Over the weekend, Greg Koch, the co-founder of Stone Brewing Company, sent out several boisterous tweets about a potential fight involving his company and, on Monday, the specifics of those details became apparent. Koch, 53, released a video announcing that Stone Brewing Co. has filed a lawsuit against MillerCoors, one of the world’s largest beer conglomerates and the makers of Keystone Light beer, for falsely associating itself with the brewery.
The video, which as of Monday evening had garnered close to 5,000 views, features multiple camera angles of Koch explaining, in great length, why he believes Keystone Light is attempting to rebrand. The new packaging for Keystone Light does bare a slight resemblance to the California-based company but, as you can see in the video, Keystone often pushes just the term “stone” on its various packaging.
“Today, I am announcing that the Stone Brewing Company is filing a lawsuit against one of the largest brewing companies in the world,” Koch declares in the open of the video. “So, this heritage we’ve spent so many years to build is being threatened. It’s being threatened right out in the open. We believe MillerCoors is intentionally and deliberately trying to create confusion in the marketplace with the Keystone brand. And that is why we are suing them. You can see it in their cans, you can see it in their packaging, you can see it in their marketing – they are being surprisingly bold with this.”
Stone Brewing is one of the older, more well-established, craft breweries in the United States – and one of the few that hasn’t been bought out by the larger conglomerate breweries. It was established in 1996 and currently produces upwards of 325,000 barrels annually, while employing close to 1,100 workers. Stone is known for several beers, the most popular of which is probably “Arrogant Bastard Ale”, though the “Enjoy By” India Pale Ale series has really been perhaps the brewery’s best work as of late.
Koch – and the folks at Stone – believe that MillerCoors’ rebrand is no accident but, rather, a way to be deceptive towards the consumer. And it’s the removal of three little letters that’s the root of the problem.
“Keystone’s rebranding is no accident,” he added in a release. “MillerCoors tried to register our name years ago and was rejected. Now its marketing team is making 30-pack boxes stacked high with nothing but the word ‘Stone’ visible. Same for Keystone’s social media, which almost uniformly has dropped the ‘Key.’”
So, do Koch and Stone Brewing have legs to stand on here? Well, they have trademarked the name, which includes the word “Stone” and it does appear as though MillerCoors might be infringing on that for its own benefit but, let’s not forget, it does have the word “Key” in smaller letters where his hand is holding the can. But many view the video as a marketing ploy, despite Koch debunking that notion amidst the almost five-minute run time. Keystone Light isn’t trying to mimic Stone Brewing’s taste or brand specificity but just its recognition. We’re not entirely sure that this will hold up in a court of law but, then again, we’re not lawyers, so we will just sit back and wait to see what happens in this David versus Goliath showdown. One thing is for sure, Koch is holding his ground and determined to fight for the brand he so proudly built.
“In the world of beer, the name ‘Stone’ is ours,” Koch claims towards the end of the video. “So, our message to you, MillerCoors, is very simple: you can end all of this right here and now by one simple move that reinforces your brand that you’ve built. Put the ‘Key’ back in Keystone. That’s it. Stop using ‘Stone’ as a standalone word because when it comes as a standalone word, in the world of beer, it’s ours!”