As much as people in the local beer scene talk about there being a communal atmosphere among the rash of budding breweries, perhaps a little head-butting at some point was inevitable. It looks like the Twin Cities may have its first sudsy spat.
Late Thursday night, Northgate Brewing, a northeast Minneapolis brewery slated to open next month, posted a statement on its website alleging that lawyers representing Northbound Smokehouse and Brewpub, which opened on the city's south side in September, have sent Northgate two cease and desist letters requesting that Northgate change its name.
"In a market where the biggest craft brewers don't produce as much as Budweiser spills, I think it's shameful that a small brewpub is trying to litigate like a big-timer," wrote Northgate co-founder Adam Sjogren.
In the statement, Sjogren wrote that Northbound is objecting to Northgate's use of the words "north" and
"brew," "brewing," [Northgate has amended its blog post to read "brewing" and added that Northbound claims that the names are "deceptively similar"] and Sjogren alleges to have registered his brewery's name before Northbound.
Voicemails left for Northbound's owners have yet to be returned.
While Northbound is a brewpub and restaurant, Northgate plans to open as a production brewery, meaning it will distribute its beer and sell growlers on-site, but will not have a taproom.
Sjogren also contends that in June the two parties reached a verbal agreement that Northgate would not distribute its beer in south Minneapolis for one year to allow Northbound to establish its brand.
Friday morning Northgate co-founder Todd Slininger said that he still would like to reach an amicable agreement, but disputes Northbound's alleged concerns.
"I think it's a little bit silly because being in Minnesota, 'north' you'll see everywhere and 'brewing,' we're a brewery so I don't think we can get away from that," he said.
UPDATE: Northbound owners Jamie Robinson, Bryce Strickler and Amy Johnson released a statement Friday afternoon acknowledging that they contacted Northgate in June and in August, but said they never reached a verbal agreement. According to the statement, Northbound filed its name with the Minnesota Office of the Secretary of State on Dec. 1, 2011, as opposed to the Feb. 23, 2012 date claimed by Northgate. The later date is when its name was trademarked, Northbound asserts.
Per the statement: "Unfortunately, with the rate that new breweries are opening and launching new craft beers every year, great names are in short supply. We have an obligation to protect our trademark, otherwise we'd lose it. We have only asked that the owners of the yet-to-be-opened Northgate Brewing tweak their name to reduce the number of instances of confusion that have already happened."