Uncle Sam’s Beer Label Czar

Meet Kent “Battle” Martin, who for years has been America’s beer label czar. Martin, who works for the Tax and Trade Bureau, a section of the U.S. Treasury Department, has been variously described as a workaholic, eccentric, and tightly wound. That, and a law onto himself. In his career at the U.S. Treasury’s Tax and Trade Bureau, he’s passed judgment on some 30,000 labels.

The brewing community respects Martin’s work ethic and dedication to his job, and acknowledges that regulation has to be consistent. Nevertheless, some of his decisions have become legendary. The labels he’s rejected include these:

  • The King of Hearts, which had a playing card image on it, because the heart implied that the beer would have a health benefit;
  • Pickled Santa, because Santa’s eyes were too “googly” on the label, and labels cannot advertise the physical effects of alcohol;
  • Bad Elf’s “Elf Warning” about operating toy-making machinery while drinking the ale, which was deemed confusing to consumers;
  • A label that featured a hamburger, because the image implied there was a meat additive in the beer; and
  • “Adnams Broadside” beer, which touted itself as a “heart-warming ale,” another prohibited health-benefit claim.
  • And there’s the story of Vaune Dillman, who wanted to market a beer called “Legal Weed.” Battle not only objected to what looked like a reference to marijuana—Weed is an actual town in California, where Dillman brews his beer—but he also took offense that Dillman called him “Mr. Martin,” not “Battle,” which he prefers to be called.

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    The Friday Mash (Abbey Road Edition)

    Forty-five years ago today, at a zebra crossing in London, photographer Iain Macmillan took the photo that became the cover of the Beatles album Abbey Road. It became one of the most famous album covers in recording history.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin, appropriately, in London, where local officials might stop evening beer festivals at the zoo after festival-goers threw beer at the tigers and a drunken woman tried to enter the lion enclosure*.

    Jim Koch, the CEO of Boston Beer Company, planned to open a brewery in Seattle, where he went to college. But after watching it rain for 45 straight days, Koch and his wife moved back to Boston.

    Germany’s years-long slump in beer consumption was halted by its winning the World Cup. Between January and June, sales rose by 4.4 percent over a year ago.

    Bend, Oregon’s 10 Barrel Brewing Company issued a recall for its popular Swill beer after it learned some bottles were undergoing secondary fermentation, which could cause them to explode.

    California’s continuing drought has craft brewers worried. If the rains don’t come this winter, they might be forced to curtail production, raise prices, or even move brewing operations out of state.

    Elizabeth Daly, who sued the Virginia ABC after over-zealous plainclothes officers wrongly suspected she was a minor in possession, will get a $212,500 settlement check from the state.

    Finally, New Zealand health regulators warned a hotel that its sign, “Pero Says: ‘Free Beer Tomorrow’”, may violate the law by promoting excessive drinking. Haven’t they read about “Jam Tomorrow” in Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking-Glass?

    * Ludwig is not pleased with her.

    The Friday Mash (MSG Edition)

    On this day in 1908, the Japanese food company Ajinomoto—“The Essence of Taste”–was founded. Ajinmoto’s founder, chemist Kikunae Ikeda, discovered that a key ingredient in kombu soup stock was monosodium glutamate, for which he was given the patent.

    And now….The Mash!

    We begin in Marshall, Michigan, where microbrewery owner Aaron Morse and his family have landed a reality-show gig. They’ll appear on The History Channel’s “Dark Horse Nation.”

    Tin Man Brewing of Terre Haute has released Klingon Warnog. This officially-licensed beer follows the Prime Directive: “to unite both Star Trek and Craft Beer fans.”

    Dogfish Head Artisan Ales is the most famous brewery in the Delmarva Peninsula, but it now has plenty of company, and that’s good news for local beer drinkers.

    A new California law will allow students younger than 21 to sample alcohol as part of their beer and wine studies. Oregon and Washington have passed similar laws.

    The Jurassic Park of beer? Probably not, but Jason Osborne of Paleo Quest and microbiologist Jasper Akerboom of the Lost Rhino Brewing Company are working with a 45-million-year-old yeast strain found in a fly entrapped in fossilized amber.

    Philadelphians are upset at state legislators who want to close a loophole which allows pop-up beer gardens to operate without having to shell out six figures for a liquor license.

    Finally, Bart Watson, the Brewers Association’s chief economist, says we’re not in a craft beer bubble. The nation’s 3,000 breweries is well below the saturation level; and besides, factors such as the variety and quality of local beer determine whether a market is saturated.

    The Friday Mash (Intel Inside Edition)

    On this day in 1968, Intel Corporation—Intel is short for “Integrated Electronics”—was founded in Mountain View, California. Today, it is one of the world’s largest and emiconductor chip manufacturers. Chances are, your personal computer has “Intel inside.”

    And now….The Mash!

