In May, Jason Ard wrote a blog entry on his Tumblr site for Old Boxcar Brewing Co. He was impressed by the rising-tide-floats-all-ships camaraderie and esprit de corps of those gathered at the annual Crafter Brewers Conference in San Diego.
As an observer at the past four gatherings, I can tell you the conference is usually just one double, barrel-aged, smoked, coffee-infused IPA away from a full-throated brewers' chorus of "Kumbaya."
The next blog entry didn't come until September, one month before the 10-barrel brewing system was set to arrive launching San Antonio's second microbrewery. Ard announced a name change to Branchline Brewing Co. thanks to receiving a legal document ordering him to cease and desist from using the Old Boxcar name.
A small Pennsylvania brewer called Boxcar Brewing somehow decided that the public would be confused by the partially shared names.
So much for the chorus.
Even little guys Boxcar have to protect their trademarks — and they had tried to talk Old Boxcar out of the name choice by phone before resorting to the legal route — but the confusion alleged in this case seems unlikely. Avoiding an expensive legal fight and eating about $3,000 in the cost of promotion materials and other expenses related to the name change was the right thing to do.
Ard said he is a little disenchanted by this situation and had expected the little guys to stick together rather than go after each other.
But he says the new name Branchline still captures the spirit of the brewery and serves as a tribute to his grandfather, whose house near Corpus Christi left Ard with memories of trains rolling by. A branch line is one that comes off of and feeds into a main railroad line.
He has offered to trade out Branchline merchandise for any Old Boxcar items people may have bought, but my guess is that most people will keep them for novelty's sake.
Meanwhile, Branchline's Kickstarter.com fundraising effort more than halfway to their $12,000 goal, but there's only a week to go. The money, which gives backers incentive rewards and not ownership, is not the primary funding for the brewery, but it will be used to finish out the tasting room featuring up to 10 taps and the eventual addition of a canning line.
The Kickstarter concept is an all-or-nothing deal. If the money is not raised by October 10 at 8:38 p.m., all the scratch already raised is returned to the backers.
Travis E. Poling is beer writer for the Current, co-author of Beer Across Texas: A Guide to Brews and Brewmasters of the Lone Star State and managing editor of LOCAL Community News. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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