Statewide Celebration of Mass. Produced Beer #MassBeerWeek held March 2 through March 9, 2019

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FRAMINGHAM, Mass. | On Saturday, March 2,  spanning from North Adams to Mashpee, Mass Beer Week kicks off its weeklong series of events featuring local beer on tap. 

The tribute provides an opportunity for craft brewers to share their creativity and passion for the beverage they love with locals, fans and tourists. Breweries, beer bars, package stores and restaurants will host events including special beer releases, beer and food pairings, tap takeovers, a homebrew competition, a charity hockey game, and more, to celebrate the ever-evolving beer culture across the Commonwealth. 

In 2007, there were just 30 breweries in Massachusetts. To date, there are 178 active breweries across the Commonwealth, with 24 breweries in planning slated to open by the end of 2019. 

 “This is the one week a year when we hope everyone in the craft beer industry will come together to shine a bright spotlight on the amazing craft beer scene that’s growing here in Massachusetts,” says Katie Stinchon, executive director of the Mass Brewers Guild. “Our breweries pride themselves in using local ingredients and local suppliers, employing local residents and supporting our communities. In turn, we hope that Bay Staters will take pride in drinking local with us all week long.” 

What’s on tap for Mass Beer Week:

  •  Want to check out the state’s newest breweries? Get your tickets for Meet the Brewers Freshman Class of 2019. Attendees can experience a unique roundtable style tasting event as they sample suds from nine freshman brewers and hear their start-up story. Snacks and new friends included. The event takes place at Lookout Farm in Natick on Saturday, March 2. Tickets are $48.

  • Farmhouse beers and French toast, lagers and links, brown ales and bacon … need we say more? On Sunday, March 3 The Dirty Truth in Northampton will serve up a special brunch menu paired with an all local lineup of beers from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

  •  Available only once a year during #MassBeerWeek, the anticipated release of Amherst Brewing Co.’s Giulietta, an imperial iteration of the IPA Juliette, will launch on Wednesday, March 6.

  • Expand your knowledge of the brewing process while learning about the inner workings of Wormtown Brewery during Craft’d Company’s Beers with the Brewers event. Taste four distinct beers while learning the history and style of each brew. The event takes place on Thursday, March 7 from 7 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $20. 

  • On Thursday, March 7, join Zelus Beer Company and Salt & Lemons for a six course tasting experience at Powisset Farm. Guests will be guided through understanding complimentary flavor profiles from appetizers through dessert.. Registration required. Trustees member: $72, Nonmember: $90

  • Homebrewers can enter to win a chance to brew their beer professionally at Barrel House Z and have it served on tap. Entries can be dropped off at Barrel House Z on February 13 or 14 from 4 to 9 p.m. and the winner will be chosen and announced on Saturday, March 9. Learn more HERE.

  •  On Saturday, March 9 brewers will trade in rubber boots for hockey skates and lace up to help raise money for their trade association in the MBG’s inaugural Winter Classic charity hockey game. Friends, family, and craft beer fans can spectate and enjoy a beer tasting in the stands. Tickets are free for those ages 13 and under, $15 for the game only and $45 for the game and beer tasting. 

  • To celebrate Mass Beer Week, Bright Ideas Brewing and Naukabout Brewing went the distance — 200 miles — to team up to create a New England IPA made with cranberries from Cape Cod bogs and brewed with love right in North Adams. They’ll tap the keg on Saturday, March 9, just before George Clinton and P-Funk take the stage at MASS MoCA, Learn more HERE.

New events are being added daily. Visit MassBeerWeek.org for the full calendar. 

Mass Beer Week is hosted by the Mass Brewers Guild and made possible thanks to volunteers and industry friends at BeerAdvocate, Craft’d Events, Fat Basset Design and the Mass. Brew Bros. The Mass Brewers Guild is the state’s trade association that works to protect and promote the interests of craft brewers across the Commonwealth. For more information about the Mass Brewers Guild, visit MassBrewersGuild.org. 

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Worcester’s Bravest Belgian Wit ReleaseD

Worcester, MA:  In response to the tragic death of Worcester Firefighter Christopher Roy, Wachusett Brewing Co., and Wormtown Brewing Co., have come together to brew up Worcester’s Bravest, a beer committed to raising funds for the Ava Roy Fund in support of Roy’s 9-yr old daughter.

