Brewery Trademark Woes Spill into Another Federal Court

Another brewery trademark lawsuit. Great Divide (CO) has filed a lawsuit in Indiana against Red Yeti (IN). Great Divide has a beer named Yeti, with a federal trademark registration for YETI as well as a design of a yeti.
Another brewery trademark lawsuit. Great Divide (CO) has filed a lawsuit in Indiana against Red Yeti (IN). Great Divide has a beer named Yeti, with a federal trademark registration for YETI as well as a design of a yeti.

Brewery trademark disputes. We’ve held off on reporting on them for a while. In partial part, it’s because there have been so many—we couldn’t keep up with coverage here, even if we wanted to do so, and mainstream media is all over getting the word out. In partial part, it’s also because we have been addressing the growing trademark needs of our own clients, from proactive trademark investigation to early application, enforcement, and beyond. It’s kept us very busy. Nevertheless, the latest dispute to hit federal court comes to us from this writer’s home state of Indiana—so I felt the need to note the ongoing dilemma of names and beverage businesses.

This dispute is between Colorado’s Great Divide Brewing Company (the plaintiff, or the one who filed the lawsuit) and Indiana’s Red Yeti Brewing Company (the defendant). The case was filed in the United States District Court in the Southern District of Indiana, and is on the docket of a Magistrate Judge with whom I had an externship while in law school, Magistrate Judge Debra McVicker Lynch. I’ll be closely following this one.

This is Great Divide's trademarked design, U.S. Reg. No. 4,115,050.
This is Great Divide’s trademarked design, U.S. Reg. No. 4,115,050.

We don’t need to dive too far into the complaint itself or the legal jargon to get at the case’s issues. It’s fairly simple.

Great Divide has a trademark registration for YETI as a word mark (Reg. No. 2,957,257). Great Divide also has a trademark registration for a design mark containing an image of a yeti (Reg. No. 4,115,050). Great Divide is taking issue with the use of YETI in Red Yeti’s name, and they are also taking issue with Red Yeti’s logo.

This sucks, for everyone. No doubt, this will get swept up into the media, and there may be a frenzy on social media about it. Each brewery will get cast in a not-so-nice-light by someone somewhere, regardless of your feelings about the matter itself. Red Yeti may be called out for all the similarities between the brands, particularly the design mark. Great Divide may be called out as part of the public outcry these days—perhaps about how there’s a dwindling number of names that breweries, wineries, and distilleries haven’t used yet, about how it’s next-to-impossible to find a clear name.

We hear this latter lament from clients and would-be clients almost everyday. It’s a real one, although I am constantly amazed by just how many good brands are available. Indeed, with a little strategizing, coupled with hearty investigation, a would-be brewery or beverage startup can be best positioned (although never outright guaranteed) to avoid these sorts of headlines, costs, and frustrations. After all, it ain’t cheap to rebrand a brewery, and it’s not fun either. And, it’s especially (fiscally, emotionally) expensive to deal with litigation.

If anything, this trademark dispute highlights a common line of misconception—one we’ll take the chance to point out here. Although it might be beer name on the one hand, brewery name on the other, it doesn’t necessarily matter. Both are uses in connection with beer. Just because someone is using something as a product name, it doesn’t mean you can use it as a house mark. To highlight this issue, one might expect problems by naming a brewery PLINY THE ELDER BREWING CO., drawing heat from Russian River. Moreover, if I named my brewery DARK LORD’S BREWING CO. I might expect a swift note from the folks over at Three Floyds. In these examples, you can see how descriptive words like “BREWING CO.” do not help much. Moreover, if I added a color—BLACK DARK LORD’S BREWING CO.—it doesn’t help much either.

On a similar note, just as there’s no distinction these days between a brewery and a beer, the trademark powers that be tend to not see much of a distinction between a brewery, a winery, a distillery, beer, wine, cider, mead, whiskey, tequila, and so on. If there’s prior use on alcohol or someone who makes it, and similarity between the marks, then it’s a potential problem. Certainly worth exploring.

