Let’s decode this piece by piece. Is Bell’s a successful business? Yes, in fact their beer is highly regarded and sought after. Does the law protect a brewer’s recipe from distribution and copying/cloning. No, not at all. In fact the only part that is protected by law is the copyrighted name. This is why the recipe for Coke is protected and kept secret. Anyone with access to or the means to derive the recipe has the legal right to use the recipe as they will, but must call it something else. So the question devolves to does copyright law deem Three hearted to be an infringement on Two hearted. Maybe… the lawyers are sure to tell us. The bigger picture is that Bell’s was not losing business or moneys from the clone’s existence. Only someone who love’s Bell’s beer would desire and attempt to make this at home. Every homebrewer dreams of making a batch of their favorite craft beer at home. This is COMPLETELY legal! So let’s describe this process. I buy Bell’s beer, drink it and love it. I buy a clone recipe to make at home and find it’s close but never quite as good or the same. Result? Conversation, sampling and ultimately, the buying of more Bell’s beer and future tweaking and attempts at brewing the beer at home. How does Bell’s suffer in this scenario? If Bell’s was looking to strictly increase their profits, the smarter thing would have been to license the clone, put their name on it and demand a royalty. For surely the clone will continue to exist with a new less-obvious homage of a name. Greed is not strictly the desire to be successful in business. Being successful is admirable. Greed is advancing one’s self at the unnecessary expense of another. This is what Bell’s and others such as Sweetwater have demonstrated with their cease and decist orders. Now before you completely decided i’m a bleading-heart communist, I must point out that this is not always a one-sided offense. In the case of Brewer’s Art vs. Ozzy, there is a clear infringement on intellectual property. I hope you can see the difference, for it is clear and based on law not greed or opinion.

  4. thanks for the explanation. I understand that those who decipher a beer’s recipe have all the right to brew it. All I see here is NBrewer selling a product (to make money) that is clearly referencing the name of the Bells beer it is intended to clone. Why is NB not “greedy” for trying to make profit (they aren’t in business JUST the spread the love of homebrewing… they do have a degree of profit they are aiming at) by using Bell’s intellectual property? (again, I am making the assumption that # Hearted is blatantly a reference to 2 Hearted, not a stretch IMO)

    It’s not a matter of Bells suffering a loss… it’s a matter of NB profiting by infringing on Bells copyright. Trying to suggest that NB’s actions are ok because a homebrewer using the kit will find it’s not as good as the real deal and therefore will buy more Bells has nothing to do with copyright infringement. That’s simply an argument trying to suggest that the ends justify the means somehow.

    Doubt we’ll agree, but I do enjoy the discourse.

    • So let me ask you this, if NB released the recipe with an obscure name and absolutely no reference to 2 Hearted you’d be fine with that and agree there’s no infringement as the copyright only covers the name? The loss there is that the recipe exists, is for sale and yet no homebrewer would know what it was intended to pay homage to.
      To reiterate, clone recipes are completely legal so NB will ultimately be allowed to sell the kit under a different name or liscensing. I would not necessarily agree there was a copyright infringement, although I am not an expert on the granularity of those specific laws. I know I do contest and disagree with the fact that Sweetwater was granted ownership of “420” and that this precludes any use in any combination by any other brewer. By that argument, any use of Hearted is illegal by existence of the phrased copyright, which I feel, if legal, is a bastardization of the idea. This will ultimately result in a single brewer owning the word green, bullet, galaxy, etc by their inclusion in a name or as copyrights in and of themselves should any brewer choose to pursue it. I cannot agree with that. It also begs the question of why this isn’t happening many hundreds of time a year as one need only look on the shelves to pair up dozens of existing offenders. Sweetwater should have been required to create a phrase, such as 420 puff, or 420 stash, etc and this copyright should not preclude the use of either word by themselves in a seperate and unique name of a different brewer’s beer. This, clearly, is my interpretation of the intent of the law and not a strictly legal interpretation as the current brewerships have chosen to enforce. This is the entire basis of my disagreement with the cease and desist orders.

      • It seems to me he is fully against clones of beer. I don’t personally disagree with that sentiment either. If you so want to clone your favorite beer you should have to experiment not just buy a kit.

      • I tend to agree… and don’t buy kits myself but do sometimes look over the recipe while building one of my own. I find most clones are not, in fact the same beer and have had decent luck deriving the recipes myself. There is, however, no law disallowing clone kits to be sold with the exception of copyright infringement. In addition to my suggestion of Bell’s liscensing the name for profit, there’s also the option to sell clone kits themselves as Flying Dog and a few others have done to great success. If Bell’s agrees with you, and has a general problem with the idea of clone kits I would argue they need to address that with legislation not litigation.

      • I only have one issue with this argument. What is legal and what is right don’t always match up.

  5. I have NO issue with cloning beers. We try to do it all the time. I have an issue with one business making a profit by trying to sell what they feel is a clone of a beer by using the original brewery’s name (or play on that name) without consent by the original brewery. They are using Bell’s name to sell a product and profit from it.

  6. no worries… I’m doubt my thoughts are coming through perfectly clear as I ramble on anyways!

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