Beer Biz: Renegade Redacted

February 22 2013, 11:30 AM

Renegade Brewing Company has become a symbol of the success breweries are having amid Colorado's recent craft beer boom. Since opening more than a year and a half ago, Renegade has developed a passionate crowd of regulars at its taproom in the Art District on Santa Fe, put three of its beers—including its flagship brew, Ryeteous Ryeon liquor store shelves, and hatched a plan to open a second location near the University of Denver. Now, the brewery has become part of an altogether different narrative: one that involves lawyers and trademark infringement. 

Turns out, Sixpoint Brewery in Brooklyn, New York, brews a beer they call Righteous Ale. Sixpoint feels that the name Ryeteous Rye is too similar to Righteous Ale, and recently sent a cease-and-desist letter to Renegade founder and president Brian O'ConnellO'Connell says he reacted by reaching out to the New York brewery and suggesting that instead of engaging in a legal battle the two companies collaborate on a beer and call it Righteous Ryeteous. (Avery Brewing Company and Russian River Brewing set a precedent for this sort of thing a few years ago.) But, O'Connell says, Sixpoint wasn't interested, and so Renegade had to change to the name. The new name is a fitting one: Redacted. The updated cans should be in liquor stores sometime around April. 

Here's what O'Connell had to say in a press release about the situation:

We at Renegade are saddened to see the rising number of disputes in the brewing industry. Renegade is proud to be a member of an industry that has a strong collaborative component and we will do our part when possible to preserve it.

Of course a company has a right to protect its trademarks, but we believe that a cease and desist letter should only be used in the case of honest trademark infringement that causes legitimate confusion for the consumer in the market place. When Renegade set out to change the name of Ryeteous, we wanted to make a statement about our perspective on cease and desist letters. Renegade stands for doing things differently, plain and simple, and the craft brewing industry does things differently. When Avery Brewing and Russian River discovered that they both had a beer named Salvation, rather than sue each other for the naming rights, they decided to blend their beers into a new beer called Collaboration Not Litigation. That is the industry that Renegade joined and that is the industry we wish to preserve. Can you imagine Chevy and Ford reaching an agreement like that? Or Anheuser Busch and Coors? No, it wouldn't happen between any other companies other than craft beer companies.

Therefore, the new name we chose for our beer is Redacted. It represents that there was something there before that no longer is, that our original name was silenced by a legal move. Although the name will change, the beer inside the cans will not. No recipe changes will take place. We look forward to continuing to bring our popular Rye IPA to the people of Colorado and to working in the greatest industry in existence.

Image courtesy of Renegade Brewing Company