DINER: PR Meltdown For Steamworks After Owner Gets Possessive Of “Cascadia” Beer

by Andrew Morrison | Steamworks owner Eli Gershkowitz isn’t making many friends in the local craft beer scene at the moment thanks to a seemingly ill-considered move to try and enforce his 1999 trademark on the word “Cascadia” (in relation to beer) by apparently sending bullying cease and desist letters to breweries making Cascadian-style brews. That’s some awful derpitude right there, and the internets don’t approve. The social media backlash against Gershkowitz and Steamworks has been quick and ferocious. Read about the whole sordid affair over at my new favourite blog, Barley Mowat.

UPDATE: Steamwork’s rushed (and unconvincing) response here. Meh. Barley Mowat’s follow up.

  • Julien

    Not sure what the stink is here – seems to me that Steamworks has a pretty clear cut case and history in using Cascadia as a brand. If another local Vancouver food scene website started using a variant of Scout, how would you feel?

  • Scout Magazine

    Fair logic, Julien, but Cascadian beer is a style (CDA), not a brand. To wit, I have no problem with companies that have the word “magazine” in them.

  • Robert

    Andrew,

    Sorry mate… but you’ve got a Red Truck Beer ad on your website! We all know the story behind those guys.

  • Scout Magazine

    ^ Oh, bygones, Thucydides! That was in 2007. FWIW, after that shit show I didn’t drink a sip of Red Truck for nearly 3 years. No one won that fight, but it’s over.

  • rr

    Like Julien, I think that the letter is pretty clear and reasonable (punctuation aside; seriously, steamworks? that was awful).

    Also seems like a fair and generous solution proposed by them.

  • Thomas

    I’m with you on CDA being a legitimate style that should be respected, but what specifically is unconvincing about Steamwork’s response?

  • Scout Magazine

    I read it as straight PR — classic backtrack volteface spin — the result of getting caught out. I agree with Chuck… http://barleymowat.com/2012/11/24/steamworks-speaks/

  • http://www.barleymowat.com Chuck

    Yeah. They even place some harsh restrictions on the use right in the letter (only true craft breweries), specifically implying that Granville Island can’t use the term. If Molson themselves were to brew a CDA why not let them label it as such? Sure it might be bad, but a style doesn’t imply quality, just a style.

  • Scout Magazine

    ^ What he said.

  • Thomas

    Thanks for the replies. I’ve been a big fan of steamworks for a long time; a friend of mine even started brewing for them fairly recently, so I’m really trying to see it from their perspective here. But, rightly, you guys are making it difficult, and I think there’s nothing left to defend.

    Sidestepping the wider discussion of whether the trademark should be upheld now (spoiler alert: it shouldn’t), if their press release is to believed, they aren’t planning on profiting from it trademark. So why protect it? For them to have control over who brews CDAs is blatantly absurd, and to force CDAs to be named something else to get around them (which presumably would happen if they maintain this position) would be ridiculous too.

  • rr

    ^I think that’s a fairly good point.

  • Islander

    What’s ironic about Chuck’s note is the anti-bullying sentiment… meanwhile he is rallying “frothing” hoards of online beer geeks to submit comments and threatening posts. Now who’s the bully now?

    Chuck… or John weren’t you trained in mental health? Shouldn’t you know better?

  • Scout Magazine

    ^ Funny how it’s always the writer/reviewer/whistleblower’s fault.

  • http://www.barleymowat.com Chuck

    Now hey, I’m not advocating anyone leaving threatening or offensive messages/posts. What I wanted was people to politely and civilly voice their reasoned opposition to Steamworks’ position via Social Media. Sure, that might have been a pretty starry-eyed expectation from the Internet, but honestly I did not think that people would not actually read further than the article title before going over to Facebook to post threatening, obscene and poorly spelt messages.

    Also, I have no idea what you mean by mental health. I’ve had no such training, and have (to my best knowledge) never represented myself otherwise.

  • Dan

    Anyone that has ever worked for Eli at one of his restaurants/bars, specifically the ones in Gastown would understand his attitude. I’m taking the 5th here. I don’t agree or disagree. But I do like their beer. Have a Berry White. Raspberry beer (9%) mixed with their white beer. Fuck you up fast!! Which is also the only way I could work for him!