    Appropriately, we begin in California’s Silicon Valley. Levi’s Stadium, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers, will offer fans a wide selection of local micros to choose from.

    Cigar City Brewing Company has signed an agreement to pour its beers aboard Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships. Carnival also offers its own private label draft beer, ThirstyFrog Red.

    This was bound to happen. Oregon’s Full Sail Brewery has sued Atlanta-based Sessions Law Firm, alleging that the law firm copied its trademark for Session Premium Lager.

    Kirin, once the undisputed number-one brand in Japan, has dropped to second place behind Asahi. The chief reason for Kirin’s downfall was not entering the fast-growing premium beer market.

    Grand Rapids’ Founders Brewing Company made BrandInnovators.com’s list of Top 10 American-Made Brands to Watch. Founders is joined on that list by Sonoma Cider Company.

    Rumor has it that Anheuser-Busch InBev will merge with SABMiller. The combined company would own 80 percent of the world’s leading brands and control 30 percent of the world’s beer market.

    Finally, Brasserie Cantillon is aging its beers inside a bomb shelter. No, the brewery isn’t expecting another invasion. It simply ran out of space; and fortunately, the city of Brussels found them a new subterranean location.

    The Friday Mash (Broadway Edition)

    On this day in 1888, Antoinette Perry was born in Denver. She was a co-founder and head of the American Theatre Wing, which operated the Stage Door Canteens during World War II. The Tony Awards, which honor outstanding achievement in theater, are named for her.

    And now….The Mash!

    We begin in Bavaria, where several villages brew beer communally. The unfiltered lager, Zoigl, is served on a rotating schedule at local pubs; and it is also enjoyed communally.

    Good news and bad news for British Columbia beer drinkers. Bars can now offer happy specials, but the province’s new minimum pricing requirement might make happy hour beer more expensive.

    After golfer Michelle Wie won the U.S. Women’s Open, she celebrated in style, treating herself and her friends to beer out of the championship trophy—which, by the way, holds 21-1/2 brews.

    Yuengling, August Schell, and Narragansett are “craft beers” thanks to the Brewers Association’s decision to allow adjuncts and to raise the production ceiling to 6 million barrels per year.

    Indiana’s law barring the sale of cold beer at convenience stores was held constitutional by a federal judge, who concluded that the it was rationally related to the state’s liquor-control policy.

    Molson’s Canadian Beer Fridge is back. This time, Canadians will have to demonstrate the ability to sing their country’s national anthem, “O Canada,” in order to get a free cold one.

    Finally, beer blogger Danny Spears chugged a 25-year-old beer brewed to honor the Cincinnati Bengals’ appearance in Super Bowl XXIII. Spears’s verdict: “The beer was much worse than expected. Actually, it was terrible.”

    The Friday Mash (King Ludwig Edition)

    On this day in 1886, King Ludwig II of Bavaria passed away. Please join our beer-drinking lion in a moment of silence for the “Mad King” who, among other things, commissioned the fantastic Neuschwanstein Castle, one of the area’s leading tourist attractions.

    And now….The Mash!

    We begin in Petaluma, California, where Lagunitas Brewing Company held its annual Beer Circus. Some guests wore top hats and “ironic facial hair,” while others dressed as figures from popular culture.

    Just in time for Father’s Day: Criquet, a clothing company, has designed a shirt with a reinforced lining that prevents you from destroying it while using the shirttail to twist a beer bottle open.

    Twenty years ago, Lauren Clark quit her desk job to work for a brewery. She then gravitated to writing, and recently published Crafty Bastards, a history of beer in New England.

    Gustav Holst’s The Planets inspired Bell’s Brewing to create a seven-ale series, each of which named for one of the planets in Holst’s suite. The first Planet beer will be released in August.

    St. Louis, which is celebrating its 250th birthday, has 30 craft breweries–and yes, the Budweiser brewery, too. USA Today’s Wendy Pramick has a beer lover’s guide to the city.

    Brock Bristow, a South Carolina attorney, might wind up in the Lobbyists’ Hall of Fame. He persuaded lawmakers to pass the brewery-friendly “Stone Bill”.

    Finally, Jeopardy! for beer geeks. Three female beer bloggers host a monthly trivia night at a bar in Brooklyn. Games consist of four rounds: brewing, history, popular culture, and the “hipster trifecta.”

    Is Regulation Hurting Craft Brewers?

    Matthew Mitchell and Christopher Koopman of George Mason University argue that craft brewing is hamstrung by regulation at every level of government.

    At the federal level, brewers need approval for their label art—this step can take 100 days—and depending on their ingredients and methods, their formula might require approval—which could mean yet another 60 days’ delay.

    At the state level, brewers face additional, and often redundant, rules. Some states’ criteria for getting a license are so broadly written that they invite arbitrary denials, especially if they let existing brewers exclude competition. Once licensed, craft brewers must contend with more legal barriers–the worst of which is the three-tier system, which requires brewers to sell their products through distributors. On top of that, many states’ franchise laws force small brewers to either stay in unhappy marriages with distributors or pay a huge sum for a corporate divorce.

