Pagans, Witches, Art and Beer are all topics that are creating the controversy surrounding Lost Abbey’s label for their Witches Wit bottle. This label, established in 2008, depicts a witch being burned at the stake. Now, its creating quite a stir.
In many countries, many years ago, women who were accused of practicing witchcraft were exiled from society, tortured and in many cases, ultimately killed. So keep in mind when reading this that the label is historically accurate.
Now, for the record, I am staying out of it. This is an intriguing topic with some heated discussions surrounding it. People think this image is offensive to the pagan community and to history past. Lost Abbey views it as original artwork, something they take great pride in, like their beer. Lost Abbey/Port Brewing is one of my personal favorites. I respect the brand and the beer.
But I’ll let you decide by giving you snapshots from the NY Times article, comments by angry people and Lost Abbey’s explanation.
First of all, the meaning behind the label. Head brewer and owner, Tomme Arthur has always done an amazing job with his Lost Abbey brand, creating a story behind each beer. The artwork on the labels are the means by which he tells these stories. The back of the bottle reads:
Whether you’re a wonder healer, a caller of spirits or a lover of black magic, they will find you. And on that day, they will boil your blood, singe your skin and make a point to burn your soul to the ground. From that lonely stake, you’ll be left to contemplate your life of spell casting, obscure texts and a world operated between the shadows of night and day.
Convicted of a dark art, the crowd will gather to watch as they raze your earthen existence. An intolerable pain is the cross you’ll bear that day as you are removed from this righteous world. No one will summon the courage to save you in fear of their life. It sucks. But such is the life of a witch. In honor of your fleeting existence, we brewed Witch’s Wit. A light and refreshing wheat beer, it’s exactly the sort of thing you might expect to find being passed around the center of town on witch burning day. Say hello to the Prince of Darkness for us.
The NY Times article simply states the facts and presents quotes from an outspoken member of the pagan and wiccan communities, a Ms. Noble:
Ms. Noble went home and wrote to her e-mail list. “Can we stop this brewer from their hate imagery?” read the subject line, in all capitals.
“Can you imagine them showing a black person being lynched or a Jewish person going to the oven?” she wrote. “Such images are simply not tolerated in our society anymore (thank the Goddess) and this one should not be, either.”
Immediately, friends and followers of Ms. Noble began sending complaints to the brewery.
In response, Lost Abbey posted a lengthy statement on their website. Unfortunately for the past 24 hours, I have not been able to access their website, so I will do my best to summarize. Essentially, Lost Abbey stated that they did not mean to offend anyone and that the label is original artwork depicting a story. This imagery has been used in artworks around the world for centuries.
The brewery stated that they will be reviewing the label and request to make a change during their November meeting. However, its reported that a decision has already been made to change the image. At the end of this long response, the writer opened the forum for discussion on the subject. I thought this was a nice touch.
The subsequent comments consisted of statements ranging from: “Lost Abbey is great. Tomme Arthur, keep doing what your doing” to “I didn’t find the imagery particularly offensive, but the description on the bottle- specifically, Say Hello to the Prince of Darkness for us very demeaning”. Some were outraged while others backed the brewery’s right to be creative with their labels.
Whats your stance?
Leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I was shocked to see this one yesterday; so shocked that I had to read it twice and pull the court records to believe it. Port Brewing, the business entity that sells Lost Abbey beers, has sued Moylan’s Brewing.
Port Brewing’s other business name, Lost Abbey utilizes a celtic cross symbol as its emblem. Well, Moylans Brewing (a historically irish brewer) decided to use a remarkably similar cross for their new Celts Golden Ale. You can see images of the conflicting marks by viewing this article by BeerNews.org. The two images are virtually identical.
Port’s Tomme Arthur provides, on his blog, that Port notified Moylans of concerns back in April of this year. However, after months of impasse, Port has decided to go forward with a Trademark infringement action in the US District Court for the Southern District of California. You can review the Complaint by following this link.
The gist of the suit can be found in some of the opening paragraphs:
9. Plaintiff has engaged in extensive marketing and promotion of their Celtic cross trademark and has enjoyed significant sales of their beer and merchandise, including sales of the Celtic cross beer tap handles.
