What’s in a name? For beer drinkers and makers alike, a name can mean the difference between selling your product or a legal shitstorm. Freetail Brewing Co. famously received a cease and desist letter from Oregon’s Steelhead Brewing Company asking the local brewery to stop using the term Hopasaurus Rex in 2012. Owner Scott Metzer happily acquiesced to not using the name, but only after replying with a hilarious letter bearing a white flag-waving T-Rex. Earlier this year, in a controversial move to limit the amount of offensive labels and beer names, the Brewers Association added new code guidelines that asked beers not “contain sexually explicit, lewd or demeaning brand names, language, text, graphics, photos, video or other images that reasonable adult consumers would find inappropriate for consumer products offered to the public.” Those that don’t comply will essentially be judged more harshly if entered into the World Beer Cup or Great American Beer Festival awards.
Even that couldn’t have prepared Mike Holt, owner of Weathered Souls, the latest brewery to hit the northside, for the letter he received this March. After applying to patent and trademark one of their yearly brews, the dry-hopped blonde ale known as Malt-erial Girl in September, the brewery seemed to have attracted the attention of a certain pop star — or at least the lawyers who represent her brand.
In its opposition filing, MG Icon LLC, which manages trademarks for Madonna, alleged the beer would create confusion. For those that weren’t big pop fans in the ’80s, "Material Girl" was featured in Madge’s second album Like a Virgin, and was released in early 1985, ultimately reaching the No. 2 spot in the Billboard Hot 100.
“I have a few patents on things,” said Holt, who has a manufacturing background, “but I never had to use a lawyer. I would talk to the owners.”
Obviously, that’s not an option. For the time being, Holt and Weathered Souls are trying to finalize a coexistence agreement between themselves and MG Icon, which would allow them to use the name. He doesn’t expect to hear back for another few weeks.
“It was exciting to realize somebody took notice,” Holt said.
Holt’s taken the opposition filing and subsequent legal matters in stride, even with the brewery being all of six months old. After opening in mid-November, Holt, and master brewer Marcus Baskerville, along with small sales and brewing teams, are getting into their groove. New small-batch beers are released every Thursday and flights are finally available as of a few weeks ago, with the flight boards made using a discarded barrel.
Their first canned product, a BA Cavernous stout aged in Remy barrels with cocoa nibs, Madagascar vanilla beans and cinnamon, was released last Friday. And San Antonio is growing more familiar with the brand as it's currently found in more than 40 taps around town. Impressive when you consider Weathered Souls is currently self-distributing and is cautiously launching Austin sales.
Their top-selling beer so far is the Mexican lager, cheekily dubbed Dalé Shine, brewed specifically with San Antonio’s palates in mind. Still, Baskerville’s brewing imagination is a force that doesn’t hesitate to release a few stouts mid-May, or use hard-to-source ingredients such as green Korean plums. All of which will soon have something to be paired with besides beer.
“In a few weeks, we’ll be able to answer the second most common question we get,” Holt said. That of course is whether Weathered Souls offers food. “The kitchen’s back there, we just needed to find someone who could execute.”
For now, the 11,000 square feet of shared space (they cohabitate with Ferra Coffee roasters), is helping them manage their growing pains — all brewing has been doubled to keep up with demand from accounts, and a kettle sour program is giving way to a more robust and official system he hopes will be in place by year’s end.
Weathered Souls is making it work — Madonna’s attorneys aside.