    Mitchell and Koopman also note that regulators don’t have an incentive to look at the combined effect of regulations at all levels. They also believe that regulators are oblivious to the rules’ practical effect: preventing newcomers from challenging existing firms. (Which explains the persistence of the “bootlegger and Baptist” theory of regulation: restrictive alcohol laws hand an advantage to existing suppliers.) The authors also criticize governments’ efforts to “rescue” craft brewers by with targeted assistance, exemptions, and subsidies, contending that those measures are not only ineffective but also create economic inefficiencies.

    The Friday Mash (Board Game Edition)

    On this day in 1911, board game mogul Milton Bradley passed away. His eponymous company—Ludwig’s been waiting to use that word–brought us The Game of Life, along with the ever-popular Yahtzee and Twister.

    And now….The Mash!

    We begin in Utah, where state liquor regulators are cracking down on festivals put on by for-profit groups. One potential casualty of the new policy is Snowbird Ski Resort’s Oktoberfest celebration.

    Gilley’s, the Texas honky-tonk made famous in the film Urban Cowboy, closed in 1989. However, a local brewery is making Gilley’s blond ale. A number of retailers in the Houston area carry it.

    The Gun, a London pub, recently hosted an all-unfiltered beer festival. “Spring Haze” featured 30 beers from local micros. Fans contend that unfiltered beer not only tastes better, but is healthier.

    Craft brewers have invaded Bavaria, the last bastion of brewing tradition. The newcomers’ offerings include Belgian-style wheat bock, a strawberry ale, a Baltic porter, and of course, IPAs.

    Now that grilling season is here, scientists suggest that you marinate your meat in beer, which inhibits the development of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that have been linked to cancer.

    Taco Bell’s parent company’s is working on a new spinoff chain called the U.S. Taco Company & Urban Taproom, which will serve craft beer as well as beer milkshakes to pair with menu items.

    Finally, Two Brothers Brewing Company has created a beer for Chicago’s Field Museum. The white IPA is called “Cabinet of Curiosities,” a name once given to museum collections.

    Trademark Tips From the Top

    As the number of craft breweries has grown, so has the number of trademark disputes. Some of them have gotten nasty. But according to the experts, many of these disputes are avoidable.

    Andy Crouch of All About Beer magazine spoke to attorneys who do trademark work for breweries. Topping their list of advice: protect the mark by registering it with the federal government. Even though a brewery acquires limited trademark protection by putting its product on the market, failure to register invites rival breweries to register first, and leads to disputes over the where the brewery’s territory ends. Before bringing its beer to market, the brewery should also do its homework, paying particular attention to whether similar marks are already registered. It should also invest the time and come up with distinctive marks that are easy to defend–though that job is getting harder as the number of breweries grows.

    “Use it or lose it” is a basic principle of trademark law. This means a brewery can’t sit idly by when a competitor brings out a beer with a similar name or appearance. But how should a brewery deal with such a situation? A polite letter to the competitor often solve the problem, since most infringers are unaware that someone else has a better claim. However, some disputes can’t be resolved amicably. In those cases, the worst thing the combatants can do is litigate their case in the social media. All that does is make one side appear whiny and the other look like a villain, and makes both sides look petty to boot.

    The Friday Mash (Good Housekeeping Edition)

    On this day in 1885, Clark W. Bryan founded Good Housekeeping magazine. Famous writers who have contributed to it include Somerset Maugham, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Frances Parkinson Keyes, A.J. Cronin, Virginia Woolf, and Evelyn Waugh.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in New Brunswick, Canada, where a Budweiser blimp went rogue. The blimp, which broke loose at a hockey promotion in St. John, wound up in a wooded area northeast of the city.

    Authorities in Siberia are investigating a brewery that put images of Soviet World War II heroes on beer cans. Some veterans think the brewery is exploiting the heroes for profit.

    Illegal 20 years ago, microbreweries are flourishing in Japan. Ingrid Williams of the New York Times visits several in Osaka, the nation’s unofficial culinary capital.

    Meet the Roger Bannister of beer running. James Neilsen ran the Beer Mile in 4:57. A Beer mile contestant must consume a 12-ounce portion of beer every 400-meter lap.

    Ty Burrell, who plays the bumbling dad on the TV sitcom “Modern Family,” has opened The Beer Bar, a restaurant and beer garden in Salt Lake City. Its signature dish will be the Reuben brat.

    Forget about using Bitcoins to buy beer in Ohio. The Department of Public Safety has concluded they’re too volatile. That, and they aren’t recognized as legal currency.

    Boston Beer Company CEO Jim Koch reveals his secret for not getting drunk. Before drinking, he downs one teaspoonful of Fleischmann’s yeast for every beer he intends to consume.

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