Picaroons announced today that after a lengthy legal battle they have ceased production of one of their craft beers. For eleven years their Dark & Stormy Night certified organic dark wheat beer has been a mainstay, not only in the Picaroons line-up, but in the east coast craft brewing cornucopia. Today that comes to an end as they bow out of a legal battle over the product’s name.
While eleven years might seem like a long time in craft brewing years, it’s but a drop in the bucket against the full history of the phrase. Baron Edward Bulwer-Lytton, professional novelist, poet, playwright, politician and Victorian cliché, coined the phrase in the opening line of his novel Paul Clifford in 1830 and has been rolling in it ever since.
Of course, Bulwer-Lytton is long dead, the phrase has become over-used and parodied, and he couldn’t give a damn. Instead, it’s Goslings Brothers Limited of Bermuda who have an issue with the use of the name. Their drink, Dark ‘n’ Stormy, which contains their Black Seal Rum and ginger beer, has been trademarked since as early as 1991, though it resorts to the use of apostrophes.
While English literature is welcome to retread that phrase, it’s a different story when it comes to commercially viable product. Goslings have become well known for threatening litigation against would-be trademark infringers, Picaroons being only the most recent. The companies have been embroiled in the dispute for nearly three years now. Though Picaroons have fought against it, the Fredericton-based brewing company have decided not to pursue it further and to bow out and cease production.
Picaroons owner Sean Dunbar says that while he felt there was a case to be made (although it was an expensive one), he knew that the day was eventually going to come when the multinational distiller was going to roll over on the regional brewery, albeit through the polite discourse of lawyers.
“It was a gentlemanly scrap, which is boring, for two or three years. […] I actually got it from Charles Schulz’s ‘Snoopy’, who I guess got it from Bulwer-Lytton, but a lot of people don’t know that, either.”
In the end, Picaroons agreed to cease production of the beer on a timeline that coincided with what remained of the product’s packaging.
Today they posted the following:
Dearest Beer Fans,
After producing our certified organic dark wheat beer, Dark & Stormy Night, for the past 11 years we are sorry to say the time has come to put it to rest. No, we’re not joking. A long time ago we received a cease and desist order from a big name in the spirits world saying that this beer infringed on one of their products. We certainly did not go out without a fight, though after months and months we’ve officially lost the battle and are now retiring our lightest dark beer. It will be missed – though the silver lining is that we have all kinds of other beers in our repertoire and this may just make some more room for something else down the road. For now, what’s left on the taps and shelves is all that remains of Dark & Stormy Night. Good bye old friend…
While supplies of Dark& Stormy Night will be dwindling across the Maritimes, Dunbar says this is unlikely to be the last dark wheat beer that Picaroons produces and they may choose to revisit it under another name sometime in the future.