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Shame on you, Stone Brewing

On Friday it was reported that Stone Brewing (Escondido, CA) sent a Cease & Desist to Sawstone Brewing Co. in Morehead, Kentucky.

Patrick Fannin of Dreaming Creek Brewery in Richmond, KY sent out a thread of tweets explaining the situation:

I confirmed the tweets with Blake Nickell, one of the owners of Sawstone Brewing.

“They [Stone] first wanted us to limit our geographic market reach so that we could only market/distribute within a certain area,” Nickell explained. “We aren’t even doing any of that [distributing beer] right now but just felt that wasn’t right. But now that doesn’t seem to be an option anyway with attorney number two after our attorney [that] was on a call with him.”

Nickell said that the last thing Sawstone has heard from their attorney is that Stone was adamant the California brewery would only consider a settlement proposal, which requires Sawstone to surrender their trademark registration.

Sawstone Brewing opened in August 2019 and will be celebrating one year of business next month. Stone Brewing was founded in 1996 and has nine locations, eight in California and one in Virginia. Stone closed and sold its $30 million brewery experiment in Berlin to BrewDog for an undisclosed amount in April 2019. According to the Brewers Association, Stone Brewing is the 9th largest Craft Brewery Company in the United States.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that Stone Brewing filed a suit against Keystone of MillerCoors to defend its Stone brand.

In the description of this video, it reads “Stone, known for being the antithesis to “Big Beer,” has long waved a flag of bold character, individualism and independence.”

*Inserts a pot calling the kettle black meme*

For Stone Brewing to go after a small, three-barrel brewery in Kentucky is shameful. Stone Brewing has the resources to hire the best attorneys and not think twice about being able to pay bills. But, that’s not the case for a micro-brewery that is trying to stay above water during a global pandemic. A brewery that ONLY sells its beer in their taproom.

The craft beer industry has always been about community. Whether you’re a Sierra Nevada or a one-barrel brewhouse in a small town, this industry is about supporting and helping each other. That’s why I wanted to work in the craft beer industry. That’s why I continue to work in it.

I see this “community” on a daily basis, and especially within the Kentucky craft beer community. It’s why I am passionate about the breweries in this state. It’s why I share different Kentucky beers with you on the weekend. It’s why I wanted to write this story and tell you about how one of ours is being bullied by the bigger upperclassman.

“As new members of the industry, we have felt welcomed with open arms,” Nickell said. “The brewing industry is unique in that most everyone, whether part of a small or large brewery, has a story that starts with small scale homebrewing and a passion for making and sharing good beer with others. Because of this, the sense of community is often put ahead of the competition in the industry.”

“Besides the financial hit of this, which could possibly end us due to our small size and the current events impacting the economy, we are more disheartened that another brewery with a passion for bringing great beer to all would result to bullying.”

Stone Brewing, shame on you. Cancel your suit against Sawstone Brewing. Let them return to serving the people of Morehead great locally made beer.

Article written by Kindsey Bernhard

Lover of dogs, sports and beer. @kindseybernhard

27 Comments for Shame on you, Stone Brewing

  1. ukkatzfan
    3:45 pm July 19, 2020 Permalink

    Change name to SawsTone ?

    • ukkatzfan
      3:47 pm July 19, 2020 Permalink

      Then tell CA to KMA

    • 4everUKBlue
      4:43 pm July 19, 2020 Permalink

      Great Idea! You should give him a call with your idea.

    • ukkatzfan
      5:44 pm July 19, 2020 Permalink

      Was hoping the message would get to them through here. They could even do a play or have an alternate play on pronunciation with SaucedOne. lol. Maybe writer will pass the word on.

    • ukkatzfan
      6:00 pm July 19, 2020 Permalink

      I just tried dm ing Pat Fannin twitter acct mentioned in article. That wasn’t allowed for me to do.

    • ukkatzfan
      6:03 pm July 19, 2020 Permalink

      They could even find a “saw player” for opening night under their new name and the player would be playing a Saws Tone. Lol.

    • ukkatzfan
      6:04 pm July 19, 2020 Permalink

      Graphics for logo too

    • 4everUKBlue
      6:30 pm July 19, 2020 Permalink

      Did you check to see if he has a website with contact info. I like the SawsTone idea.

  2. SADmaninKy
    6:11 pm July 19, 2020 Permalink

    Counter sue and keep Stone out of Kentucky!

  3. runningunnin.454
    8:34 pm July 19, 2020 Permalink

    I didn’t go to the tweets; but, if I infer correctly, the Cali brewery is saying they own the word “stone”, and can prohibit it’s inclusion into any phrase. That’s absurd; they need better attorneys.
    The Rolling Stones
    Like A Rolling Stone
    I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone
    Heart of Stone
    Papa Was A Rolling Stone
    Stoned Soul Picnic

  4. WKY Cat
    10:08 pm July 19, 2020 Permalink

    Just tell Matt to have a lawyer friend represent them free of charge.

    • NotaStone
      4:01 pm July 20, 2020 Permalink

      Looks like they are trying to raise funds via a GoFundMe for legal fees. If you click through to Pat Fannin’s twitter, he has a pinned tweet linking to it

    10:09 pm July 19, 2020 Permalink

    Well if there’s one thing the BBN can do, it’s win an online PR skirmish. Let’s defend our right to use Limestone Ave, Stonehouse Road, Cold Stone Creamery, Big Stone Gap, VA., etc.

