Craft Brew Scene Gets Creative, Cramped

July 27, 2016 04:08 PM

Anyone paying attention to the craft brew scene knows it has exploded in recent years. According to the Brewers Association, overall beer sales were actually down 0.2% in 2015, while the craft brew segment saw double-digit gains of 12.8%. The total impact is estimated at $55.7 billion per year, creating 424,000 U.S. jobs.

With so many new beers coming on board every year, the space to market them at the local bar is getting more cramped than ever. That has led to craft breweries turning out increasingly inventive tap handles for an eye-catching marketing strategy.

AgDay recently caught up with Wisconsin-based AJS Tap Handles, one of the largest tap handle manufacturers in the country.

Another aspect of craft breweries – the names of the beers themselves – has gotten increasingly litigious, according to law blog “Above the Law.” The basic problem: Craft brewers, who love pun-soaked names like “Modus Hoperandi” and “Why Can’t IBU,” are increasingly running into trademark problems with competitors as they run out of a finite combination of hop-based wordplays.

“It’s sort of a strange study in how an industry can evolve, starting as something artisan built on friendly competition and morphing into exactly the kind of legal-heavy, protectionist profit-beast that seems like the very antithesis of the craft brewing concept,” according to the blog.

According to the Wall Street Journal, roughly two new trade disputes are popping up every day. Above the Law is short on solutions, but concludes trademark law “should certainly not slow down burgeoning and explosive industries … [with] nobody knowing for sure whether just putting out a new product will result in crippling lawsuits.”

For now, craft breweries will have to be extra diligent getting more customers to say “bottoms up” without the business going “belly up.”

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