10. Due to Plaintiff’s extensive use of its stylized Celtic cross image marks (collectively referred to herein as the “Port Brewing Marks”), Plaintiff has built up significant goodwill therein and its branded merchandise has been praised and recognized in the brewing industry and through various media.
11. As a result of such longstanding, substantial and continuous use, the Celtic cross- branded products have long been immediately recognized by consumers and the trade.
18. Upon information and belief, Defendant recently began using a stylized cross beer tap handle within its course of business that is strikingly similar to the Port Brewing Marks.
19. Upon information and belief, Defendant is currently using a stylized cross beer tap handle, at its brewery and at other participating restaurants, bars, taverns and breweries across the nation, including within this District, featuring marks confusingly similar to Plaintiff’s stylized Port Brewing Marks. Defendant is providing this infringing beer tap to distributors and such taps are being particularly confused with Port Brewing’s protected beer taps where both companies’ beers are being served.
Arthur is now taking a beating from craft beer enthusiasts – a beating that probably is not warranted. Unfortunately, beer is business. Businesses work hard to develop an image and when two closely competing businesses have confusing marks, someone needs to take a step back. Apparently, Port and Moylans will let the court decide who needs to take that step.
Tomme has been pretty beat up about the response from beer fans. He put together a well-written and thought out response to the negative animus. Here is a good snippet, but please read the whole thing by clicking on this link:
Please check our FAQ’s which we compiled to address this issue. At this time, we are waiting for a response from Moylan’s Brewing Company and still are open to a resolution that neither weakens nor devalues our Lost Abbey Trademark stylized Celtic Cross Tap Handle. …. The bigger and healthier the Craft Brewing business gets, the harder it is to be unique and distinctive. Intellectual Property is something that all breweries (small and big) need to value. It’s one of the biggest assets we can own.
Lastly,filing paperwork with the Federal Courts does not mean we are obligated to sue Moylan’s Brewing LLC. I can tell you that we at Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey are not giddy with excitement about this filing. When I look out my office window, I know the 12 people who work at this brewery aren’t high fiving each other about their owners decision to do this. But they understand that Intellectual Property is a big part of this brewery and the beers we sell.
…at this time, it is a solely two small passionate craft breweries who happen to disagree looking to protect their intellectual property. Ultimately, a compromise that doesn’t involve the courts may be reached. And then we can all go back to focusing on doing the things we do best.
It was a normal Wednesday in every sense of the word. I woke up, ate breakfast, went to work and planned on coming home, going for a run, cooking dinner and watching TV. Yes, my life in general is boring and so is yours. Around 4PM, I got a call, an invitation to the beer experience of a lifetime.
In the midst of Seattle Beer Week, I went to the Tomme Arthur Experience at Brouwer’s Cafe, a five course meal paired with 15, yes 15, Lost Abbey/Port Brewing (Lost Abbey is one brand which focuses on Belgium style beers and Port Brewing is the other brand which focuses more on American style beers, such as IPAs) beers out of San Marcos, CA. A normal, boring Wednesday turned into a night to remember.
First off was a cheese course, 5 delicious cheeses ranging from tangy to savory paired with farmhouse style beers from Lost Abbey: Devotion, Avant Garde and Red Barn. Tomme Arthur described Devotion as having the most hop quality of all three, but was dry and one-dimensional. I do not think he meant anything negative by stating that Devotion was one-dimensional as it was the perfect food pairing beer and allowed the various flavors from the cheese to distinguish the direction of your palette. Avant Garde is Mr. Arthur’s “Saturday Afternoon Beer.” In response to that, I found it slightly strong, although I would drink it on a Saturday afternoon. Again, this went particularly well with the strong flavors from the cheeses. Red Barn was my personal favorite from this course: spicy….just the way I like it. Ginger, black pepper with a slight funk.
Next up, the one and only course that was paired with Port Brewing beers. We had a tostada with smoked trout topped papaya and Habanero chili salsa and arugula paired with pure hops. Wipeout IPA is the best-selling beers across both brands and I can see why. It is well-balanced, not too bitter, not too citrusy but has an intense, complex, hoppiness.
