Thursday 2 January 2014

Camden BearD

Earlier in the year we were approached by the bar staff of the BrewDog bar in Camden to brew a collaborative beer with them. The collaboration was part of a new project BrewDog and all of their bars were doing called Collab Fest. The idea was for each of the UK bars to select a brewery to brew a beer with and have all of these beers release in all their UK bars on the same night, the 19th Oct. All the brewers were also invited to the Brewdog brewery in Ellon to brew one big collaborative beer. The event was a success in our eyes, with some great beers brewed.

So early September, along with the Camden bar staff, we decided to brew a medium ABV pale, with at least 30% wheat malt, Willamette, Cascade and Centennial hops and a clean US yeast. During the course of the day the naming of the beer was discussed, and together we came up with the name Camden BearD. Notice the B & D in BearD are both capital, this was meant to be read as Camden BD, as in Camden BrewDog.

To be honest, none of us even made the link to Camden Town Brewery. If we had, we may have reconsidered. But Camden Town Brewery took exception to the name, and on 21st Oct wrote an email to James Watt of BrewDog. At this point it’s worth remembering that this beer was a collaboration with the staff from the bar, and had nothing to do with BrewDog themselves. This is 100% a Weird Beard beer that had been sold to many other retailers and not just BrewDog for their festival. If Camden Town had done their research at this point, they may have realised this and contacted us directly, but they didn’t. If they had contacted us in a polite manor, we may have reconsidered the name. James’s response was to get the bars to change the name to London Beard. But for some reason didn’t suggest that Camden Town Brewery contact us regarding the name of our product, or did James contact us directly either. Camden Town Brewery and BrewDog are a couple of pretty big, well established breweries, with plenty of collaborations under their collective belts. They should know how these things work in regard to is responsible for and whoo names the beer. Rightly or wrongly it felt like two big guys ganging up on the small brewery, and for some reason at no point did they think it was worth talking to us, which i find insulting. 

While all this was going on, we heard rumours that Camden Town Brewery may be upset with the name. But we are not one to act on rumour, and we thought that if they did have any real issue they would have the decency to talk to us. The issue became very clear to us when I went into the BrewDog Camden bar and saw our name on the guest beer board with the words London Beard underneath. I personally complained to the bar staff, who were very sympathetic, but said they had been pretty much ordered to make the change. So we took the initiative and on 27th Nov and contacted James Watt to ask for an explanation, who apologised and in late December when back from honeymoon agreed to change the name back to Camden Beard (to much rejoycing from Gregg and the staff at Brewdog Shepherds Bush who had the beer on at the time) and direct any further complaints from Camden directly to us.

We really like this beer, and decided to add it to our occasional brew rotation, and re-brewed it in mid November. We had the labels paid for, printed, and on a number of bottles, when on 18th Dec we get an very aggressive email from Camden Town Brewery demanding we recall the beer, and referencing the conversation he had with James Watt as an indication the name had been changed. We responded stating that the beer had been sold to many retailers over the past 2 months, and this could have been resolved months ago had he bothered to contact us. We also stated that we have no intention of recalling the beer, as we feel the branding of the beer is distinctly different to Camden Town Brewery, and we question their ownership of the word Camden. But after seeking legal advice, we decided we could not afford the costs of this going to court. So we agreed that we would change the name, but would not be recalling any beer. Camden Town Brewery reinforced how seriously they take trademark infringements, and how they will not stand by and allow other traders trade off the reputation of their brand. This implies that they think that we have chosen the name in the hope that people will confuse our beer for one of theirs, which is both amusing and insulting. But it was agreed that by changing the name of the beer the matter could be put to bed.

It was with great regret that we decided to change the name of this beer, as it already has a reputation, and it looses it’s reference to the great guys at BrewDog Camden who were a huge part in making this beer what it is. But we felt we should change the name for several reasons. We don’t believe Camden Town Brewery has any claim to the word Camden, and I think they aren’t 100% sure either, as on 24th Dec they applied to trade mark the word, even though previous communications implied they already owned this. But, as they have been using the word in many of their products for some time now, it was decided they may have some claim to it, and it may come down to who ever was overseeing the case on the day. We are a very small young brewery, and we do not have money to risk on this. There is also the possibility that people may think this is a collaboration between Camden Town Brewery and Weird Beard, and to be honest, right now I do not want people to think we would be associated with them.

So what to call the beer? That was easy! K*ntish Town Beard. Read into this what you will, but the official line is that the beer is called Kentish Town Beard, as Camden Town are actually based just under Kentish Town West station, and we are renaming it in their honour. The asterisk is in Kentish just in case they decide they own that too. 

We are hugely disappointed that this all had to turn out this way. A few polite phone calls right at the beginning could have sorted this out with no hard feelings at all. We are only publicising this how we have because we feel with have been treated very unfairly by two of the supposed big players in the 'craft' beer world, and we thought people had the right to know. We also had to explain the sudden name change.

We thank you for all the support we have had on this, and hope you all continue to enjoy the beers produced by all of the great breweries in the country right now.

All views, except those edited by Gregg, grammatical & spelling errors in this blog are those of @weirdbeardbryan, and not necessarily those of the Weird Beard collective.