Here’s hoping the parties swiftly find resolution.

 

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Special Events Permits Come to Washington Breweries!

Thanks to efforts by the Washington Brewers Guild, brewers can expand the ways they sample and sell their beers. Special Events Permits enter the landscape in 2016!
Thanks to efforts by the Washington Brewers Guild, brewers can expand the ways they sample and sell their beers. Special Events Permits enter the landscape in 2016!

Good news from Olympia! Very soon, Washington Brewers will be able to get Special Events permits to expand the way they can sample and sell their beers. Thanks to House Bill 2605 (signed by the Governor on 3/31/16 and effective 6/9/2016), brewers can seek out a special events permit up to twelve times a year. The permit lets breweries hold an event offsite from the brewery or taproom where they can sample and sell their beers directly to consumers. Brewers must seek out the permit ten days in advance of the event, and must post the permit at the premises where the event will be held.

How might Washington breweries take advantage of the Special Events permit? One example, aptly pointed out in coverage by the Washington Beer Blog, explains the scenario where a brewery on one side of the pass wants to reach out, sample, and sell to its fans on the other side of the pass. Rather than find a retail location for a tap takeover, the brewery can put together its own event to not only pour but also directly sell its beers. Breweries could also use allotted permits to serve at corporate events or other gatherings.

Ultimately, under the new law, the Special Events permit would give breweries one more way to reach out into the public, and they can do so up to twelve times per year. The permit cost is $10.00.

We’re excited to report this one, but also a little bummed it’s taken this long for breweries to get this privilege. The law revises RCW 66.20.010, where you’ll note that the present RCW 66.20.010(13) grants essentially the same right to distilleries and RCW 66.20.010(14) grants the same right to wineries, so it’s something our spirits-, cider-, and mead-making friends have been able to do for a while now. We’re proud the Washington Brewers Guild got it done, but would also support a collaborative, evenhanded approach to pushing the RCWs along in favor of all producers the future.

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TTB Ruling 2015-1: Exempt Malt Beverage Formula Ingredients

Hooray! Brewers can eschew time-consuming Formula Approvals for more than fifty additional ingredients, thanks to TTB Ruling 2015-1!
Hooray! Brewers can eschew time-consuming Formula Approvals for more than fifty additional ingredients, thanks to TTB Ruling 2015-1!

Behold, more exempt beer ingredients (scroll down for the entire list)! TTB has just superseded and replaced the very important TTB 2014-4 ruling, in favor of TTB Ruling 2015-1. This new ruling adds more than fifty ingredients to TTB’s existing malt beverage ingredient exemption list.

Here’s a link to TTB Ruling 2015-1 “Ingredients and Processes Used in the Production of Beer Not Subject to Formula Requirements”

And here is a link to the attachment: “Exempt Ingredients Under the Conditions of TTB Ruling 2015-1″

For brewers that need COLA approvals, one huge drag on the process has the nettlesome Formula Approval requirement. To get to market, you need a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA). But, to get the COLA, depending on what’s in your recipe, you need a Formula first. And if you review the average processing times (here are COLAs and here are Formulas), that can mean being three months out from an approved label. And no one wants to print cans, just to find out the label needs to be changed to be compliant.

Today, thanks to urging from the always-awesome Brewers Association, as well as pleas from individual brewers, TTB has added more than fifty ingredients to its exemption list. In doing so, TTB has found that these ingredients are “traditional” and, like we all know, not likely to cause problems. Although 2014-4 was a welcome ruling, adding all sorts of fruit adjuncts and spices, there were notable gaps—such as coconut or chamomile. Here’s a link to the Ruling, and here’s the link to the Exempt Ingredients (which combines 2014-4 and 2015-1).

The important thing to know is that TTB’s position has not changed with respect to adding extracts, essential oils, or syrups. If you’re adding the real thing, you’re exempt. But if you’re adding extracts, those still could contain alcohol, so the Formula requirement remains in place. Whatever the case, it’s a big day for craft brewers, shaving off time and making it easier and faster to get to market.