    • runningunnin.454
      10:22 pm July 19, 2020 Permalink

      Not to mention Yellowstone Bourbon produced by Limestone Branch Distillery in Lebanon.

  6. gwhittle
    11:23 pm July 19, 2020 Permalink

    They just got a 1 star Google review

  7. JLP
    12:52 am July 20, 2020 Permalink

    Trademarks as I understand them don’t work universally. They only apply to a specific market where confusion could occur. So the California brewery would ONLY claim “stone” in the beer industry and not elsewhere. Trademarks are to protect companies from parasitic enterprises. For example, I decide to sell computers under the name IBM (for International Better Machines) purposefully to ride on the coattails of IBM hoping customers will order from me thinking I am the better known IBM. I understand that this local brewery can’t afford to fight in court, but I bet they will face a big challenge against MillerCoors who CAN AFFORD to challenge them on the name Keystone. Often these things don’t go to court as they hope the intimidation and threat of a lawsuit is enough.

    • chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door
      11:22 am July 20, 2020 Permalink

      You may be right, and I’m no lawyer. The ironic thing here is if it was one of the giant breweries suing the Stone Brewing in CA, Stone Brewing would probably be screaming about the big corporation picking on the little guy since they’re a micro-brewery. I don’t drink so I didn’t know Miller owned Keystone, so it will be interesting to see if Miller sues the guys in CA.

    • Pat_Fannin
      11:56 am July 20, 2020 Permalink

      They have battling Miller Coors for a while because they put out KeyStone cans that just said “Stone” in big letters on the side.

      Stone Brewing is going after small companies because those companies will be forced to settle and shows they have precident to protect their name.

      The US patent office website lists dozens of trademark appeals by Stone.

  8. IrishCat
    8:46 am July 20, 2020 Permalink

    End corporate fascism and crony capitalism.

  9. ukcamel
    10:53 am July 20, 2020 Permalink

    Based on my limited exposure to IP law, Stone has no leg to stand on here. I’d tell them to go ahead and file that lawsuit, and then file a counterclaim alleging frivolous litigation. You might be able to find an attorney willing to reduce his fees in exchange for a contingency.

  10. ExStoneEmployee
    1:47 pm July 20, 2020 Permalink

    I worked at Stone in Escondido for almost 4 years and I can tell you that GK hates craft beer drinkers. He looks down upon most people, and will openly talk bad about most to anyone who will listen. They have also sold off over 40% of their company due to their failed ventures in Berlin as well as other places. The airport and Liberty Station are ran by an outside group, and they are nowhere near an independent or true craft beer company.

    GK and Steve no longer have much to do with the day to day with that company. They hired big corporate people long ago and the first thing they did was fire all the loyal employees who had been there 10 years and more.

    This is a typical move for GK. He has no morals and he has no feelings for anyone other than himself.

  11. NotaStone
    3:59 pm July 20, 2020 Permalink

    Would be good to mention that Pat Fannin has a pinned tweet linking to a GoFundMe set up for SawStone’s legal fees

  12. will_c
    6:02 pm July 20, 2020 Permalink

    I can appreciate Kindsey’s passion. I too am a craft beer nerd, and though I’ve never had the pleasure of tasting Sawstone’s product, I see they’ve earned praise for their common and cream ales, both of which are very hard to create and perfect. So they’re already earned a cap tip from me.

    For what it’s worth, though, this brand name dispute isn’t all that unique to craft beer — and maybe not even as dastardly as it sounds. For instance, in my home state of Colorado, Platt Park Brewing Co. changed its name from Denver Pearl Brewing Co. after a reportedly amicable discussion with Denver Beer Co. DeSteeg Brewing used to be High Gravity Brewing until an equally friendly exchange with Gravity Brewing in Louisville. Strange Brewing tweaked their name to Strange Craft Beer after a bitter lawsuit with a home brew shop on the east coast.

    I’m in agreement that there are friendlier and more mutually beneficial ways to broach these brand conflict conversations than threatening legal action. But this isn’t always about big shops trying to screw over small shops; it’s often about trying to create better differentiation in an increasingly saturated craft beer market — something that actually benefits independent brewing operations in the long run.

    Yes, Stone has become a behemoth brewery (and a hugely overrated one, in my humble opinion). But they’re still an independent brewery, and they’ve fought hard in many cases to protect other independent brewers and the industry at large. Also, at one point in time, they too were a tiny operation that only served beer out of their taproom. They made it big partially because of the quality of their product, but in large part due to their business savvy. And in some cases, larger independent brewing operations, many of whom have much better marketing acumen than their smaller counterparts, often see these kinds of discussions as an opportunity to put an arm around a younger upstart and say, “I know you’re not going to like this, and it brings me no joy to broach this conversation. But here’s why making an effort to better distinguish our two brands could be better for both of us and the industry writ large.”

    At the same time, I’m not naive. Some of these conversations are much less Kumbaya and much more about businesses trying to ruthless protect their brand. But I have a hard time blaming a business owner for that either, especially given how cutthroat the beer industry has become. Yes, craft brewing is a uniquely collaborative industry, and that’s part of what makes it so great. But it’s still a business. And if smaller breweries like Sawstone are disillusioned by that fact, chances are they’ll soon discover you don’t survive and thrive for as long as Stone has without occasionally putting your foot down to protect your turf.

    • ExStoneEmployee
      9:13 am July 21, 2020 Permalink

      Stone is not independent. They have sold off roughly 40% of their company and outsourced companies run their other ventures with their name on it.