  1. Probably worth you objecting to the trademark application. In the absence of an existing registration they wouldn't have taken you to court and the standard of proof would have been pretty onerous on them. If they get it registered as a TM then it's very easy for them to defend it. The only chance is to object before registration.

    I probably would have confused it with a Camden beer tbh, and that probably would have been either neutral or to your disadvantage so you're probably better off anyway.

    The story illustrates what many of these big, hip breweries are really about: Building a brand to sell to a multinational. They do this by using the term "Craft" a lot and acting as if they were skateboard punks who don't care about money. doing that pays really well.

  2. Tossers. I shall never be stocking Camden in my pub now, and I'll urge others' to do the same. We don't need to deal with people like this when there are so many nice brewers in the country.

  3. I don't think it's necessarily a sign that anyone is just in brewing to sell out in a few years, but IMO it could have been handled much better.

    I don't know the specific geography of both breweries (Camden Town seemed very near to Kentish Town tube when I was there earlier in the year) & the recent TM application is interesting.

    I do think there's risk of confusion between the beer/brewery names, but more (any!) communication might have resolved it somehow (e.g. An agreement to phase the name change over as the labels run out, or as @robsterowski suggested, some compensation from the larger brewery for the smaller breery's expenses.

    I can see obvious reasons why Camden want to protect their brand (not just £s in a sell-out) - if you don't protect it, it seems you're more open to risk of anyone infringing on it, but think a 'softer' approach would have been much better.

  4. I feel that this like yourselves could of been handled well by just being professional. For a big brewery I'd like to know who is buying there beer as I don't ever see it on sale. Granted I don't go to the market and do the shopping but I don't rate any beer that makes it to supermarket anyway as it needs to be made cheap to sell cheap.

    As for Brewdog I'm disgusted but can't say I'm surprised. I don't really drink there beers either these days. I NEVER buy it bottled. Never did.

    Good on you Bryan. I've just started homebrew research with a view to make my first brew of beer starting first weekend in Feb. Who knows maybe in a few years time we could collaborate together.

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  6. Hi Bryan,

    I have already apologised to you guys for the mistake I made here and discussed it openly with you. I am happy to offer an apology again. I had a knee jerk reaction to the contact I had from Camden and at that time I only thought the beer was for sale in our bar and nowhere else. When I was told we were infringing a trademark, my immediate reaction was to look to rectify this. In hindsight I should have informed them that it was nothing to do with myself and directed them straight to you guys. This is exactly what I did the 2nd time I received contact from them and again and I am sorry for not doing this the first time.

    I feel your blog is slightly unfair towards BrewDog given I have already apologised personally to you guys about this and given the 2nd time I received contact from Camden I did exactly as we discussed and told them it had nothing to do with myself and told them to contact you guys if they wanted to take it further.

    Anyway – loved the beer and all the best for 2014 guys. Hopefully catch you soon for a beer in BrewDog Camden.



  7. Wow, that all got a bit crazy. We pulled the blog for a bit to pause and take a breath, and tone some of the language down a bit.

    I would just like to make it perfectly clear that this in no way was intended to bash BrewDog or James Watt, and maybe a little naively didnt expect it to cause such negativity. We at Weird Beard are fans of BrewDog, they were very happy for us to be involved in the Collab Fest, there bars have been very supportive in stocking our beers, and we all class many of the staff as personal friends. So apologies if we have offended any of the BrewDog crew.

    James did not deal with the situation correctly in the first instance. This may had something to do with getting married and such things, congratulations by the way. But he did own his mistake, apologies and when he returned from his honeymoon got the bars to change the name back. So sorry James for any offence any abuse that may have come your way as a result.

  8. What a shame, so sad that this trademark bullshit continues to carry on into craft beer.

    Looking at it though, they don't own the trademark, so you could have simply told them to fuck off, instead of all the bullshit of changing labels. It is very difficult to trademark just a town name in class 32 and I know from experience as Brakspears pulled this shit on me when I opened and created beers with Henley as part of name. I told them to fuck off...and they did... If their application for CAMDEN were being examined by the UK IPO office it will most likely be rejected...though I noticed it is an EU mark, which I don't have experience is very worth seeking a city trademark geek who likes to trade his knowledge for beer, as you will continue to have this shit come up.

    If you wanted to be a douche in return you could register Camden BearD in Class 32 for 100 quid tonight and it would probably cost them 20 times that to stop it from going forward, as I see no reason why it would not be granted, given the current trademarks. Your mileage may vary.

    Don't let anyone bully you.

    Jeff @Lovibonds

    1. Cheers Jeff, our Lawyers said the first port of call was to trademark Camden Beard ourselves if we wanted to fight.

      That being said we did get plenty of mileage out of twitter yesterday, and the risk of losing, if it ever did go to court, far outwieghs any probable win as we could have to pay costs which with IPO laywers charging about £1000 an hour could get very expensive!

      Oh and we sold a number of kegs and casks of K*ntish Town beard today on what would normally be a very slow day.