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One hundred percent of the proceeds will be donated to the fund that has been set up by the Worcester International Association of Firefighters Local 1009.

“We are super excited to team up with Wachusett on the project.” said David Fields, Managing Partner of Wormtown Brewery. “I cannot think of a better way to honor Firefighter Roy’s memory and his family.”

The beer style for Worcester’s Bravest is a Belgian Wit, a light-bodied, unfiltered, wheat beer.  “It has sweet and zesty citrus notes with some complex pepper spice and herbal hops” said Ben Roesch, Brewmaster of Wormtown Brewery”.  “While still being refreshing and easy drinking” added Dave Howard, Brewmaster at Wachusett Brewing Company.

“Wachusett Brewing Company has had a long relationship with the Worcester Firefighter Community dating back to our original support of the Leary Firefighter Foundation” said Christian McMahan, President of Wachusett Brewing Company.  “David and I have been speaking for over a year about doing something, up until now we never had the right reason to come together, we are both honored to be a part of something that has such a profound impact on our community.”

Donations can also be made directly to the Ava Roy Fund and mailed to the Worcester Fire Department Credit Union, 34 Glennie St, Worcester, MA 01605.

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Those interested in helping to raise a pint and funds for the Ava Roy foundation can visit the brewery’s respective tap rooms, located at:

Wachusett Brewing Co.
175 State Rd E, Westminster, MA 01473

Wormtown Brewing Co.
72 Shrewsbury St, Worcester, MA 01604

Trademarking Your Brewery

By: by Patrick A. Quinlan

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Trademarks are a brewery’s public face to its customers and the marketplace, and the goodwill protected by trademarks can be one of its most important assets.  The best way to protect that value is to register trademarks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  By understanding tactics and strategies that are effective before the USPTO, you can maximize the opportunity to obtain full Federal protection for your brands. 

Trademarks cover names, logos, brands, or other identifications of the source of goods and services.  An example trademark is the name Sierra Nevada®. The holder of a trademark has the right to stop anyone from using a confusingly similar name, logo, or other brand for similar goods or services.  For example, if someone wanted to start a brewpub with the name Sienna Nevarda, the name “Sienna Nevarda” would likely be too similar to Sierra Nevada® to gain a trademark registration.  But if Sienna Nevarda, or even Sierra Nevada, were a trucking company, then the USPTO might grant a trademark registration because, while the name is similar, the businesses are different and may not cause confusion in the marketplace.  A trademark may last into perpetuity as long as the owner of the mark continues to use the mark in connection with the goods and services, although the trademark registration is subject to periodic renewal.

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A simple trademark application may be filed without professional assistance using forms on the USPTO website, but depending on the trademark complexity, value to your brewery, and your capacity to spend the time necessary to properly submit a trademark application, a professional trademark attorney may be sought.

The Basics of a Trademark Application
A trademark application must specify the trademark sought to be registered and the goods or services with which the mark is used or is to be used.  The specified mark can be a word or phrase in standard character form, meaning that any use of the mark will be covered regardless of font or added design elements (e.g., a logo’s graphics). Alternatively, the specified mark can be a design, with or without words, and can even be a sound, such as a television network’s chime, or a color, such as pink for insulation in the case of Owens Corning.  

When selecting a trademark, it is best to choose one that is sufficiently different from other marks associated with similar products or services.  The Trademark Office provides an interface on its website (uspto.gov) for searching already-registered marks.  A trademark should also be distinctive in relation to the goods or services.  For example, the Trademark Office will reject a trademark for “Cerveza” (Spanish for beer) if it is to be used in conjunction with selling beer but has registered the term in a distinctive combination with other terms, even with respect to beer.

The specified goods or services can be broadly listed (e.g., “beer”).  The Trademark Office has divided various types of goods and services into 45 classes, but these classes typically have no effect on a trademark application other than cost.  If an application is to cover goods or services that are in two different classes, the government filing fee, as well as many other fees, for the application will be twice as much.  A trademark application covering beer falls under one class, class 32.

In addition, the application must be filed in the name of the entity that is or will be using the trademark. For example, a brewery’s trademark must be filed in the name of the brewery, not the president or owner. Filing in the name of the wrong entity will result in an invalid trademark application, leaving any resulting registration vulnerable to cancellation.

