In the aftermath of the Kincade Fire that tore through 78,000 acres of Sonoma County last month, California’s Russian River Brewing announced the return of its “Sonoma Pride” beer to raise funds for first responders. Sonoma Pride originally launched as a relief effort for the 2017 Tubbs Fire and raised more than $1 million. The new Sonoma Pride will be an IPL (India Pale Lager), whereas the original was a blonde ale.

Russian River, based in Windsor, Calif., is one of many businesses forced to evacuate late last month as the wildfires ravaged the Sonoma area. Others included Bear Republic in Healdsburg, Moonlight Brewing in Santa Rosa, Plow Brewing in Santa Rosa, Crooked Goat Brewing in Sebastopol, and Woodfour Brewing Co. in Sebastopol.

Petaluma’s Lagunitas Brewing also recently announced Kincade Fire relief plans. The two-part initiative will include Beer for a Cause, a program at the Petaluma TapRoom that will donate proceeds from a rotating selection of beers to the Red Cross and Humane Society of Sonoma County. Lagunitas will also host a fundraiser for those affected by the Kincade Fire on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, and has posted information and resources for volunteering and donations on its website.

In response to the California Camp Fire in 2018, Sierra Nevada’s Resilience IPA campaign and Butte Strong Fund raised about $9 million as of September 2019. Despite the somber circumstances, these efforts are positive reinforcements that, even as the beer industry grows and becomes increasingly competitive, brewers prioritize community. Valuing one’s neighbors and helping those in need are more important than production numbers or ownership.

Judge ‘Largely Siding’ With Stone’s Claims Against MillerCoors

In the latest update in the Stone vs. MillerCoors trademark infringement lawsuit, Stone Brewing has been granted a partial payout after a federal magistrate judge agreed that MillerCoors withheld Keystone marketing materials during the lawsuit’s “discovery phase.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda Lopez recommended Stone receive a partial payout of its legal fees, to the tune of nearly $420,500, and that it be permitted to update its expert reports with the withheld evidence.

“We find it very disturbing that MillerCoors withheld critical documents that undermine its primary defense in this case, and our legal team will be addressing this matter further,” Dominic Engels, Stone CEO, said in a statement. “We’re pleased that the court recognized that MillerCoors violated the discovery rules by withholding unfavorable documents and sanctioned MillerCoors for doing so. We look forward to updating our expert reports with this new discovery material and proving its claims at trial.”

The lawsuit, originally filed in February 2018, claims that Keystone Light packaging, advertising, and marketing materials prominently feature “Stone,” thereby co-opting the independent brand and confusing consumers.

Personally, I’d find it difficult to mix up a Keystone Light with a Stone IPA or Farking Wheaton w00tstout. But the law’s the law, and I’m glad Stone is getting (monetary) credit where it’s due. Trademark infringement is rampant in the beer industry, and it’s important to fill in these gray areas — in this case, with cold, hard cash.

America’s Biggest Beer Distributor Keeps Getting Bigger

Last Friday, Premium Distributors of Virginia, a subsidiary of Reyes Beverage Group, announced it acquired distribution rights of Dixie Beverage Company of Winchester, Va. This means Premium will add brands including Yuengling, Brooklyn Brewery, Abita, Sierra Nevada, Anchor, Heineken, Stella Artois, Foster’s, Guinness, Tecate, Sol, Pabst, and Rolling Rock to its portfolio, Brewbound reports.

Reyes, which operates distributorships in Virginia, California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, South Carolina, and Washington, D.C., also acquired Richmond, Va.’s Loveland Distributing in December 2018, as well as three distributorships in California earlier this year. In total, the wholesale business delivers 200 million cases of beer to upwards of 85,000 retailers via its 400-supplier network annually.

These are enormous numbers. Reyes may be a family-run business, but it’s also the country’s largest beer distributor, and the ninth-largest privately owned firm in the U.S. In the three-tier system, the bigger the “middleman” gets, the harder it is for smaller brands to claim the shelf space they deserve. For those who value choice, that’s not something to celebrate.