  9. Presidence has been set on these kind of trademarks.

  10. Well now, unsavoury though this experience is, as a small brewery, your best defense is probably not to get too insulted by these big boys not playing fair. Here's a "similar" experience just posted up as well :
    I'm not saying pay Camden Town Brewery six dollars, mind, but it's probably always best to post with humour than insult, and take a little time over it. If only to catch the typos...
    Keep brewing, and remember - it's you guys that have the beards.

  11. I think their threats speak volumes about the quality of their beer and how threatened they feel by yours, also shows how much they rely on their branding and name to sell their product. The last few CTB brews I have tasted have been pretty mediocre and don't compare to yours. Keep up the good work! (Also agree with what Jeff said)

  12. Hey y'all, I'm just a beer drinker so I don't really have a horse in this race but I have opinions and not enough people have expressed their's yet so I'm going to get in there.

    James W, obviously deserves kudos for being part of the conversation. And to me it feels like Weird Beard have earned the right to be a little pissy. Saying that CTB has also earned that privilege as the quality of their beer has been questioned (anyone with any involvement with gentleman's wit is fine by me - in fact anyone fighting the good fight for craft ale is!) and rightly or wrongly, Camden and Camden Town brewery are nearly synonymous.

    Basically this is like watching Thomas the Tank Engine and Percy having a spat and you should all share slightly too many beers and have a blazing row and a cry and a hug and then make a collaboration beer. For Christmas has only just passed and that is the time for that kind of thing.

    Henry, A weirdo beardo who went to school in Camden Town and has a growing collection of location branded BrewDog glasses

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  14. I'm getting really confused now? Don't a German Brewery make a beer called Camden Hells

    1. I have always thought that Camden towns beers were pretty good, but NOT world class. I was surprised when their Camden Hells won the best keg beer in the world award. I recently read that they openly admit to brewing their keg been in Germany? Correct me if I'm wrong? It would be interesting to know if the beer that won the competition was brewed at Camden or Germany?

  15. You shouldn't change the name. They don't own a trademark for Camden and it would cost them too much to prove they have an unregistered one. The average person in a bar won't have heard of Camden Brewery. Should have told them to jog on. As someone said above just bang in an application for Camden Beard and let them appeal it. Although I can only find it on ratebeer Young's apparently have a beer called Camden Cracker.

  16. As someone who is a London beer drinker i have found this whole thing quite unpleasant. From the way i see it, after lack of initial communication from ALL parties, one company (CTB) was trying to defend its name (albeit perhaps too aggressively/naively) and now it seems that Weird Beard have launched some social media hate campaign (Via a Blog) to attempt to ruin the reputation CTB have built. Some of the tweets i saw last night were not just bordering on ridiculous (video of beer being poured out WTF??) but also bordering on slander. and people were calling CTB the Bully??!!!

    As far as i know, CTB is only 3 years old as well and not what i would call a big company but they look like they have worked hard as a team to achieve great growth. (doesnt every brewery wish to achieve this?) . I don't know CTB side of the story (but there is always two sides) but it seems like as soon as they have stumbled (too err is to be human?), people have swooped on them like vultures with hatred and vitriol that is not deserved for this situation. I wonder if the Tall Poppy Syndrome is at play here?

    There are no winners in this, I think Weird Beard make terrific beers and i think CTB make terrific beers too, im not gonna 'blackban' a brewery and make a school yard video in protest of what seems to be a giant and hurtful misunderstanding. I have met both brewery crews at festivals and breweries and they are all terrific fellas with a great passion and knowledge of beer.

    After what i witnessed last night on twitter, i would imagine both sides of the fence would be reeling somewhat with this awful backlash. I hope it can be put to bed and lessons learnt for everyone.

    Also, a note to the ten bob homebrewers encouraging each other via twitter to spread the hatred, you are the people who bring the hate to the London beer scene, noone else.
    Peace out, nerds!


    1. Hi Natasha

      We neither condone, nor encourage the abuse of CTB. We have just told our side of the story and in our minds the whole thing is put to bed already.


  17. Come on boys and girls, there's no need to air your dirty beer towels in public is there? Unlike the spat with Redwell Brewery and some large manufacturer of energy drinks I don't think any of you come out of this smelling of roses. James may have had other, more important things on his mind while this was all kicking off and who hasn't fired off an e-mail without thinking of the consequences?

    I thought the UK craft beer scene was above all this, we don't want another Red Revolution in this country. You're lucky most of you weren't around back then to have seen the aftermath, it's taken years to get back to where we are today thanks to you - yes YOU.

    Respect each other for the love of beer.

  18. Just out of interest do Camden Town have a trademark on pasteurised,over fizzy, force carbonated, barely better than macro, over hyped beer?

    1. I don't wish to be a know it all, bowling into the internet poking the fire with a stick but Camden's beer is neither pasteurised or force carbonated. As for whether it is barely better than macro beer, that is your opinion, mine differs. But,I quite like a few macro beers so who am I to judge eh?

      Their actions however are baffling. A short,polite phonecall would have ironed things out. They do have previous for on this though, they sent James at Brodies a cease and desist letter with regards to him calling one of his beers 'Camden Town Brown'.

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