Breweries, Keep Your Legal Battles OFF of Social Media 26

Well, it is quite apparent that SOME breweries did not attend the Social Media seminar during the 2013 Craft Brewers Conference—where we clearly and quite strongly advised AGAINST using social media to wage a war, legal or not, against another brewery. And if said breweries did attend the seminar, they obviously were not listening. So let me state it again, loud and clear:

Keep your battles offline.

Do not use social media to wage a war against another brewery. I don’t care how pissed off you are at them. I don’t care how many laws you think they broke. I don’t care if they flat out stole your branding, your beer name, or your recipe—DO NOT post about it online.

And why not? Besides getting an ego boost from your adoring fans, nothing good can come from public wars between companies. You are guaranteed to lose existing fans as well as lose any potential fans who are first exposed to your brand in this fashion. And at the end of the day, it’s not fair for you to put your fans and followers in this position. You do not have the right to ask your fans to fight your battles. Hire a lawyer. It’s their freaking job to fight your battles—NOT mine.

Keep the fight between your lawyers—NOT your fans.

The Law of Attraction states that like attracts like. Whatever vibrations we radiate attract more of the same. Negative energy only attracts more negative energy. The more negative energy you put on social media, the more you will get. And trust me, you do not want your brand to be viewed as one that emits and attracts negative energy.

Not to mention, breweries putting out negative energy only makes the craft beer industry look bad as a whole. You might think that the battle is solely between you and the other guy, but it’s not. You just brought the entire craft beer community into the lime light. Your actions reflect negatively upon our entire industry—not just your two brands. You make craft beer look immature and childish. You make it look like we can’t get along with each other. You are destroying the collaborative, harmonious and united image that we have worked so hard to project.

Social media is an extremely powerful tool. And with great power, comes great responsibility. And trust me, I’ve learned this the very, very hard way. Breweries and beer fans, please heed my advice:

Don’t use social media as a weapon.

If you need justice, then by all means go and get it. But do it in a courtroom, NOT on Facebook and Twitter. Besides, I’m pretty sure that the judge making the final ruling over the case won’t be swayed by internet petitions or “how many followers and fans” you got to post on your behalf.

I did NOT ask to be put in the middle of this battle. None of us did. Sure, I might have opinions on what is right and wrong in this situation, but I reserve the right to stay out of the fight. Don’t make me chose sides. And don’t make me fight your battles.

Because I refuse to get involved, I’m intentionally leaving the details of this particular “War of the Roses” out of this post. If you wish to learn more about the brewery vs. brewery conflict I’m referring to, you can read the House of Lancaster arguments here and the House of York arguments here.

And you can guarantee that a case study will be made of this incident, highlighting it as the quintessential example of what not to do on social media, at the 2014 Craft Brewers Conference.

About The Beer Wench

Ashley is a self-proclaimed craft beer evangelist & social media maven on a mission to advance the craft beer industry through education, inspiration and advocacy. She is currently the “Director of Awesomeness” at Bison Brewing in Berkeley, CA — where her responsibilities include everything from marketing, sales, PR, social media & events. Ashley is also a freelance consultant and professional speaker on the subjects of social media, beer mixology, food & beverage pairings. She is the founder of & as well as a regular contributor to

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26 thoughts on “Breweries, Keep Your Legal Battles OFF of Social Media

  • Lew Bryson

    Well done. No irony whatsoever intended, and with a big tip of the hat: this may be the most important thing you've ever put out. Thank you.

  • Lisa Grimm

    I just wonder what their various lawyers think. I'm assuming they weren't consulted about this front.

  • Mike Harper

    Well said Ashley. As a consumer I have no stomach for being cannon fodder in some corporate skirmish. Their stridency and (potentially) false righteousness simply make me want to look elsewhere for products.

  • Bill Benzel

    I respectfully disagree — The Hansen's / Rock Art thing showed me how social media can be used to fight injustice in these Goliath v David battles. I'm not into it because of the drama — I just want the facts and then let me decide whether to join the boycott.

  • Alan Moen

    Yes and no. Even though it seems to call for knee-jerk responses, the social media can be a way to hear both sides of an argument. And it's ironic that the BA hosted a seminar at the CBC to warn about it, since they put their "craft vs. crafty" dogma right on Facebook.

  • Lew Bryson

    I don't see a lot of opportunity for getting the "truth" out this way…given the way I've seen the "Heineken sponsors dogfighting!" thing all over social media, and there's no truth to it. Craft brewers keep fighting each other, and just don't seem to learn that no one profits when they do.

  • Lew Bryson

    Bill Benzel, I'd say Hansen's/Rock Art is different: that's not two craft breweries. It's about internecine warfare.