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Understanding the Application Process
The application process begins with preparing and filing a trademark application.  There are two basic types of trademark applications: use-based and intent-to-use.  The Trademark Office will only issue registered trademarks to those who actually use a mark in connection with specified goods or services.  An applicant has the option of filing an intent-to-use application, which means that the applicant has not yet actually used the subject mark in connection with goods or services, but has a bona fide intent to use the mark.  The application will be examined similarly to a use-based application, but if the application is allowed, the mark will not become registered until the applicant shows that the mark is in use.

Once filed, an application will experience a period of pendency before it is first examined.  That time is typically three to four months.  Once examined, if not rejected for one or more issues, the application will be scheduled to publish for its 30-day opposition period.  If not opposed, a use-based application will be put in line for registration, which will issue a number of weeks later.  If the application is an intent-to-use application, the applicant will need to show uses of the mark before being put in the registration queue.  In all, if the examiner does not raise any issues during examination, the time from application filing to registration is usually about eight to ten months for a use-based application.

During examination, however, a trademark application may be rejected on a number of grounds (e.g., likely confusion with an already-registered mark).  The applicant will have an opportunity to respond to the rejections, and if they are not resolved, the applicant can appeal.  During the 30-day opposition period, any party who believes that it will be harmed by registration of the trademark can oppose the application.  An opposition is a proceeding before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that is similar to a lawsuit in Federal court.

If ultimately rejected or successfully opposed, it is not necessarily the case that the applicant is not allowed to use the mark, but the applicant will not have the added protections of Federal registration, such as the ability to sue in Federal court and presumptions of validity that favor the holder of a registered trademark.

Keeping Your Trademark Registered
Trademark registrations must be renewed every ten years.  For each renewal, the owner must show that it is still using the mark for the specified goods or services and must pay a renewal fee.

In addition to renewal every ten years, new registrations are subject to the requirement that the owner show use between the fifth and sixth anniversaries, as well as pay a fee.  At this time, the owner may also claim that the registration has become incontestable through substantially exclusive and continuous use for five years.

If a registration is not renewed it will become cancelled.  If cancelled, there is no mechanism for reviving the registration; the only solution is to re-file the application.  But such a re-filed application might not be successful, so it is important to keep track of renewal deadlines.  The USPTO has recently been sending reminders for renewals, but has not always done so and is not required to do so.  If an attorney handles your trademark application, the attorney can keep track of such deadlines in his docket to send reminders.

When properly planned, trademark applications can be a relatively inexpensive, but important, part of an intellectual property strategy for your brewery, providing valuable coverage for your brands and marketing.

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Patrick Quinlan is a patent and trademark attorney with a Buffalo office of Hamilton, Brook, Smith & Reynolds, P.C., Concord and Boston, Massachusetts.  Patrick is a home brewer and speaks on the topic of protecting your brewery through trademarks and patents.  When he is not brewing himself, he can be reached at his office at paq@hbsr.com and 617-607-5918.

 

Mass Beer Week Home Brewer Competition

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2018 was an amazing year for craft beer in Massachusetts and 2019 is gearing up to be even better. To celebrate all that is great about Mass beer, the Mass Brew Bros along with Mass Brewers Guild, Beer Advocate, and Barrel House Z, will hold a Home Brewers Contest. 

Winner will have their recipe brewed at Barrel House Z for release in the BHZ taproom.

Here’s what you need to know:

• You must be a resident of MA and over 21 

• (1) entry per person

• Your entry can be dropped off at Barrel House Z on February 13 or 14 from 4-9:00 pm

• Style considerations: ABV must be under 8%, no sours or wild fermentation (winning recipe is subject to review before brew day at BHZ)

• Preliminary judging will occurs at BHZ

• Final judging on March 9that BHZ with winner announced that day

• Entry must be bottled and sealed (12 oz to 22oz size—no growlers please)

• With your entry, please include your name, home address, email, phone number, beer style and ABV

Questions?  Contact Dan O’Donnell at dodonnell@barrel.house

Winner Winner Beer Dinner

Five Local Craft Beer Fans Dined with Celebrity Brewers during the Mass Brewer Guild’s Mass Craft Beer Dinner to honor its Beer Trail Conquerors

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. | The conversation and beer flowed as Massachusetts craft beer legends Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer co., Dan Kenary, founder of Harpoon, Will Meyers, brewmaster at CBC, and Rob Burns, co-founder of Night Shift and president of the Mass Brewers Guild, came together with five Beer Trail Conquerors for a special dinner at Cambridge Brewing Co. 

