Our children are not our private labor force. But I've filled enough bottles in my time that when my daughter says, "I want to help!" -- well, it's hard to say no to an offer like that.
So on a pleasant fall day, surrounded by unlabeled bottles donated by Port City Brewing Company for the cause, I found myself supervising an eager kindergartener as she precisely filled bottle after bottle. Three cases later, the only thing she hadn't done was cap (finished with decently well-printed caps from GrogTag).
It's a fascinating experience to realize that your child has gone from a squirmy baby just trying to survive between 4-ounce feedings to a functional person who can actually help with your hobbies. While my daughter was filling beers and spilling less than most adults do in the process, I cleaned up. The capping day was done in 40 minutes.
This isn't the first time she's shown interest in the craft, of course, and it probably won't be the last. Indeed, for this batch, she and her friend were responsible for crushing several pounds of grain using the old-style crank method. She regularly stirs near-boiling wort to keep it from scorching. And she's a fan of dry hopping -- though she did not appreciate the first-hand experience of tasting those bitter little flowers.
I feel like I'm watching the limbs of a homebrew tree expand to form a canopy: with each new task she becomes capable of accomplishing, she relishes the chance to spread new branches and shade more ground. Maybe it's to spend time with me, maybe it's just because she's fascinated (I'm hoping, of course, that it's the latter) -- regardless, I welcome her involvement. And if my oldest is involved, that means the youngest won't be far behind.
(Oh wait, there she is.)
Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised, though. This is a girl who eats Grape Nuts because they smell like beer. She knows the scent of barley better than the smell of, say, oats. When I pulled the lid off the brew, she said, "That smells good." Then, as if realizing the notion of beer smelling good implied something else, she hastily added, But I don't get to taste it, do I?" (I dodged the question; she didn't get a taste.)
But I might be a little too pleased with this turn of events. After all, there's no telling what she'll do on bottling days 3, 7, or 17 years from now. Maybe I'll find that this tree has been cut down because it's in a parking lot. Or maybe I'll wake up one morning to a beautifully bready scent wafting through the house and realize that she hasn't been helping me lately, I've been helping her.
Mash out. Spin on.
Last year, Magic Hat sued West Sixth Brewing in federal court over a logo that bore a very mild resemblance to the Magic Hat #9 logo (inverted) and made use of the navigational compass star design that Magic Hat construed as a variation on what it calls its "dingbat" visible on the neck label between the words "Magic" and "Hat".
Ultimately, the suit was settled by West Sixth changing its logo to remove the dingbat and enlarge the name of the brewery and location.
I'm torn on these kinds of David/Goliath lawsuits. In times dominated by social media, the major manufacturer certainly loses face doing something like this -- it looks like bullying, even if it's just trademark enforcement -- while the smaller business can use the very platform of a lawsuit to gain market. This is in contrast to lawsuits between two smaller companies, where winning in court might be a life-or-death issue, or between giants, where winning court is worth millions or tens of millions of dollars. Rather, a win by the larger party in these disputes seems to be strictly legal, with few redeeming features.
Trademark law is a vast and complicated web, though, and protecting one's mark is important in establishing that a business cares about that mark. Not protecting in marginal cases makes it open to incursion in less marginal cases. Given that a brewery like Magic Hat has made a national name and is defending brew sales that are, as they say, nothing to sneeze at, these kinds of lawsuits have to be looked at in an extended context. They clearly have to defend when Maze Brewing Company comes out with a maze logo that is identical to #9 but replaces "#9" but "MB". Or Magic Wand Brewery tweaks the font from the Magic Hat corporate logo, replaces the word "Hat" with "Wand", and puts a wand in place of the dingbat. These are no longer marginal: they're clear trademark violations.
Where I think some of the majors fail is in dialing up a lawsuit. In this instance, West Sixth offered a variety of alternatives prior to the lawsuit being filed, in response to a cease-and-desist letter; Magic Hat moved forward anyway, in a move that anyone with modest social media experience would consider daft.
There have been a lot of disputes like this lately as the number of small breweries in the United States explodes. Most of them are resolved amicably and quietly, without official lawsuits being filed but with plenty of legal letters whizzing back and forth. And most don't make the news because events like Stone Brewing Co. (distributed nationally) getting a name change out of Colorado's Kettle and Stone Brewing (now Vindication Brewing) make sense immediately. Plus companies like Stone know that perception matters: they offered several solutions that were vastly different, all of which were reasonable and would protect the Stone trademark.
Unfortunately the scope of some of these disputes is difficult to defend. For instance, Long Trail's lawsuit against Bent Paddle over hiker silhouettes (Long Trail's is at right, Bent Paddle's is below), while potentially with merit, seems to be a lower-level rehash of Magic Hat vs West Sixth -- admittedly looking more like Goliath's smaller cousin against Vontae Davis: the suit looks to have a certain amount of base mean-spiritedness and only marginal merit. It also seems like something that could have been resolved without a lawsuit that just makes Long Trail seem petty.
What the burgeoning craft beer industry seems to need are two critical things:
1. An organization that tracks trademarks to keep upstart companies from taking on names and logos that are infringements on existing marks.
2. A consulting group that has some trademark law experience but also understands social media.
I appreciate the variety of beers available these days, and the marketplace can clearly accommodate more. I would hate to see that variety squelched by larger companies turning into elder polar bears roaming about and eating all the young. We want more Collaboration Not Litigation and Black Cascade. The beer world is big enough.
Our annual Oktoberfest gathering is on! And it's always made better by that sweet scent of a freshly produced beer. Looks like about 14 gallons in the secondaries, so that'll be around 13 gallons by the time it gets bottled.
This year, I rushed to brew an Oktoberfest. But I was slow about the rushing due to some brewery improvement projects, so the desired 60 days of lagering is actually going to be about 30 before the first batch comes out. That pushes it to Märzen territory.
Normally I would just declare it an Oktoberfestbier and let it sit for another month, but a neighbor has requested a birthday brew. That leaves me with only one viable option: bottle half, continue to lager the other half. One good thing about brewing in quantity is that you can do good by your neighbors and still have leftovers.
This recipe ended up with a good malt front and a pleasantly floral bitterness; presumably by the time the six or so Oktoberfestbier gallons make it through the lager, that will have waned into something more subtle. The Märzen may just be a bit hoppier than normal, but that's a tolerable situation.
Mash volume: 10 gal
Boil volume: 19 gal
Mash temp: 128F -> 148F -> 154F
Fermentation temp: 50F
19 lbs Pilsener
7.5 lbs Munich Light
6.75 lbs Munich Dark
1.12 oz Crystal 120L
1.12 oz CaraPils
1 oz Hallertau fwh
1 oz Hallertau 60m
2 oz NZ Pacifica 60m
2.25 oz Tettnanger 5m
0.75 oz Tettnanger 0m
Wyeast Oktoberfest blend
Ferment @49-50F, 3 weeks
Diacetyl rest @58F, 2 days
Lager @38-40F, 30-90 days
Ale Pail Man approves, though he was subsequently drained of all character.
Mash out. Spin on.