The basic outline is pretty well known by now: Bell's Brewing served us, and not in a tall frosty way. NB has been legally asked to rename our Three Hearted Ale American IPA, our five-gallon tribute to a Bell's brew of a similar moniker.
The news hit Northern Brewer World HQ on Monday, and the buzz locally and around the blogosphere has been notable. Personally, I felt affronted in the same fashion that many of the NB faithful apparently were. Over the next 24 hours the news circulated through other outlets, with some taking neutral and not-so-neutral stances.
Many of you, our valued customers, have offered testimonials of powerful emotions about this. For many hours, I can say that my voice around the warehouse echoed your sentiments.
But this morning I'd like to take a moment to spread some calm:
The fact that a homebrew recipe kit became noteworthy enough to draw legal attention is a powerful statement of the love for brewing that made this kit one of our best sellers in the first place. Your choice in purchasing this kit, and likely your attraction to it via your enjoyment of its commercially-brewed muse, is the real story here.
I know plenty of homebrewers who have a deep reverence for a particular beer. Usually, one of their first pursuits as a homebrewer is to try to reproduce or emulate the essence of that particular commercial beer - after all, what fun is a hobby without a personal connection? Those same homebrewers would be remiss to deny that it was their encounter with a pint or bottle of Bell's (or Sierra Nevada, or Dogfish Head, or Surly, or Founder's, or Russian River ...) that inspired them to spend their time and money creating a drink they could feel proud to have brewed.
It's in your hands that such a brew remains. NB has recipe kits in the spirit of historical styles and often specific (and trademarked) craft beers that lit the flames of our passions to brew. We're homebrewers ourselves, but NB is also a business and as such, we have to comply with the rules of trade. While creating a recipe that emulates a popular brew to the effect of calling it a 'clone' isn't wrong, there are rules that govern how we market those recipes with the effect of preserving the integrity of the product that became so initially revered.
Let's put it this way: as a homebrewer you have the freedom to make any beer you so desire. As long as you're happily serving it to friends and family, without making a business enterprise of it, you're free to brew it and call it whatever you please. NB, as a business, has to play by a different set of rules. And that's where we're at today.
We're still offering the same recipe that you've made a best seller. You're still free to brew this fine ale. When it's done fermenting and is pouring from your bottle or tap at home, you're free to call it by whatever name you'd like! We have merely had to change the commercial moniker by which we sell said recipe.
You may very well have come to love this recipe kit because of your experience with the Bell's brew that it emulates. So please don't find yourself at odds with Bell's for protecting what they have, in kind, created. Bell's Brewing is amongst the finest producers of microbrewed ales, the world over. Their business obligations and the craft of the people who brew their great beers are separate entities, as any pro brewer can attest. I ask of you, our loyal homebrewers, not to call out or boycott Bell's for fulfilling their legal obligations. Remember, the people who acted on behalf of Bell's in instigating this change did so because of their commitment to their product, just as you choose NB because of your commitment to your product.
Let's be happy that we live in a nation that not only allows for such creativity to produce a beer that catches the tastes of brewers and beer lovers like ourselves, but a nation that gave us the freedom merely thirty years prior to have a hobby that so benefits our creativity and subsistence.
Cheers to our fine customers AND the fine people who make Bell's beer!