The dinner was hosted by the Mass Brewers Guild, the craft beer industry’s trade association, to celebrate fans who achieved Beer Trail Conqueror status by visiting 100 breweries in one year using the nonprofit’s passport program. The mobile app, “Mass Craft Beer,” celebrated its one year anniversary this past September and currently has 9,800 downloads. 

Seventeen craft beer super fans took on the challenge and conquered the trail. Five names were drawn at random to attend the Mass Craft Beer Dinner.  

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Brian Healy of South Easton, Benjamin Krefetz of Cambridge, Lisa Hodge of Sutton, Michelle Mulligan of Whitman, and Dmitriy Arkannikov of Waltham, all won seats at the table, and in some cases left their spouses, who were also Beer Trail Conquerors, behind. “I was getting the silent treatment as I left tonight,” joked Lisa Hodge, whose husband Geoff was her craft beer traveling partner across the state. “Thankfully he’s out with friends enjoying some craft beer tonight too.” 

Many of the Beer Trail Conquerors had coincidently met before, either striking up a conversation at one of the Mass Brewers Guild’s festivals, or bumping into one another at breweries while chasing each other on the leaderboard.  

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Brian Healy was the first to complete the trail, with Bob Kelley, co-founder of the Mass. Brew Bros., hot on his heels. Both Bob and Brian carry their original Mass Brewers Guild paper passports in their wallets and as new breweries open they see if taprooms can stamp them for old times’ sake. 

The Mass Brewers Guild saw the need to digitize the program so they could keep it updated in real time. The app also reduces paper waste and ensures that craft beer fans will never miss another stamp with the app on their phone.  

“I never would have visited towns like Sheffield or Nahant if it weren’t for the mobile app,” said Dmitriy Arkannikov. “I found so many hidden gems along my travels – amazing restaurants, pie shops, doughnut shops -- it was a great way to explore the state. I am excited to do it again.”  

The original paper passport program only featured 43 breweries when it launched in 2013. Today, Massachusetts has more than 160 breweries, with 30 in-planning slated to open in 2019. 

“It was amazing to meet such dedicated craft beer fans and hear about their passion for the MA beer scene, says Rob Burns, cofounder of Nightshift and president of the Mass Brewers Guild. “We really are spoiled in MA from both a brewery perspective and a consumer one.”

The free app is available in iTunes and Google Play stores and is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Mass. Brew Bros. who assist with data collection, Fat Basset Design who provides badge artwork, and to New England Label for their marketing support. Funds raised through the Mass Brewers Guild’s festivals, Power Beer Fest and the Mass Fermentational, help to cover development updates and maintenance costs. 

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The four course beer pairing dinner ended with a blondie drizzled in beeramel, topped with CBC wort ice cream, and paired with a sipper of Samuel Adams Utopias 2017. “If you didn’t drink it, we couldn’t make it – so thank you -- cheers,” said Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Company. 

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About the Mass Brewers Guild

Founded in 2007 by a group of committed and passionate brewers, the Mass Brewers Guild, is organized for the purposes of promoting craft brewing and protecting the interests of craft brewers across the Commonwealth. The association is membership based and open to all Massachusetts breweries licensed by the federal Tax and Trade Bureau and the Commonwealth’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. The nonprofit creates a community of brewers while shining light on the broad range of breweries and styles offered throughout state.Through industry and educational events, its mobile application beer trail map, and by providing resources and marketing support to brewers, the nonprofit works to highlight Massachusetts as a top travel destination for craft beer in the U.S. The board also continues its work at the legislative level, fighting for license and franchise law reform, and serving as the voice of craft brewers on Beacon Hill. The Massachusetts Brewers Guild is a 501(c)6 not-for-profit corporation.

Beer Release Helps Feed Local Families This Holiday Season

Framingham, MA– Last July, Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Company and Avidia Bank released a special collaboration beer in honor of the first Demo Tape Fest and included a charitable component where both Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Company and Avidia Bank agreed to contribute a total of $2.00 from each four-pack of the beer sold to the Rise Above Foundation, which serves foster children in the MetroWest area. This beer was so successful that they decided to do it again!