  • Alan Moen

    It doesn't surprise me that the social media are the new beer issues battleground, since they seem to be the way most people communicate these days. But they are more often a vehicle for blatant opinion or outright narcissism than information or dialogue. I guess I'm guilty of that myself.

  • Tom Bedell

    No comment on the current tussle. Story on the Rock Art battle:

  • Mike Hein

    Slightly playing Devil's Advocate but: Ink is ink. Controversy makes news and news makes advertising. Clearly that can backfire if overused but I'd say the net effect of the occasional social media flame fest is possibly positive.

  • Jesse Trent

    Hilarious. I totally took the #9 logo and switched it around, moved the # to the left for my own home brewed #9 clone I call #6. If you want to see the logo, you'll have to come to my basement when I keg this beer.

  • Tasting Nitch

    Well effing said, Ms.Wench!
    I've been caught more then once between two bickering breweries on soft topics like: are cans the best thing ever or the next global disaster, but I've rarely had to pick sides as most social media departments tend to lean toward "kill them with kindness," and give opposition options a wide birth and a big polite bow.
    Sad to see the honorable craft beer society turning on itself. Never thought I'd see the day….

  • Bill Benzel

    Lew is there really any difference between Hansen's / Rock Art and the current Magic Hat / Sixth Street or BBC / Fezziwig's? Same deal — Goliath bullies David.

  • Bill Benzel

    Lew is there really any difference between Hansen's / Rock Art and the current Magic Hat / Sixth Street or BBC / Fezziwig's? Same deal — Goliath bullies David.

  • Joe Baty How all these problems should be solved

  • Kevo

    While I’m sure your post was well intentioned, you seem to be under the impression that the owners of West Sixth Brewery are in need of some social media guidance. I’m guessing you don’t know why Ben Self did before he retired to the world of breweries, but I think he’s got this whole Internet thing figured out:

    “Ben Self, founding partner of Blue State Digital, the consulting firm that developed and executed the ground-breaking online, grassroots organization of thousands of volunteers leveraging digital and social media for the Obama presidential campaign.”

    He was the “The architect of Barack Obama’s 2008 online presidential campaign” aka “The Social Networker”

    “Ben Self is a specialist in building successful online engagements between organizations and their customers or constituents. In 2004, with four other veterans of Howard Dean’s Internet team, he founded Blue State Digital, a consulting firm that specializes in creating new media strategy and technology for political candidates, non-profits, and companies. Blue State Digital’s software and strategy powers the online presence of the largest and most prominent Democratic candidates and progressive organizations, including the presidential campaign of Barack Obama. Blue State Digital also serves numerous non-profits and corporations, such as AT&T, the Red Cross, Madonna’s Raising Malawi, HBO, the Tony Awards, New York University, the Hearst Corporation, and the Sundance Film Festival.”

  • Bend&Brew;

    A worthy piece of advice for any company/anyone in a legal bind. Social media is all about your reputation. At the end of the day, the consumer doesn't care about your legal stance. Had a similar issue with High Times mag not to long ago - they were hiding behind a contract when they really needed to be in front of it protecting the reputation of their readership.

  • Debbie Cerda

    Well-spoken — I would cite this post as a good example of the difference between being "just another beer blogger" and a professional beer writer, kudos for stepping away from bias in a public forum!

    As I recall, several years ago many of us in the Twitterverse and blogoshere did champion for Rock Art Brewery, a small brewery in a slightly similar situation but with a drink company. However, the manner in which that was handled versus current case is much different in my opinion. The community rallied support, and the brewery handled it in a very professional manner.

    I get tired of the hypocrisy of some brewers — I've seen lots of selective "cease and desist" for branding where a brewer will go after a smalleror new brewery yet turn a blind eye to the larger brewers.

  • Steve Moore

    I couldn't agree less. A successful but mediocre brewery uses lawyers to beat on an upstart - where's the downside in exposing it? If Austin's Waterloo Brewing Company had properly feuded with Sam Adams, they might still be in business.

  • The Beer Wench Post author


    Lew is right, we don’t have all the details. If Magic Hat was a smaller brewery, would you think differently of their rights and their stance on the matter? Of course you would, you might even agree with them. Plenty of breweries have legal battles every day over trademarks, we just don’t hear about it because they don’t make a big production about it online. The only time we seem to hear about it is when they big guys are involved. Why? Because it is easier to rally support against a “big corporate giant” than against another little guy.

    The bottom line is that none of us want to get involved-especially, the other breweries. I don’t care how you feel about Magic Hat, it is important to note that many breweries distribute their beer through the MillerCoors network. Waging a war against Magic Hat can only hurt us in the long run. No one wants to be black listed, trust me.

  • Pat Konze

    I suppose we could all choose not to read and/or comment on the posts. We do still have free will, I think.