Gordon Biersch forces Oskar Blues to say G'Knight to its Gordon beer

Categories: Beer Man

Oskar_Blues_G'Knight.jpg
The new label will be Gordon-free.
Oskar Blues will change the name of one of its four year-round beers after the Tennessee-based Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant Group threatened to sue the Colorado company for trademark infringement, says Oskar Blues spokesman Chad Melis.

Gordon, the Oskar Blues beer, is named for Gordon Knight, a fire-fighting helicopter pilot and brewer who helped create the Twisted Pine, Wolf Tongue and Estes Park breweries in the early 1990s. Knight was killed in 2002 when the helicopter he was using to drop water on a fire near Lyons crashed.

The beer will be renamed G'Knight, and Oskar Blues will hold a party on February 19 at its Tasty Weasel tap house in Longmont, to celebrate the beer and its namesake. Knight's birthday was February 20; he would have been 61.

"They issued us a cease and desist," Melis says about Gordon Biersch, which recently merged with Colorado-based Rock Bottom Brewing to form Craftworks.

"So we decided it was time to make the change, to embrace the idea, to have fun with it and to bring attention to a beer that doesn't get as much attention as it should."

oskar-blues-gordon.jpg
The old label is on its way out.
The recipe for the beer, an unusual cross between a red and a double IPA that was first canned in 2005, will stay the same, as will the green color of the can, but Oskar Blues can no longer use the word "Gordon" anywhere on the label. Gordon Knight's name will also be removed from the tribute, which reads, "If you knew Gordon Knight, this ale needs no explanation. If you didn't, we're sorry." In addition, the words "Big. Red. Sticky." will be changed to "Still Big. Still Red. Still Sticky."

Gordon is on Westword's list of fifty beers to drink before you die -- or die trying. It is part of the brewery's year-round line-up, which includes Dale's Pale Ale, Mama's Little Yella Pils and Old Chub. Oskar Blues also makes two seasonals, Ten FIDY and Gubna.

Gordon Biersch is named for Dan Gordon and Dean Biersch, who founded the brewery in 1988. Last November, an investment group called Centerbridge Capital Partners rolled Gordon Biersch and Rock Bottom (which also owns the Old Chicago chain) into a single entity called CraftWorks Restaurants and Breweries.

A spokeswoman for the company didn't return calls seeking comment.

Follow Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan.
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14 comments
Larry
Larry

Great, now I won't mistake Oskar Blues' great GORDON offering with the German wanna-be Gordon Biersch, and accidentally buy any of Biersch crap.

jonathan
jonathan

Here in Charlotte, the longtime brewmaster at Rock Bottom was ousted last fall. I don't know the why or whatfor, but I do know it offended the local crafting community to the point where they moved all meetings scheduled to convene at Rock Bottom.

Big business and craft brewing do not mix!

AMARO ANDREW
AMARO ANDREW

Gordon Biersch can suck it. their beer is absolutely horrible, i dont think that anyone could pay me enough money to drink that swill. oskars is far superior and the rich corporate executives just want get as much money as possible. GORDON GORDON GORDON GORDON!!!!

YarnOwl200
YarnOwl200

I wonder how the band KraftWerk feels abouts their new corporate name.

heyespeed
heyespeed

Gordon Biersch: Douchbags and makers of poor beer

Oskar Blues: Awesome brewers and good people.

Crazylegs
Crazylegs

While corporate spin may give some perspective, such an oral agreement (as pointed out below) is a recipe for disaster. The way to protect your employees is to reduce agreements to writing spelled out..unless of course the intent to honor was never really there. Now asserting your "rights" has turned into a p.r. issue.

jonathan_shikes
jonathan_shikes

It's too bad that Kelly Wilson of Gordon Biersch didn't call me back, despite the fact that I left messages with her on Tuesday and Wednesday. I waited until today (Thursday) to post the story just to make sure she had time to get back to me.

Mantonat
Mantonat

This is a typical corporate response. Oskar Blues and Gordon Biersch may or may not have had an agreement. Since the claim is that it was verbal only, we will never know. Did part of the agreement state that not only would Oskar Blues not sell Gordon in states where Gordon Biersch existed, but that Gordon Biersch would not sell their beers in states where Oskar Blues already existed, namely Colorado? Not so long ago, Russian River Brewing and Avery Brewing realized they both had beers of the same name. Rather than either brewery pushing their weight around, they bottled a beer called "Collaboration Not Litigation." That's what members of the communal brotherhood (and sisterhood) of brewing do when faced with challenges.

SxPxDxCx
SxPxDxCx

The spokes persons response to my email....

"I understand your consternation over the information you probably received from the two blog postings linked to below. Let me assure you that, as is often the case with the internet, they are relatively devoid of facts and context.

http://beeradvocate.com/forum/...

While it is true that Dan Gordon, an original founder of Gordon Biersch, has asked Oskar Blues to change the name of the beer "Gordon" it is a little more involved than the Beer Advocate posting would imply. Oscar Blues came out with a single beer named "Gordon," in memory of the late brewer Gordon Knight, in 2002. Dan Gordon has been producing German Lagers and Hefeweizen with the name Gordon Biersch on the label since 1988. Dan asked Oskar Blues to change their beer name to "Knight" or some other moniker that consumers would not confuse with his beer for years. They had settled on a verbal agreement that Oskar Blues would not sell the brand "Gordon" in states where Gordon Biersch is distributed, which did not include Oskar Blues' home state of Colorado.Oskar Blues did not hold up their end of the bargain and that is why legal action was taken.

Please keep in mind that all businesses have the right and obligation to protect their trademarks. We have received cease and desist letters over the years for beer names such as "SummerFest" and have always complied out of respect for our brewing brethren, if in fact they had the name before us. This includes the most respected craft breweries in the country, there is no resentment, it is simply good business.

I implore you to keep on open mind about what "Craft Beer" is and who defines it. We have 68 hard working brewers whose livelihoods and families depend on the wisdom of beer connoisseurs such as yourself not to let be led astray by the self appointed "experts." Like beer, information is best when it is obtained fresh at its source. So let bloggers chatter all they want; we will continue making some of the best beer you can find on the planet in hopes that you will appreciate imbibing it as much as we appreciate your patronage.

Prost,

Kelly WilsonDirector of Marketing - Brewery Restaurant Group and Specialty Concepts CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries, Inc."

Coachbob99
Coachbob99

What a joke. GB is to craft brewing what McDonalds is to fine dining. GB doesn't even bottle their mass produced swill (thank god).

GB can't rely on the strength of their product, they must rely on the strength of the BS spouted out by Kelly (who probably really thinks GB is comparable to Oskar's).

Beer Avenger
Beer Avenger

Yeah not sure how this would create confusion in the marketplace which is the reason that these lawsa exist in the first place. Especially $hitty since it's named as a tribute to some one.

cattiva
cattiva

Yet another reason to tell Rock Bottom to kiss my sweet ass. Oskar Blues FOREVER!

SxPxDxCx
SxPxDxCx

Not cool. Let them know that this was a dick move.

marketing@gbrestaurants.com

Mantonat
Mantonat

Nice move, Gordon Biersch douchebags. I remember when Gordon Knight died and the shock and sadness that professional brewers and beer people throughout Colorado felt. I think maybe there's room in the world for the name Gordon to appear on more than one beer, especially when one of those beers is a tribute to a fallen hero and friend to many. And correct me if I'm wrong, but does Gordon Biersch even package their beer for sale outside the brewpubs? Note to future corporate money grubbers: try not to piss of the people of an entire state if you plan on doing business there.

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