Twelve years ago, Matt Nadeau started brewing beer in his basement in northern Vermont. With a great deal of hard work, and apparently, some damn fine brewing intuition, Matt and his wife Renee built their brand, Rock Art Brewing, into a regional favorite. Fast-forward to early '09, Matt and Renee are running a thriving business, crafting award-winning beer, and employing seven people in the Morrisville, VT area.
Amongst Rock Art's most popular beers is the Vermonster, a hefty American barleywine created to celebrate RA's 10th anniversary, made with a pound of dried hops in every barrel, and sporting a healthy 10% abv. On September 14th, Matt received an email from a lawyer for Hansen Natural Brands — owners of MONSTER energy drink — commanding him to cease and desist all promotion, marketing and sale of the Vermonster, under threat of litigation.
Matt and Renee hold the Vermont rights to the name Vermonster, so where's the problem? Unfortunately, given the structure of the US legal system, it's in the courts, and it's big. Though several lawyers and other council have told Matt that there is no infringement issue, and that Hansen's claim that the beer will "dilute the distinctive quality of Hansen's MONSTER marks" is ludicrous, they have almost to a man advised him to give in. You see, even if Matt were to fight this in court and win, it is within Hansen's rights and ability to appeal almost ad nauseum, and once Rock Art finally throws in the towel, Hansen wins by default. At an estimated $65,000 per court appearance, the Nadeaus can hardly afford one trial, much less a half dozen.
So what's Matt gonna do? Well, with true New England grit, American pride, and that "Live Free or Die" spirit (yes, I know that's New Hampshire, just go with it), Matt is fighting it. In the man's own words, "It's principles at stake, it's liberty at stake, it's justice that's at stake, and I'm being told it's for sale. I don't buy it." Though his campaign is in its nascency, the story has gotten a good amount of media attention, with the source list growing every day. Many stores have boycotted the MONSTER brand, and with more attention, no doubt many more will follow suit.
So if you are a believer in the little guy (or, at least, a supporter of good beer over bubbly neon crap) and want to help Matt and Renee out, what can you do? First, watch the video at the top of this page, and send it to like-minded friends. Secondly, vote with your dollars; though I assume most of you aren't big fans of the energy drinks, if you are looking for a boost, go for, like, Red Bull, or something, not MONSTER. Lastly, use the powers of the interwebs to spread the word: Follow them @RockArtBrewery on Twitter and RT their messages, friend "Rock Art Brewery" on Facebook, and send letters of support to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We lose more and more of our freedom to corporate interests every year, and in the face of such immense power and capital, who's to say how we can resist? Methinks Matt expresses it succinctly at the end of the video: "We run the show people, we run it all. We just need to talk and communicate and work together." That's an empowering message we could all stand to heed just about now.