We’ll include below the list of exempt ingredients from the attachment below, for easy reference (although, of course, you should consult with an attorney or review the ruling yourself to ensure you are compliant):

TTB RULING 2015-1 Exempt Ingredients:

AGAVE

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

ALLSPICE

As outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

ANISE

As outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

APPLES

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

APRICOTS

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

BASIL

Includes bush basil and sweet basil, as outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

BILBERRIES

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

BLACKBERRIES

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

BLUEBERRIES

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

BLACK CURRANTS

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups. Also see RED CURRANTS

BLOOD ORANGES

Whole, juice, puree, concentrate, peel, or zest. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

BOYSENBERRIES

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

BROWN SUGAR

When brewers use brown sugar in the fermentation of a malt beverage, the designation is not required to refer to the ingredient. Instead, the malt beverage may be labeled as a “beer” or “ale” and so forth.

CANDY (CANDI) SUGAR

When brewers use candy/candi sugar in the fermentation of a malt beverage, the designation is not required to refer to the ingredient. Instead, the malt beverage may be labeled as a “beer” or “ale” and so forth.

CAMOMILE (CHAMOMILE)

Includes English, Roman, German, and Hungarian, as outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

CAPSICUM

As outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

 

INGREDIENT

DESCRIPTION/LIMITATION

CARAWAY, BLACK CARAWAY (BLACK CUMIN)

Includes caraway, black caraway (black cumin), as outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

CARDAMOM (CARDAMON)

As outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

CASSIA

Includes Chinese, Padang, Batavia, and Saigon cassias, as outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

CHERRIES

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

CHICORY

Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

CHOCOLATE

Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups. Brewers may make non- misleading references to the use of chocolate malt by designating a product as, for example, “chocolate stout,” even though it contains no added chocolate.

CINNAMON

Includes Ceylon, Chinese, and Saigon cinnamons, as outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

CLEMENTINE

Whole, juice, puree, concentrate, peel, or zest. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

CLOVE

Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

COCOA

Includes cocoa powder or cocoa nibs. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

COCONUT

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

COFFEE

Coffee beans, coffee grounds, or coffee brewed with water. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

CORIANDER

As outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

CRANBERRIES

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

CUMIN (CUMMIN), BLACK CUMIN (BLACK CARAWAY)

Includes cumin (cummin) and black cumin (black caraway), as outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

DATES

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

ELDER FLOWERS

As outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

FIGS

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

GINGER

As outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

GRAINS OF PARADISE

As outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

-2-

INGREDIENT

DESCRIPTION/LIMITATION

GRAPES

Whole, juice, puree, concentrate, or grape must. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups. REMINDER: As set forth in the ruling, any exemption from the formula requirement applies only when used in the production of a malt beverage as defined at 27 CFR 7.10.

GRAPEFRUIT

Whole, juice, puree, concentrate peel, or zest. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

HIBISCUS

Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

HONEY

Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

HUCKLEBERRIES

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

JASMINE

Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

JUNIPER BERRIES

Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

KALE

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

KIWI

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

KUMQUAT

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

LACTOSE

When brewers use lactose in the production of a malt beverage, the designation is not required to refer to the ingredient. Instead, the malt beverage may be labeled as a “beer” or “ale” and so forth.

LEMONS

Whole, juice, puree, concentrate, peel, or zest. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

LEMON GRASS

Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

LIME

Whole, juice, puree, concentrate, peel, or zest. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

MACE

As outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

MANGO

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

MARIONBERRIES

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

MAPLE SUGAR/SYRUP

When brewers use maple sugar/syrup in the fermentation of a malt beverage, the designation is not required to refer to the ingredient. Instead, the malt beverage may be labeled as a “beer” or “ale” and so forth.

MOLASSES/BLACKSTRAP MOLASSES

When brewers use molasses/blackstrap molasses in the fermentation of a malt beverage, the designation is not required to refer to the ingredient. Instead, the malt beverage may be labeled as a “beer” or “ale” and so forth.