My new-found love, Mongo Double IPA came with a story, Mongo was a cat who was born into the brewing business (“litter”ally). This beer, unfortunately for me and 99.99% of the population is available only on tap. I feel very fortunate to have tasted this beer. Mongo is a big beer with the smoothest finish of any IPA, I personally have ever had. To round out this course was Port Brewing’s Anniversary Ale which had a pure, hop resin character and was sweet in the nose. All of these IPAs paired perfectly with the citrus of the papaya, the salted flavor of the trout and the spiciness of the Habanero. Hats off to the chef.
Next up, the “Raisin Course” appropriately named, “Who the #$#% Put Raisins in My Beer?” This course, was rich, flavorful and down right unimaginable. Pork pate with duck tongue paired with dried, sautéed cherries and dates. This salty, sweet, savory, ‘raisiny’ course was paired with Lost and Found, Judgment Day and 10 Commandment. Lost and Found is an Abbey style beer originally made with raisin puree and is a well-rounded, strong, yet subtle sipping beer. Judgment Day as T. Arthur put it, “oozes raisin texture” and as stated on Lost Abbey’s website,
A stronger and more contemplative version of our Lost and Found Ale. Judgment Day is the base beer for our Cuvee de Tomme.
10 Commandment was my knight in shining armor this course, with rosemary and honey added to this brew, it remains the strongest of the three at 9% ABV. The addition of complex flavors masks the brut strength of this brew.
Interestingly enough, Tomme decided to pair the main course with three sour ales. He made a point to include these delicious brews as the attraction of the night. Generally, sours are a starter beer or paired with desserts. A hearty, medium rare, fine piece of meat with caramelized onions was cut with these fruity, at times oak barreled sour beers. Red Poppy was my favorite and is considered a sour brown ale with sour cherries. This Kreik if you will is one of the better ones I have tasted, as it is not overwhelmingly sour nor highly carbonated. The cherries leave a balance of sourness, sweetness and a savoriness with a dense mouth feel. The Framboise was very challenging to brew and with three different additions of raspberry during the brewing/aging process, it turned out perfectly. Locally sourced raspberries were added, then this beer was aged for a year. More raspberries were added and after three months raspberry concentrate was blended. There is a strong fruit quality (surprise) and that puckering sourness I have come to know and love.
Lastly was the Duck Duck Gooze which is a blend of 1, 2 and 3 year old lambics (these lambics were not spontaneously fermented). Once this is blended, the brew spends one year aging in the bottle- I love me some bottle fermentation! There is not a fruity component to this beer, but a complexity that arises out of an age old process which should be respected and desired by all beer lovers. Duck Duck Gooze is going to be very limited, so if you can grab a bottle, please, send me one.
I know, we aren’t done yet? You do remember I said 5 courses, 15 beers, right? Well on to the last, the dessert, the stouts. At this point my mind wanders off, away from the delicious, chocolate, hazelnut dessert in front of me. I do recall a side of Angel Share ice cream made that day by the chef.
Paired with this wonderfully decadent dessert was Serpent’s Stout, Angel Share and the 2009 Older Viscosity. I have had all three of these beers, but they were better than ever. Serpent’s Stout, encounters both brandy and bourbon barrels during the brewing process. Notes from their website are spot on:
Pours dark and thick, with a creamy mocha-colored head and aromas of roasted malts, dark chocolate and french roast coffee.
Angel Share is a beast of a beer. It is finished in a brandy barrel for the Fall release and has a bourbon finish for the Spring release. You can taste the liquor, the liquor almost cuts right through the texture of this heavy, complex stout. I closed my night with Older Viscosity, one of my favorite stouts. If you all recall this is the salted pretzel doused in chocolate and dipped in liquor. Older Viscosity is aged for 15 months and is worth the wait.
So yes, this was to date, one of the best beer experiences. After I was full and slightly intoxicated (15 beers!), I had the chance to chat with Tomme Arthur, the man behind the magic. What stood out during our conversation is despite the undeniable fact that he is incredibly passionate about making quality beer, innovative beer, he wants beer to remain accessible. This beer dinner proved that Lost Abbey/Port Brewing beers span an entire spectrum of palettes and will show you the light. Thank you to Tomme Arthur for the insight into your amazing beer, the chef at Brouwer’s Cafe for creating masterpieces and to Ian for the last minute invite to this event. Not to be forgotten.