Strangeways brewery files preemptive suit for name

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The entrance to the Strangeways brewery on Dabney Road earlier this year.

The entrance to the Strangeways brewery on Dabney Road earlier this year.

A battle is brewing over a local beer brand.

Burton Brewing LLC, which operates Henrico County-based Strangeways Brewing, filed a lawsuit in July against beer and wine equipment retailer Strange Brew in a preemptive attempt to protect its name.

The suit, filed in Richmond federal court, comes after Strange Brew opposed Strangeways owner Neil Burton’s attempt to register a trademark for “Strangeways Brewing” as he worked to launch the business this year.

Burton Brewing fired back in the suit filed July 30, asking that “Strangeways Brewing” be registered without further objection from Massachusetts-based Strange Brew. The suit requests that the “Strange Brew” trademark be canceled, alleging the company never used the name in connection to beer.

“Defendants have never had the required licenses to make and/or sell finished beer to the public, other than two one-day licenses to sell alcohol resulting in sporadic, casual or transitory alcohol sales,” the Burton Brewing lawsuit says.

The dispute brings a bitter taste to a normally congenial but burgeoning industry. Brewers in the craft beer scene typically welcome competition in the market and have characterized the movement as a sort of brotherhood.

The suit shows that as home brewers give way to entrepreneurs pouring in big money, the business end can get in the way of camaraderie and goodwill.

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