NECTARINE

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

NUTMEG

As outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

-3-

INGREDIENT

DESCRIPTION/LIMITATION

ORANGES

Whole, juice, puree, concentrate, peel, or zest. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

ORANGE BLOSSOM/FLOWER

Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

OYSTERS/OYSTER SHELLS

Whole oysters, juice, or puree. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups. Oyster shells may be used when consistent with good commercial practice.

PASSIONFRUIT

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

PEARS

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

PEACHES

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

PEPPER, BLACK OR WHITE

Includes black pepper and white pepper, as outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

PEPPER, CAYENNE OR RED

Includes cayenne peppers and red peppers, as outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

PEPPERS

Includes hot, chili and bell peppers. Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

PEPPERMINT

As outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

PINEAPPLE

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

PLUM

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

POMEGRANATE

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

PUMPKINS

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

RAISINS

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

RASPBERRIES

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

RED CURRANTS

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups. Also see BLACK CURRANTS

ROSEMARY

As outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

SAFFRON

As outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Exempt when used only as a flavor and not exclusively as a coloring material. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

SAGE, GREEK SAGE

As outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

-4-

INGREDIENT

DESCRIPTION/LIMITATION

SODIUM CHLORIDE

When brewers use sodium chloride in the fermentation or flavoring of a malt beverage, the designation is not required to refer to the ingredient. Instead, the malt beverage may be labeled as a “beer” or “ale” and so forth.

SPEARMINT

As outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

STAR ANISE

As outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

STRAWBERRIES

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

SWEET POTATOES

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

TANGERINE

Whole, juice, puree, concentrate, peel, or zest. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

TEA

Tea may be whole leaves or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups. REMINDER: as set forth in the ruling, the exemption from any formula requirement applies only when used in the production of a malt beverage as defined at 27 CFR 7.10, and would not apply to products (such as many kombucha products) fermented solely from tea and sugar, which are beer under the IRC, but is not a “malt beverage.”

THYME/WILD OR CREEPING THYME

Includes thyme and wild or creeping thyme, as outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. Spices may be whole or ground. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

VANILLA

As outlined in FDA’s GRAS listing at 21 CFR 182.10. REMINDER: As set forth in the ruling, the exemption of vanilla from the formula requirement applies only to the use of vanilla in the form of whole or crushed vanilla beans. Does not include vanilla powders, extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

WATERMELON

Whole, juice, puree, or concentrate. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

YUZU

Whole, juice, puree, concentrate, peel, or zest. Does not include extracts, essential oils, or syrups.

Processes Determined to be Traditional

Industry members may use woodchips, staves, or spirals derived from barrels that were previously used in the production or storage of distilled spirits or wine as part of the process of aging beer, as well as woodchips previously used in the aging of distilled spirits or wine, provided that this process does not add any discernible quantity of distilled spirits or wine to the beer.

  • Aging beer in plain barrels or with plain woodchips, spirals or staves made of any type of wood.
  • Aging beer in barrels, containing no discernible quantity of wine or distilled spirits, that were previously used in the production or storage of wine or distilled spirits.
  • Aging beer with woodchips, spirals or staves derived from barrels, containing no discernible quantity of wine or distilled spirits, that were previously used in the production or storage of wine or distilled spirits, or with woodchips, containing no discernible quantity of wine or distilled spirits, that were previously used in the aging of wine or distilled spirits.

—–

 

Again, here’s a link to TTB Ruling 2015-1 “Ingredients and Processes Used in the Production of Beer Not Subject to Formula Requirements”

And here is a link to the attachment: “Exempt Ingredients Under the Conditions of TTB Ruling 2015-1″

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Are Minors Allowed at a Washington Brewery?

Can Washington breweries have minors on the premises? What does a brewery need to do?
Can Washington breweries have minors on the premises? What does a brewery need to do?

If a Washington brewery wants minors on the premises, what does it need to do?

The question comes up quite a bit. Can families spend time at a brewery? We’ve seen kids at breweries, but is it legal? Can we get into trouble? As the law and regulations stand right now, the answer is fairly straightforward.

