Steamworks is actually doing some great PR work. I was contacted by their PR firm in mid December. They wanted to send me a bottle of their new winter seasonal Blitzen. Sure enough, the next day a guy dressed as a reindeer showed up at my work to deliver a bottle. Well played Steamworks, my coworkers were certainly amused by the reindeer guy and a bottle to sample is always appreciated.
Blitzen itself is brewed in the style of a Belgian tripel, with candi sugar added during fermentation to add sweetness and get the ABV up over 9%. It’s a pretty good beer, thought not as good when compared to the better tripels actually coming from Belgium. Problem is, it doesn’t matter how good the beer is or how solid a PR move sending a guy around dressed as a reindeer is. It all falls flat because of, you know, that whole Cascadia-gate thing.
It’s a known fact that Steamworks owner Eli Gershkovitch trademarked Cascadia and sent cease and desist letters to BC craft breweries using the term to describe their beer. BC beer geeks consider “cascadian” an adjective to describe a beer given a heavy dose of west coast hops, not a brand to be trademarked. If you’ve been following the saga, you’ll know that Eli has since agreed to license the term to breweries for $1. The perception is, true or not, that Eli is a bully out to push around the little guys in the BC craft brewing industry. Most beer geeks I know are now at one of two ends of the scale, either fervently boycotting Steamworks or ambivalent, neither are likely how Steamworks wants us to feel.
Naturally I asked their PR rep what she thought of the whole Cascaida thing, here’s how the conversation went:
Me: “Just wondering if you were paying attention to the Cascadia furor regarding Steamworks that was going on a few weeks ago? What do you guys think about all this from a PR point of view? The whole cascadia trademark thing makes it hard for beer geeks like me to love Steamworks. Best thing you guys could do PR-wise is give up the trademark and hold some sort of cascadian event with local small brewers.”
Steamworks PR: “I appreciate your position on Cascadia. As you can imagine, I have insight into Steamworks’ side of things and know how supportive they are of independent craft breweries. They’ve listened to the feedback the consumers had to offer and I think the option put forward by Eli will prove positive for the whole craft community going forward.”
Me: “Thanks for getting back to me on this contentious issue. I don’t actually believe that Steamworks is supportive of independent craft breweries, otherwise Eli probably wouldn’t have sent them cease and desist notifications in the first place. Also, does Steamworks have any plans to win back the craft beer community? Most of the fervent beer geeks I know have sworn never to drink a Steamworks beer again and they are telling anyone who will listen.”
Steamworks PR: “I’d be happy to connect you with Walter, President of Steamworks Brewing Company. He’s a veteran of craft beer here in Vancouver and someone who would be happy to chat further with you on Cascadia… over a BC craft beer of course ;) Please let me know if you’d like to speak to him directly and I will put you in contact with him.”
Me (summarized): Yes, here’s my contact information.
I’m now eagerly awaiting my talk with Walter. I’m really interested to know how this affair has affected Steamworks business and if Steamworks has any plans to get back in the good books of BC beer geeks. Maybe they don’t care? Maybe they don’t need beer geek support to run their business successfully? I’ll reserve judgement until I hear from them and I’ll publish what I learn here.