Craft brewery handed cease and desist over ‘Fort Calgary’ beer

The Fort Calgary ISA beer was intended to celebrate the city's history but has instead turned into a legal battle. Adam MacVicar reports.

The City of Calgary is trying to put a stop to a new beer that was brewed by two Calgary craft breweries.

The beer in question is called Fort Calgary ISA, a one-time collaboration brew between Elite Brewing and Bow River Brewing.

The brew was produced in January and released in February to be sold at the two breweries in cans and kegs.

“We got together to create a beer that we thought would be tasty, refreshing and representative of the area,” Bow River Brewing owner, Ian Binmore, said.

According to the brewers, the name was chosen following a Facebook contest to combine Elite Brewing’s military history theme and Bow River Brewing’s Calgary roots.

“Fort Calgary was founded where the Bow and the Elbow join, that’s the history of what Calgary is,” Binmore said.

“So to pick a landmark that is meaningful to Calgary for a Calgary-produced beer seemed like a great idea.”

Elite Brewing names each of its products after a military figure, place or event, and the brewery said it hasn’t had any problems until now.

The craft brewery also donates a portion of all revenue from its beers, including the Fort Calgary brew, to Veterans Affairs, the veterans food bank and Wounded Warriors.

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Binmore reached out to Fort Calgary to get permission to use the name and was told that the issue would need to be brought up at a Fort Calgary committee meeting, which would take months.

“I asked if there were any issues with that, other than getting a blessing that might take several months, and there didn’t seem to be any,” Binmore said.

According to the brewers, Fort Calgary sent an email, giving it permission to use the Fort Calgary name if it stopped advertising the new brew, and release a statement that the product isn’t affiliated with Fort Calgary.

“It came to a rest there and that seemed to be an agreement,” Binmore said.

The brewers continued to sell the product following discussions with Fort Calgary.

LISTEN: Elite Brewing’s Adriano Di Marino joins Rob Breakenridge to discuss the fight over the “Fort Calgary” name for a beer

Global News reached out to Fort Calgary for a comment, but did not receive a response.

It was business as usual until the City of Calgary stepped in with a cease-and-desist order, which was sent to the brewers at the beginning of March.

“The city demands you cease and desist all current use of (the trademark) in connection with any goods and services,” the letter read.

The city sent a second letter, dated May 13, to Elite Brewing, which said legal action would be pursued if the breweries didn’t comply with its cease and desist by May 27.

“It’s a bit disheartening actually,” Elite Brewing owner, Adriano Di Marino, said. “We didn’t expect that any entity, let alone the city, would pursue us for basically recognizing history.”

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But city officials disagree and believe the Fort Calgary ISA is a violation of a trademark.

“The City of Calgary is the owner of the official trademark “FORT CALGARY” with the exclusive rights to manage its reputation and the usage of its related branding and intellectual property rights,” officials at the City of Calgary law department, said in a statement.

“Elite Brewing Inc. does not have the city’s consent to use the Fort Calgary trademark in association with any goods or services and the city has directed Elite Brewing to cease and desist from its current unauthorized use of the city’s trademark.”

“Elite Brewing has not yet replied to the city’s letters and the city continues to await a response. Until the issue has been resolved among the parties, no further comment can be made.”

Elite and Bow River Brewing said the majority of the 100 cases of Fort Calgary ISA has been sold, and it would cost over $4,000 to re-label and re-brand the remaining stock.

The breweries are hoping to get in contact with city officials, and are hoping for a resolution to the issue.

“When you read the label, it says nice things about the landmark, it says nice things about the city,” Binmore said. “So why should this be destroyed?”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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