A locally brewed beer has drawn the ire of the City of Calgary but it’s the unauthorized name of the beverage, not its flavour, that is being challenged.
Elite Brewing and Bow River Brewing recently collaborated on a single batch of an India session ale and the breweries held a contest on social media to select a name prior to the beer’s release.
“We looked at different names and we looked at the themes that we wanted,” said Ian Binmore, owner of Bow River Brewing. “Bow River wanted something that was river themed and Elite Brewing has a lot of military background and support so they wanted something more military themed.”
The name ‘Fort Calgary’ ISA was selected ahead of the beer’s February release in kegs and cans. “Because Fort Calgary was established at the confluence of the Bow River and the Elbow River, and was the founding location of Calgary, we thought it suited well.”
Binmore says Fort Calgary officials contacted the craft breweries immediately following the beer’s release to express their concerns over the proceeds of the beer’s sales and the attempt to profit off the Fort Calgary name. “There had been some discussions with Fort Calgary early on and we thought we had an agreement with Fort Calgary that we weren’t going to advertise the beer and that we only each had about 100 cases. We’d sell that off and not make a big deal of it being the name publicly.”
A short time later, the breweries received a cease-and-desist letter from the City of Calgary objecting to the use of the ‘Fort Calgary’ name. “A second letter came recently which was destroy all the labels or we’re taking you to court by May 27,” said Adrian Di Marino, owner of Elite Brewing. “It feels a bit petty that the City’s going after a small business over something so trivial.”
Binmore says each of the breweries have approximately 40 cases of Fort Calgary ISA left and they’re hoping to sell their remaining stock in quick order or they’ve considered potentially cross out the ‘T’ in the name on the cans to rebrand the collaboration brew as ‘For Calgary’.
“We’re hoping in the best of cases, that the City of Calgary recognizes that this is silliness and this is hurtful to small businesses and they should just drop this,” said Binmore. “If we were to order new labels, strip off all the existing labels and relabel it, we’d be looking at a total cost of about $4,000.”
“The tie to Fort Calgary offers us no marketing advantage. We could have named it something else and it would have sold exactly the same,” added Di Marino. “It’s a one-time release. We’re never making it again.”
The City of Calgary issued the following statement to CTV regarding its issue with the use of the Fort Calgary name.
“The City of Calgary is the owner of the official trademark ‘Fort Calgary’ with the exclusive rights to manage its reputation and the usage of its related branding and intellectual rights. Elite Brewing Inc. does not have the City’s consent to use the Fort Calgary trademark.
“Elite Brewing has not yet replied to the City’s letters and the City continues to await a response.”
According to Binmore, the two breweries will continue to work together but there will not be a second batch of the beer at the centre of the naming dispute.
“We’ll continue to collaborate together. We won’t do a Fort Calgary ISA but we hope that we can do some other beers and ciders together.”
Di Marino says he has not reached a decision on whether to comply with the City’s demands.
With files from CTV’s Mark Villani