A beer pairing born strangely in the courtroom

Strangeways opened in spring 2013.

With the suing subsided, the brewing began.
Richmond’s Strangeways Brewing and Colorado-based Strange Craft Beer Co. tossed a collaboration beer into the fermenters last week, months after they each separately fought trademark lawsuits against a New England opponent.
“With all of that going on, we were talking on the phone and thought ‘Wow, this really stinks to have to go through this, but when it’s finished, let’s do a beer together,’ ” Strangeways founder Neil Burton said.
That beer is a Belgian dubbel, and it’s currently brewing at Strange Craft Beer Company in Denver. The brew features Virginia and Colorado-grown wildflower honey and should be available on draft at the Strange Craft Beer Company tasting room in a matter of weeks.
Burton and Strange Craft Beer Company co-owner Tim Myers first met before Burton launched Strangeways Brewing Company last year. The two breweries were fighting lawsuits against a Massachusetts-based home-brewing supply company named Strange Brew.
Both breweries received cease-and-desist letters from Strange Brew, alleging they had infringed on Strange Brew trademarks. Strangeways and Strange Brewing fired back by filing petitions asking the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office asking to cancel Strange Brew’s trademark.
The Strangeways petition spilled over into U.S. District Court, where Burton’s legal team alleged a Strange Brew trademark was fraudulently obtained because the home-brew supply did not actually brew beer itself.
Both breweries have since settled their disputes with Strange Brew. Strangeways is still Strangeways, and the brewery retained use of all its names, logos and slogan. The 3-year-old Strange Brewing Company became Strange Craft Beer Company as a result of its settlement with Strange Brew, the Denver Post reported.
Strangeways shipped its stock of honey out to Denver before flying to Colorado for the yearly Craft Brewers Conference last week. Burton then met up with the Strange Craft Beer team at their Denver brewery – a mile or so southeast of Mile High Stadium – to mix up the batch and start the brewing process.
The current collaboration won’t be available in Virginia, as distance and distribution laws will prevent the team from shipping the beer back to Richmond. Burton expects Strange Craft Beer Company will sell out the stock from its onsite tasting room. Strangeways will not see a cut of sales revenue, Burton said.
While the honey brew and any revenue it brings in won’t find its way to Richmond, Burton said his Colorado counterpart might. Strangeways and Strange Craft Beer Company have tentative plans to brew together again, this time out of Burton’s Dabney Road brewery.
That product will likely be any entirely different recipe, Burton said, and will be available only where Strangeways is sold.
“It’s easier for both parties to keep it separate because of laws and regulations,” he said.
Collaboration beers have become popular in recent years as Richmond’s brewery scene has expanded. For example, Hardywood and Midnight Brewery teamed up for on a beer dubbed Banana Pancake in 2012. Lickinghole Creek worked with Extra Billy’s on an IPA last year.
Burton said the deals usually come together rather informally through conversations with others in the beer business.
“A lot of collaborations just start from talking to someone or getting to know someone,” Burton said. “We go out there, we hang out at the brewery, have a few beers and brew the beer while we do it.”

About the author: Burl Rolett View all posts by Burl Rolett
Burl Rolett is a BizSense reporter who covers startups, restaurants, higher education and the business of sports. He is a graduate of Washington and Lee University. Email him at burl@richmondbizsense.com.

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