There are lots of ways the business of beer extends far beyond what we find in bottles or cans. The social and cultural side of beer offers a glimpse into who we are, what we value, and in some ways, what drives us.
Among one of the more curious trends in the American industry in recent years has been the continued use of trademarked or registered intellectual property. All over the country, there are near-daily examples of small and independent craft breweries using the likeness of people or IP from music, TV, movies, and a host of other pop culture venues as a way to market their product. As previously covered on GBH, these actions are done with knowledge of the potential legal ramifications. Some breweries are careful to toe the line, using similar color schemes or fonts from companies or products, but others may cross it.
A recent example also covered on GBH was when Pennsylvania brewery Broken Goblet released a label for The Bryce is Right, a beer celebrating the arrival of baseball superstar Bryce Harper in Philadelphia. With a profile of Harper’s face, as well as a label imitating the beloved gameshow, The Price is Right, the proposed branding could have put the brewery in hot water. It even received a shoutout from Bob Pease, Brewers Association president and CEO, on Twitter.
When that story ran in March, Pease never explained why he specifically called out a member brewery that could so easily be in violation of state and federal law, declining to comment to GBH. Ahead of this podcast, through the Brewers Association’s PR agency, GBH was told, “No foul play here (pun intended). As a fan of independent beer and baseball, Bob was simply trying to connect the two.”
One person, however, is still hoping for a more thorough answer.
For about a month, Tim Sullivan has been tweeting at Pease, creating an ever-growing thread on Twitter with hope he can learn more about the social media shoutout. Sullivan, a brewer at Portland, Oregon’s Ecliptic Brewing, has been hopeful, but not holding his breath.
In this Sightlines podcast episode, we’re checking in with Sullivan. He’s a supporter of the Brewers Association—his employer is a member as well—though he continues to be perplexed why nobody from the trade organization has spoken up to ask peer businesses to stop using the intellectual property of others. After a series of tweets went unanswered, Sullivan explains why this is important to him.
This is Tim Sullivan, brewer and searcher of answers. Listen in.