First things first. Federal laws and regulations don’t have a say. So, we don’t need to worry about the Alcohol Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau (TTB) when thinking about minors on a brewery premises. TTB cares about the premises layout, a lot. But they don’t dictate who comes onto it.

The state perspective, however, does matter. Here in Washington, we have the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) which includes law created by our legislators. We also have the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) which includes regulations. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB, formerly the Washington State Liquor Control Board) is the regulatory agency that creates the relevant regulations for the alcoholic beverage industry here.

Between the RCW and WAC, here’s what we have. The base license to operate a brewery in Washington State is the Microbrewery License or the Domestic Brewery license, depending on your volume of production. For most reading this, the Microbrewery license applies (60,000 bbl annually).

The base license is treated as a non-retail license. That is, licensees—those who have the licensee—are not treated like “retailers.” This is the case, even though we all know breweries in Washington are allowed to sell beer at retail, just like retailers.

Importantly, though, there is no age restriction imposed at a non-retail premises. Therefore, when a Washington brewery uses its built-in retail rights—under its “non-retail license”—the Washington brewery can allow families and minors on the premises. Of course, the brewery can’t serve alcohol to those minors. And best practice would be to have prepackaged snacks available.

Can a brewery obtain a retail license to supplement its non-retail rights? Yes. But at the location licensed with the retail license, the brewery is subject to food minimums or age restrictions. Retail licensees do have additional obligations to have minors on the premises.

We’ll touch on why a brewery might want a retail license in our next post. As it stands, though, a Washington brewery can have minors on the premises—without burdensome or, truly, any food requirements—so long as the brewery is using its built-in rights to retail beer.

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Brewery Startup Series #8: Timeline to Opening

Going from vision to lights on and taps open can't be done overnight, but this brewery startup timeline gives you a good estimate of the timeline from idea to frothy fruition. (Pictured? That's Burial Beer Co., the vision of Doug Reiser of Reiser Legal, a craft brewery located over in Asheville, NC. Stop by and say hi to Doug sometime.)
Going from vision to lights on and taps open can’t be done overnight, but this brewery startup timeline gives you a good estimate of the timeline from idea to frothy fruition. (Pictured? That’s Burial Beer Co., the vision of Doug Reiser of Reiser Legal, a craft brewery located over in Asheville, NC. Stop by and say hi to Doug sometime.)

How long does it take to open a brewery? I’ve put together resources as a part of our Brewery Startup Series in the past. I thought it was time to revisit the milestones we’ve provided, putting the brewery startup process into a helpful timeline for those thinking about getting started. This is a sketch of what it looks like for most emerging alcoholic beverage businesses, getting at how long it takes to open a brewery:

8+ months out:
-Business Planning: Put together a business plan, consider whether investors are needed. If so, you may need to add to the timeline, to compliantly raise funds and bring those investors onboard.

7-8 months out:
-Business Setup: Form your entity, obtain an Employer Identification Number, Open a Business Bank Account, Fund the Account. This comes first.
-Get an Operating Agreement together that guides decision making, transfers of interests, and sets forth the business and management structure.
-Take steps to clear your brewery name.
-As soon as the entity comes together, file for protection for your selected and cleared brewery name. (Can do this up to 3 years or so before you open, but best to wait until the entity is in place.)

5-6 months out:
-Begin seeking out space, negotiate a lease.
-Once a lease is in place, kick off federal licensing as much as is possible.
-Order equipment.

1-2 months out:
-Tee up the state licensing process as much as possible so that when federal comes in, you’ll be ready to submit.
-Obtain federal approval and submit to state.
-Submit label approvals to TTB or the state, if required.
-Clear and protect all important brand material, such as the brewery logo and flagship beer names.

There are many sub-steps of course, and the scope of the project and commitments of the founders may affect the timeline a good bit, but those are the big milestones. If you have a good idea of your team, a handle on brewing, and a vision of what you want to do, this is a realistic look at how it works for many brewery startups. We’re here to help for those who have questions or are looking to fill in the gaps.

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