I don't think I have ever seen a reaction as fierce and as widespread to any issue related to the local craft beer scene as I saw this past week in regards to what I like to now call Cascadia-gate.
It seemed, with some of the posts and comments I read on Facebook, reddit, etc., that some craft beer consumers took it personally that the term Cascadia had been trademarked in regards to "brewed alcoholic beverages namely ale and lager...beer, malt liquor, stout, porter and lambic".
But, to tell you the truth, I don't really understand some of the venom and, quite frankly, the mob mentality that ensued after Barley Mowat posted the story. It was great to see those passionate about craft beer in BC finally band together and get vocal, and the force of their actions did prompt Steamworks to respond, even if that response was perceived by many to be inadequate and insincere, but really, how does this issue impact the consumer? Why all the anger, rage and name calling? If you read many of the comments and posts, when they were available to be read, it was obvious that some of those writing them really had no grasp on what this whole issue was about.
Yes, this story did warrant a response from those of us who are involved in the local craft beer community and/or passionate about their craft beer. And I applaud those who offered their opinions in intelligent and constructive ways, letting Eli Gershkovitch, owner of Steamworks, and his "Steam Team" know they were upset with Eli quietly telling local breweries, for reasons only he really understands, to stop using the term "Cascadian" Dark Ale (CDA). But, let's face it, he was not telling them to stop brewing that particular style of beer or impeding consumer access to CDAs. No, just last night I drank some North Shore Black IPA, brewed by North Vancouver nano-brewery Bridge Brewing Co. Black IPA is another term used to describe CDA. A few weeks back I enjoyed Parallel 49's Black Christmas , described, a little tongue in cheek, by P49 as a Christmas Dark Ale (CDA) due to the trademark hubbub which was common knowledge among the local craft industry even before Chuck posted his original "The Grinch Who Stole Cascadia" story.
The Black Christmas and North Shore Black IPA ales may have been described in different terms, omitting the term Cascadian, but, at least in my humble opinion, they are in fact CDAs. And it shows that local breweries are already finding ways around the trademark issue. Just labeling a beer as a CDA, without spelling it out, will alert consumers that the beer is a Cascadian Dark Ale. Those looking for that style of beer will know what CDA means and those who don't probably will not know what a Cascadian Dark Ale is and would have to ask for an explanation anyway.
It is one of the reasons I, as CAMRA Vancouver President, have not come out with an official stance on the whole issue because I do not see this as a consumer advocacy issue. As president, I can say CAMRA Vancouver would like to see craft breweries working together to increase their share of the market place so that we, the consumers, have greater access to more craft beers, but whether that beer is called CDA, Black IPA, or something different, is a battle for others to fight. This is an industry-related conflict, one that, brewer's associations representing the breweries and homebrewing groups may want to tackle as they are the ones brewing and naming their beers CDAs.
No, I personally don't agree with Eli that he should be able to protect his trademark in relation to other breweries using the term Cascadian Dark Ale and I voiced that opinion to Walter Cosman, President of Steamworks Brewing Company, last summer. As pointed out by Chad on his blog Hoplog, used in that way, Cascadian is a descriptor for a style of beer. If breweries were calling their beers Cascadia Lager, or Cascadia IPA, I could see Eli's point, but when they are using Cascadia in reference to describing the CDA style, I think the trademark infringement has no traction. Cascadia Dark Ale in that sense is like using lager, stout or India Pale Ale. Many breweries are now trademarking the names of their beers to protect their branding. But protecting a brand and protecting a term that describes something, in my opinion, are two different things.
But what do I know about the law and my opinion obviously is not one Eli Gershkovitch agrees with.
And no, I personally don't buy "Team Steam's" assertion that Eli's actions were, "the best course of action so as to preserve the integrity of the name 'Cascadia' for true craft breweries not for large multinational breweries." And no, I did not buy the spin put out in the response from Steamworks painting the picture that Eli and Steamworks are David fighting the evil Goliath, in the form of Molson Canadian, or that Eli is the benevolent but misunderstood defender of the craft beer community who, out of the goodness of his heart, would allow other craft breweries to buy the license to use his trademarked term Cascadia.
I do hope Eli finds a way to save face and back down on this whole issue and I think opposition from other craft breweries and consumers in general is essential, but I would ask that if you are voicing dissent you do it in a constructive and respectful way. Calling Eli names and making statements like "Steamworks suck" on-line is only going to anger him and make him dig in his heels. But if enough people send him well written and well-thought out, intelligent communications about why what he is doing is wrong, maybe, just maybe he will see the light and truly act in good faith as a stand-up member of the BC craft beer community.
In the meantime, we as consumers can continue, unimpeded, to enjoy our CDAs even if the breweries do not use the term Cascadian Dark Ale until this whole issue gets cleared up.