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Don't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em: Why Brewing Together Works Better in the Craft Beer Industry

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This story appears in the September 2015 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Old Foghorn is a killer name for a stout from the coast of Northern California, thought Lenny Mendonca, who made the beer part of his lineup when he opened Half Moon Bay Brewing Co. in 2000. In short order, a letter arrived informing the fledgling brewer that Fritz Maytag’s Anchor Brewing Co. already owned the evocative name. A senior partner at management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, Mendonca knew the drill—the legal chain of events that occurs when one infringes on a competitor’s trademark. He received a letter. But it was not what he expected.

Courtesy of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Drinking buddies: Sierra Nevada Brewing founder Ken Grossman (right) and son Brian, co-manager at the company’s Mills River, N.C., brewery.

“It was a personal letter from Fritz—not a letter from his lawyers—suggesting we find another name and wishing us luck,” says Mendonca, who came to understand that Maytag’s collegial, low-key style was the rule among the craft-beer brethren.

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