Anchor Brewing flexes its trademark muscle, Drop Anchor Brewery changes its name

Drop Anchor Brewery, located in the small town of Cathlamet, Washington, along the banks of the Columbia River, just announced that it is changing its name. This move is a response to trademark infringement concerns raised by Anchor Brewing of San Francisco, which contacted Drop Anchor about the use of the word anchor in the brewery’s name.

The brewery formerly known Drop Anchor is now River Mile 38 Brewing Company.

“I guess it is a compliment that we have gotten their attention.  We are a small, micro-brewery in a very small town that takes a lot of pride in quality and consistency and I think that is why we are growing so fast,” said Richard Erickson, Managing Partner at River Mile 38 Brewing.

Anchor Brewing, which is best know for producing Anchor Steam, asserts that its trademark rights to term anchor extend to the word’s use in a brewery name. A quick search of the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) reveals that Anchor Brewing owns several trademarks involving the word anchor, including Anchor Steam Beer, Anchor Bock, Anchor Summer Beer, and so on.

Don’t shoot the messenger.

One must wonder why a company the size of Anchor Brewing cares about a relatively small brewery in Washington. But, as we’ve heard a lot of smart legal-types tell us in these discussions, companies holding trademarks must either defend them or lose them. And, of course, companies the size of Anchor Brewing have legal firms on retainer with lawyers who need to justify their existence.

Although he may be surprised that Anchor Brewing cares, Richard Erickson explains that Drop Anchor Brewing was not without its success, noting that Anchor Brewing Company became aware of Drop Anchor Brewery after the company’s beer started to turn up in over 60 locations in Washington.

“Our top three beers, Broken Hose Amber Ale, Fog lifter Scottish Ale, and Hard Over Hefeweizen have been very consistent in sales. Once a business puts them on tap they normally keep them on tap or add them to their rotation of micro beers. And our Provocative Porter is steadily gaining ground too.”

“Anchor Steam felt their customers could get confused when Drop Anchor bottles or cans our beer and the two brands are on the shelf next to each other. They are forcing us to change our name,”

The brewery formerly known as Drop Anchor has created quite a splash in the Southwest Washington area with an identity for great beer and community involvement in Wahkiakum County, population 4,000.

The search for the new name took several months and the help of a trademark attorney. Erickson said, “Brewery and beer names are very competitive and it’s quite a chore to find one that is not trademarked but we believe we’ve found a winner.”

“We’re proud to announce we have chosen River Mile 38 Brewing Company. This name ties us back to the Columbia River and the Cathlamet Marina where we are located. If you travel the river by boat you would find our brewery in the Marina, 38 miles upstream from the mouth of the Columbia River.”

On May 16th Drop Anchor Brewery held their one year anniversary party at the brewery and announced their new name to all their supporters, Founders, and the beer world. “We are very excited about our future,” said Andy Lea, Brewer and Production Manager. “We are doing what we love – making good beer to share with family, friends, and customers. We are now sharing it with beer drinkers throughout Southwest Washington and as far North as Olympia.”

Brewer, Steve Sharp, said, “No matter how big we get we will only use the best ingredients and take the time to brew a quality and consistent beer.”

“This is a small bump in the road that actually many new breweries have to deal with now. It is becoming more of an issue as the number of breweries grow. For us, nothing has changed, just the name on the building”, said Jeff Seawell, Sales & Marketing Manager.

“The future is bright for our brewery; not every new business gets so much attention. This re-branding has become part of our journey and with help and support from our community, Founders, and loyal customers, our young brewery and our community will grow and prosper. Come visit River Mile 38, stay for a beer, and enjoy this beautiful part of Washington on the Columbia,” Erickson said.

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  1. “contacted Drop Anchor about the use of the word anchor in the brewery’s name”

    Now they are gonna get sued by River North in Denver for having “River” in their name. :-\

    It’s getting silly. Is it ok to have the word “Brewing” in the name of my brewery?

  2. I wonder how many beer names have the word “anchor” in them? Lots of upcoming work for those attorneys, I’d guess!

  3. I wonder how much research the author of this article really did… People assume that Anchor is a large company because it is an old company, but in fact it is not that large (it definitely does not have “law firms on retainer that need to justify their worth”) and is absolutely threatened by any company using Anchor in their brewery name and/or beer name. Additionally, try to think about the fact that just because Drop Anchor or River Mile 38 is small now, doesn’t mean it will be small forever. We all have to start somewhere.

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