Last Call: Nevada AG Investigates MillerCoors; Stone Seeks Injunction in Keystone Case

Nevada AG Intervenes in MillerCoors-Wholesaler Dispute

The Nevada Attorney General’s office has opened an investigation into MillerCoors’ attempt to block the sale of Bonanza Beverage, a Las Vegas wholesaler, to nearby Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits.

As previously reported, MillerCoors wants Breakthru Beverage to acquire the distribution rights to its brands.

Now, in a letter to MillerCoors’ chief legal counsel, Nevada chief deputy AG Mark Krueger has requested that MillerCoors explain — by September 4 — why the beer giant “believes it is not in violation of Nevada law.” Krueger issued the letter after receiving a complaint from Bonanza and Southern Glazer’s on July 26.

Earlier this month, Brewbound reported on Bonzana’s lawsuit against MillerCoors. In that lawsuit, Bonanza, a nearly six-decades-old wholesaler of Miller brands throughout Sin City, argues that MillerCoors is violating state law by unreasonably withholding approval of the distribution assignment and is attempting to use a 2008 distributor agreement to force it to abandon its sale to Southern Glazer’s.

For its part, MillerCoors contends that its distributor agreement gives it the right to “match and assign” its brand to a wholesaler of its choice.

Stone Brewing Again Seeks Injunction Against Keystone Light

Stone Brewing has filed a brief in support of a preliminary injunction to prevent the sale of MillerCoors’ Keystone products in which the word “Stone” had been isolated.

In the latest filing — first cited by attorney Brendan Palfreyman, who runs the TrademarkYourBeer.com website — Stone Brewing argues that MillerCoors is “engaged in a well-funded international campaign to rebrand its Keystone Light brand under the ‘Stone’ mark”

The San Diego-headquartered craft brewery argues that it has owned the mark for more than 20 years and the Keystone campaign continues to cause consumer confusion, citing MillerCoors’ marketing slogan “Owning the ’Stone” as damaging. “There is only room for one Stone in the beer aisle – and defendant is twenty-years late to the party,” the company argues.

Stone Brewing also claims that the “value and goodwill” it has built with the “Stone” mark “will be irreparably diminished or completely destroyed, threatening the plaintiff’s very existence as a brand or business.”

A hearing on the injunction is slated for September 4. If successful, Stone would prevent MillerCoors from using its Keystone marketing and packaging for the duration of the case.

Almanac Co-Founder Departs Company

Almanac Beer Co. co-founder Jesse Friedman has exited the company, according to Eater San Francisco. Friedman, who opened the California beer company in 2010 with Damian Fagan, described the split as “amicable.”

“After a lot of reflection and soul searching, I made the difficult decision that it was time for me to move on and that it would be the best decision for both myself and Almanac,” Friedman wrote in a statement to Eater.

Although Friedman won’t be involved in the brewery’s day-to-day operations, he will remain a board member and serve as an advisor.

Golden Road Runs into Problems in Sacramento

Golden Road Brewing Co.’s Sacramento taproom has run afoul of the city’s noise ordinance and may also be on California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s radar for failing to meet a deadline to begin brewing operations, according to the Sacramento Bee.

The Anheuser-Busch-owned beer company has violated the noise ordinance on several occasions, according to a study conducted by the city. In order to come into compliance, the taproom has adjusted its closing times, but may face additional penalties, the outlet reported.

Meanwhile, Golden Road failed to meet a May 24 deadline to begin brewing under the terms of its beer manufacturing license, the Bee reported.

July NBWA Beer Purchasers’ Index Well Above 2017 Levels

The National Beer Wholesalers Association’s (NBWA) Beer Purchasers’ Index — which helps explain U.S. beer distributors’ monthly buying behavior — expanded again in July with a reading of 63, well above last year’s reading of 50.

A reading greater than 50 indicates segment expansion, while a reading below 50 indicates contraction, according to the NBWA.

Craft’s index of 66 was a point higher than 2017 levels, while the FMB/PAB reading of 68 easily topped last July’s index of 52 and marked “the highest ever index reading for this segment,” NBWA chief economist Lester Jones said, via a press release.

Meanwhile, imports were down four points, with a reading of 71, and cider’s index of 46 was in line with recent levels and “significantly higher” than last year’s 19 reading. Although premium lights, premium regulars and below premiums posted better results than last year, the NBWA said those offerings’ volumes “are not showing significant signs of recovery.”

“After the year-over-year growth we observed in July, the August BPI could be telling of where industry volumes are going,” Jones added.

Brooklyn Inks Partnership in Brazil

Brooklyn Brewery has struck a partnership with Maniacs Brewing to begin brewing and distributing the New York craft brewery’s beer in Brazil, according to a blog post on its website. The first two beers — Brooklyn Lager and East IPA — are expected to be available this fall.

“With local production we will be able to offer plenty of fresh beer to craft drinkers in Brazil, something we’ll need if we want to keep up with our dedicated and thirsty fans throughout the country,” the company wrote.

Founders to Release Solid Gold in Bottles and 19.2 oz. Cans

Founders Brewing Co.’s Solid Gold premium lager, which was previously only available in 12 oz. cans, will now be available in 12-pack bottles and single-serve 19.2 oz. cans throughout the Michigan craft brewery’s distribution footprint, the company announced this week.

In March, Founders released canned version of the lager in 6-packs and 15-packs, at suggested retail prices of $7.99 and $14.99, respectively. The company then added 24-packs at a suggested retail price of $18.99 in Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin.

Can’d Aid Donates Water to Colorado Wildfire Relief Efforts

Oskar Blues; Can’d Aid Foundation is donating 4,800 cans of drinking water to firefighters battling the wildfire in Kremmling, Colorado, according to a press release. The shipment is expected to arrive, via B&K Distributors, on Monday, August 20.

Brewery Closures in Colorado and California

Durango Brewing Co. “abruptly” shuttered its taproom, laid off five employees and moved operations to La Junta, according to the Durango Herald. In an August 9 Facebook post, the nearly three-decades-old Colorado craft brewery announced its taproom would be “temporarily closed until further notice as we shift production to our other facility.”

Meanwhile, in Denver, Zephyr Brewing shut down on July 20 after four years, according to Westword. However, former assistant brewer Nick Crownhas purchased Zephyr’s brewing equipment and taken over the lease with plans to reopen as Blue Tile Brewing.

Two months after being shut down by health inspectors who found cockroaches, weevils and dead rodents in the brewery and kitchen, Sacramento’s Oak Park Brewing Company closed in late July after four years, according to the Sacramento Bee.

And in San Diego, Intergalactic Brewing Company closed at the end of July, according to ABC News 10.

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