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Liquid Tender, which was part of Exhibit ‘A’’s Demo Tape test batch series, has graduated to their regular rotation and will be brewed twice a year. Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Company and Avidia Bank have pledged to give $2 from every four-pack sold donated to a MetroWest nonprofit. This holiday season, Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Company and Avidia Bank are working with the United Way of Tri-County to host Pints for Pantries, the release party for Liquid Tender. This event will raise money for United Way of Tri-County’s annual Feed-A-Family campaign, which raises money to provide families in our communities with a turkey and all the trimmings for both Thanksgiving and the December holidays.  

“We are thrilled to once again partner with Avidia Bank on Liquid Tender. It’s been a great way to not only help out our community, but also bring more attention to all the great organizations that are doing great things here in the MetroWest,” said Kelsey Roth, General Manager at Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Company. “Working with the United Way of Tri-County on its annual Feed-A-Family campaign was a no-brainer for this time of year. Beer and food have always been great ways to bring people together. We are happy to help feed families and keep them together this holiday season.”

“After all the success from the first time we made Liquid Tender, we wanted to do it again!  United Way of Tri-County and Avidia Bank have a long standing relationship and we knew this would be something we could do together, especially for the holiday season,” said Katelin Cwieka, AVP-Social Media and Brand Communications Manager at Avidia Bank, “This is a great way we can get involved by not only fundraising in a unique way but also to help highlight the needs in our community and all the wonderful work United Way does.”  

The limited edition of Liquid Tender will be available starting on Saturday, December 1 at the Pints for Pantries release party at Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Company from 6:00pm-10:00pm. Tickets are $25 per person, which includes the first beer, live entertainment by Blue Light Bandit Duo, and raffles featuring Celtics tickets and a VIP tour and tasting for four people at Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Company along with a gift basket of merchandise. Food will also be available for purchase from Melt, a poutine food truck. Tickets can be purchased at www.uwotc.org/pints. All money raised will benefit food pantries in Framingham, Marlborough and Clinton, Massachusetts. 

“Avidia Bank and Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Company are great partners of ours. We were excited when they approached us about this partnership to help raise money for local families this holiday season,” said Paul Mina, President & CEO of United Way of Tri-County. “We can’t thank companies like Avidia Bank and Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Company enough for raising awareness of the thousands of families in MetroWest area that go without food for one or more meals every day.” 

Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Company invited Avidia Bank and United Way of Tri-County to brew and package the beer, allowing employees from both organizations to be involved in the whole process. The beer will be available at Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Company and select locations in Massachusetts. For more information about Pints for Pantries visitwww.uwotc.org/pints

About Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Company:
Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Company is a brewery located in Framingham, MA that focuses on high quality, artisanal beers using the best ingredients.

About Avidia Bank:
Avidia Bank is a $1.5 billion community bank based in Hudson, MA with additional locations in Framingham, Westborough, Leominster, Shrewsbury, Clinton, Marlborough, Northborough and Clinton. 

About United Way of Tri-County: 
The United Way of Tri-County is a community-building organization that brings people together to care for one another. We provide programs and services, connect volunteers, and strengthen agencies to meet the critical needs of the community with the help of people like you.

 

 

Bring some local pride to the table this Thanksgiving #MABeer 

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Anything wine can do, beer can do better - so clear the wine glasses and make room for Mass. made craft beer as you set the table this Thanksgiving.

From the buttery stuffing and mashed potatoes, tangy cranberry sauce, flavorful turkey and creamy pies, there’s a local offering that can hold up to any side or dessert you can dish up. 

We unfortunately can’t help you navigate political conversations around the dinner table, or make your in-laws more bearable, but we can help you navigate the craft beer aisle with a list of beers brewed right here in Massachusetts. 

And when all else fails, just change the subject and talk about how great the beer is …

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First Thanksgiving on a Sour Planet!, Aeronaut 
A tart wheat ale, brewed with 180 lbs. of Massachusetts grown apples and exotic cinnamon. A pleasantly refreshing sour with prominent apple pie notes along with warming autumnal spices.

“Gose Well With Cranberries” and “Gose Well With Pumpkin Pie,” Second Wind Brewing Co.
Second Wind Brewing Co., released two beers just in time for Thanksgiving. A split a batch of “Gose Well...” with the first made with pureed pumpkin and holiday spices and the second made with pureed cranberries. Both 4.7 ABV and mildly tart. Available for sale in the taproom only.  

