Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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For whom the bell tolls: Bellwoods Brewery v. Cowbell Brewing

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the ambitious opening of Cowbell Brewing in Blyth. For the most part, news of the 26,000 square foot destination brewery was met with enthusiasm and the responses to the brewery’s opening were almost entirely positive.

But, it would seem, not everyone is so enthusiastic about the coming proliferation of a “beer that rings true.”

Cowbell Brewing, I have learned, has actually been in a quiet legal battle with Toronto’s Bellwoods Brewery over Cowbell’s entitlement to register a bell-themed trademark in Canada.

Through the Government of Canada’s publicly available trademarks database, I have learned that Bellwoods Brewery indeed has a registered trademark for its bell design for use in association with beer, operation of a brewery, and a handful of merchandise items. This trademark application was filed  on January 2, 2013 and officially registered on May 27, 2014.

Cowbell Brewery filed an application for their logo on November 19, 2015 and the application includes similar stipulations (though notably includes the addition of “noisemakers, golf towels, golf balls, [and] golf umbrellas,” which those dummies at Bellwoods didn’t think of branding).

A little digging reveals that Bellwoods has formally opposed issuance of a trademark registration to Cowbell for this logo. The opposition is ongoing. Continue reading


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In Spirit: J.R.’s Dry Organic Canadian Gin by the Toronto Distillery Company

In Spirit is the new bi-weekly contribution I’ll be making to Post City’s website. The name of the column was chosen from a short list of other horrendous “spirit” based puns and the idea is that, every other week, I’ll open a bottle of something and write about it. For this, my first entry, I wanted to write about a local Toronto distillery. If you’ve got ideas for overlooked, undervalued, rare, or just plain tasty booze worthy of look for my future posts, please send me an email with your suggestions! And watch out for my future editions. Cheers.  

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The term “gin” is really something of a catch-all.

A scan of the entry for gin in any thorough bartender’s guide will show you that there’s a lot more to the clear spirit than you might have first assumed.

There are four different legal definitions of gin in the European Union alone and a handful of ways you might make a product that can be called gin, including pot-distilled gin, or column-distilled gin, or the lesser “compound gin.” Really, the only thing all gins have in common is that they use juniper berries and some other combination of botanicals to flavour what begins as a neutral spirit. The botanicals a distiller uses are essentially what makes any gin taste different than any other and ingredients as diverse as grapefruit rind, cinnamon, dragon eye (yes, that’s a thing), orris root, and saffron might be used to flavour the stuff. Even the way these botanicals are added varies greatly from one gin to the next. Bombay Sapphire, for example, is distilled using a “gin basket” whereby a selection of botanicals are placed in a basket in the path of distilled alcohol vapour, and in so doing, the vapour takes on the flavours of the botanicals. Beefeater gin uses botanicals that are steeped in the base spirit for a day, like tea, and then filtered and redistilled.

Most people, sucking down G&Ts at the cottage or unwinding with an ice cold post-work martini, probably don’t appreciate the complexity and variety of what’s in their glass.

But then Jess Razaqpur isn’t like most people.

Having co-founded the Toronto Distillery Co. in the Junction with his high school friend Charles Benoit, Razaqpur is a self-confessed “gin guy.” And so while the company business has thus far been largely devoted to the production and marketing of their unaged organic whisky, it’s clear Razaqpur is excited for the launch of “J.R.’s Dry Organic Canadian Gin.”

And yes, that really is him on the label.

Read the rest of this post over on Post City…


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How Canadian is Your Canadian Whisky?

It turns out that the bottle of “Canadian Whisky” you’ve got on the shelf of your bar isn’t really all that Canadian after all.

This weekend I visited Still Waters Distillery in Concord, Ontario, in order to do a little profile of their business for blogTO. In addition to learning a thing or two about how vodka and whisky are made (not to mention trying a few samples), I also learned a little bit about the whisky business here in Canada.

Perhaps not so surprisingly, it’s a bit of a tough go.

Still Waters, it turns out, is virtually the only micro-distillery operating in Ontario; and really, there are only a handful of micro or craft distillers in the whole country. Much like the handful of Ontario craft brewers I’ve come to know in my time writing about beer, Barry Bernstein and Barry Stein, the co-founders of Still Waters, face an uphill battle when it comes to trying to get their products out to the people who drink them. Indeed, given that the craft beer community is so collaborative and supportive, Still Waters arguably faces an even tougher battle given that they’re essentially the only little guys out there right now, so they’re trying to do it on their own. Continue reading