As craft beer industry matures, increased call for “Collaboration not Litigation”

When my wife and I were first married, we lived in the North Park area of San Diego. Once a second child was on the way we knew we needed to find a better living situation, so we left. That was right at the beginning of the explosion of the craft beer scene.

There is an interesting pattern that seems to exist in any new high-growth industry: after early adopters open the door to a mainstream marketplace creating widespread demand (thereby “crossing the chasm”), and as a complete ecosystem develops around this burgeoning industry, next come the lawsuits, followed by standardized insurance policy provisions. Eventually the lawyers specializing in these areas of law will get together at annual conventions where they sometimes drink far too much.

This was the case with construction defect litigation industry in the mid-90s, the tech industry in the ’00s, and now it seems we are here with the craft brewers in the mid-10s. Samantha Drake reports in Quartz that the “anti-establishment” fans of craft brewers are not reacting well to the very much “establishment” practices of defending one’s intellectual property, trying to avoid confusion of consumers in the marketplace, etc.

The good news is that some breweries have taken some very positive and well-received approaches to resolving disputes:

Like many craft brewers, Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, California, is partial to thematically named beers and offers brews such as Redemption, Perdition, Benediction, Sanctification, Supplication, Damnation, Temptation, and Consecration. After Russian River added a Belgian-style ale named Salvation to the line-up, owner Vinnie Cilurzo realized Avery Brewing in Boulder, Colorado also made a beer called Salvation.

Cilurzo says he introduced himself to Avery Brewing’s owner Adam Avery at the Great American Beer Festival and pointed out the name problem. Avery visited Russian River and the brewers “noodled around” with various blends of the two Salvations before coming up with the new ale they dubbed “Collaboration not Litigation,” Cilurzo tells Quartz. Avery Brewing, which has the larger distribution capacity of the two breweries, still makes and distributes Collaboration not Litigation and Russian River sells the ale at its brew pub.