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Kill Your Idles: Crantastic, Idle Hands 
A sour ale brewed with cranberry and blood orange puree then back sweetened with Lactose to balance the acidity. Full of cranberry flavor with just the right amount of citrus notes to keep the beer interesting. The addition of lactose allows for the flavors of the fruit to stand out among the acidic character of the base beer.

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Cranberry Wheat Ale, Stone Cow
An American wheat ale bursting with fresh cranberry flavor and aroma. This trusty Thanksgiving sidekick can hang throughout the entire meal, from first bite to last sip. Especially great for cranberry sauce lovers. 

Goody Two Shoes Kölsch-Style Ale, Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Co. 
This well-carbonated traditional Kölsch is a great partner to Thanksgiving dinner. Higher carbonation helps cut the richness of the turkey, gravy and stuffing and the light body and low ABV won't fill you up, leaving more room for pie. 

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Rising Wind, Moby Dick Brewing Co.
A medium bodied, well balanced German-style, Dortmund/Export lager. What’s a Dortmund/Export lager you ask? As far as German golden lagers go, it breaks down like this: Pilsners are hoppy, Munich lagers are malty, and Dortmund/Export lagers are well balanced. This beer goes well with chicken, turkey and pasta as well as fatty flavorful fish like salmon, swordfish or tuna. 

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Sweet Brown, Castle Island
Castle Island’s limited fall release, Sweet Brown, is a brown ale brewed with sweet potatoes. By including this ingredient, the sweet potatoes are able to provide a rich complexity to the mouthfeel that helps distinctly characterize the beer. Toasted malts also provide deep roasted chocolate and caramel notes that round out the beer and allows it to stand up to any Thanksgiving feast.

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Slumpkin Pumpkin, Somerville Brewing Co.
It’s still Pumpkin beer season. Somerville Brewing recommends Slumkin Pumpkin to pair with dinner and pie. Awarded a Top 10 in the US by Rate My Pumpkins, this beer delights with fresh sugar pumpkin and a tiny hint of spice.

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Storm Door Porter, RiverWalk
When the days get shorter and the shadows longer, the storm door goes on signaling the end of summer. So we meet the season head on with a beer sturdy enough for the harsher weather. Vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks enhance our rich dark malt to create a warming finish to sustain us all until the warmer weather returns.  

With the weather set to bring us the coldest Thanksgiving on record, Storm Door Porter pairs well with roaring fires, full bellies and hearts filled with thanks. Rated the #10 Porter in the country in 2018 by Paste magazine, this beer is the perfect choice for hiding from the weather and relatives alike.

Skwäshbuckle Imperial Porter, Turtle Swamp Brewing Co. 
This beer is named after the linguistic and phonetic spelling of squash, because umlauts are fun. It also shares a surname with Jim Buckle, the New England farmer who grew the 100 pounds of various baking squash that went into this beer. This rich and hearty limited offering is brewed with squash and spices, and pours dark brown with ruby red highlights, foaming up with a frothy, mocha colored head. Brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and clove, the initial sip of this porter is surprisingly light with notes of brown sugar and only a hint of the heat from its 10.7% ABV. The finish releases more complex notes of dried fruit, banana, clove, and hints of pine from the Cascade hops. 

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Trappist Holiday Ale, Spencer Brewing Co.
Mahogany in color, wholesome in body, lightly spiced, a heart-warming feast day ale from our table to yours.

Hold My Beer

An Employment Lawyer’s Tips For Craft Brewers
By: Brian Casaceli, Associate at Mirick O’Connell

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A few friends and I were recently enjoying a couple ofcold beers at a local brewery – which shall remain nameless to avoid playing favorites!  We discussed how the craft brew movement has been such a positive force not only in Massachusetts, but across the country.  We marveled over the crowds that breweries draw, the diversity and selection of beers (and ciders), and the seemingly endless list of IPAs we need to try. The consensus was that, if we ever found ourselves in a position to be part of such a venture, we would all jump at the opportunity. 

On my drive home that night, the employment lawyer in me took over. Given the significant commitment it takes to establish and operate a brewery, and how quickly breweries can grow, I thought – what employment related issues would a brewery need to address to protect its interests?  Several issues immediately came to mind.     

Protecting the Brewery’s Confidential Information and Trade Secrets Through a Non-Competition Agreement

If not an owner, one of the most essential employees at a brewery is the head brewer or brewmaster – a complex role likely responsible for managing the brewery’s overall operations including hiring and onboarding employees, checking inventory, managing tanks, scheduling, and forecasting production. Given the number of breweries in the Commonwealth, it is easy to foresee a situation where your head brewer/brewmaster might leave your brewery for a competitor.  Such a departure could expose your brewery’s confidential information and trade secrets to a rival brewery.  Fortunately, you may be able to prevent such a scenario from playing out and protect your confidential information and trade secrets by putting a non-competition agreement into place with the head brewer/brewmaster.

As many of you may know, on October 1st, a new law governing the use of non-competition agreements went into effect in Massachusetts.  The law – which sets parameters for how an employer may lawfully enter into a non-competition agreement with certain employees – defines a non-competition agreement as:

[A]n agreement between an employer and an employee, or otherwise arising out of an existing or anticipated employment relationship, under which the employee or expected employee agrees that he or she will not engage in certain specified activities competitive with his or her employer after the employment relationship has ended. 

It is important to note that the law contains many nuances and, for that reason, does not lend itself to a “one-size-fits-all” approach.[1] In fact, given its intricacies, some breweries might opt to forego non-competition agreements altogether and, instead, choose to use other agreements (discussed below) to protect their interests.  Nonetheless, when carefully drafted, non-competition agreements can significantly protect a brewery’s competitive interests.  

Maintaining the Confidentiality of The Perfect IPA Recipe

Perhaps nothing is more sacred to a brewery than its recipes and formulas and the particulars of its brewing process.  To ensure that such information remains private, a brewery should strongly consider having all of its employees who have direct access to such information sign confidentiality agreements.  

Confidentiality agreements, in a nutshell, prohibit an employee from using or disclosing to any individual outside of the company, whether during the course of his/her employment or at any time thereafter, any information the company designates and maintains as confidential, except as necessary to perform his/her job duties.  Thus, in addition to its brewing recipes, a brewery can use a confidentiality agreement to protect a brewery’s trade secrets, other confidential or proprietary information regarding its existing and/or future products, customer lists and/or customer information, business plans, marketing plans and other financial information.  Aside from a confidentiality agreement, breweries should also generally limit access to such information to only those employees who have a business need access to it.        

Protecting Against a Raid of Your Employees and Customers

A brewery can also take steps to prevent departed employees from trying to take the brewery’s remaining employees, and/or its customers through non-solicitation agreements.  Non-solicitation agreements are more narrow than non-competition agreements as they focus on specific activities.    

Employees

If your head brewer or any other employee decides to take a job with another brewery, it is easy to envision how the departing employee might attempt to recruit or solicit other employees to join him/her at the new brewery. To prevent such a situation from happening, breweries should enter into an agreement with their employees that, for a specific amount of time after an employee leaves his/her employment (regardless of the reason), prohibits the employee from recruiting or soliciting for hire any of the brewery’s employees, agents, representatives or consultants.

Customers

A brewery may have an exclusive arrangement with several local restaurants (i.e., customers) that serve its beer/cider on tap.  Breweries should consider a provision that prevents  a sales professional who leaves to join a competitor from using his/her relationship with those restaurants to solicit or do business with them.   

Last Call

Any of the above scenarios can happen in the craft brew industry.  Incorporating the above provisions into your hiring process (or even adopting after the fact) will help protect your business interests, including that secret IPA recipe everyone is trying to get their hands on.  

These are just a few employment-related issues to consider – there are many others out there!  I look forward to regularly submitting articles to the Mass Brewers Guild Newsletter to discuss additional issues as they may relate to craft brewers.  Please feel free to reach out if you have questions on anything mentioned above, or if you want to discuss any other employment related matters.  And, of course, I am always around to grab a beer too!  

[1] Notably, the law prohibits an employer from using non-competition agreements for those employees who are classified as non-exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Thus, before entering into a non-competition agreement, you must analyze whether the employee, including your head brewer/brewmaster, is lawfully classified as exempt or non-exempt.  It is recommended that brewers contact counsel to assist them with this analysis. 

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Brian Casaceli is an employment attorney in the Labor, Employment and Employee Benefits Group at Mirick, O’Connell, DeMallie & Lougee, LLP.  He can be reached at bcasaceli@mirickoconnell.com or (508) 860-1478.