Brewery in beer name blunder

BEER MAKER: Hallertau brewer Steve Plowman has registered Porter Noir as a trade mark.
BEER MAKER: Hallertau brewer Steve Plowman has registered Porter Noir as a trade mark.

DB Breweries has been left red-faced after learning it had unwittingly given one of its beers the same name as a drop made by a craft brewer.

The case is particularly embarrassing as the big corporate only last year saw the end of a three-year trademark battle to force a small Dunedin brewer to stop using the name ''radler'' on one of its products.

But last week DB discovered it had not done its homework. At the re-opening of its Monteiths Greymouth brewery it announced that it would be introducing 14 new craft beers each year - including a porter noir.

It apparently didn't know that Hallertau Brewbar and Restaurant in Riverhead, north west of Auckland, had been making a beer brand of the same name since 2006. The craft beer, brainchild of Hallertau beer maker and part-owner Steve Plowman, is a dark-styled beer which is aged in a pinot noir wine barrel to aid the brew's characteristics.

Plowman reacted the day after the Monteith's launch by registering Porter Noir as a trade mark.

"I sent an email to Monteiths at the end of last week just to give them a heads-up in case they didn't know they were using the name," he said.

DB called him immediately and set up a meeting for yesterday afternoon to discuss the matter, and were ''upbeat'', Plowman said.

DB would only say the use of the name was an oversight but it is understood that it will apologise and ask that the limited production of its porter noir be allowed to run out.

In the radler row DB had argued that the word - which is German for cyclist - was a name and not a beer style, and the Intellectual Property Office agreed. DB trademarked it in 2003. The stoush resulted in a barrage of publicity before Green Man Brewery dropped its use of the name.

Green Man was permitted to let its radler beer stocks run out.

Plowman said he was told by friend and Epic Beer brewer Luke Nicholas to trademark his labels earlier this year because of the sheer growth of products emerging within the craft beer market.

"It's my own stupid fault... He was at the Craft Brewer's conference in California in April," Plowman said.

"The big buzz there was that everyone was talking about trademarking - if you come up with a name, and you like it, trademark it before you release the beer."

Plowman said he was going to trade mark his six other beer labels this week.

Hallertau was opened by Plowman and his wife Hayley seven years ago. It employs 37 staff, supplies around 50 Auckland bars, bottle shops and pubs and turns over $3 million a year.

DB is owned by Asia Pacific Breweries which is listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange. APB's total group revenue for the year to September 30 last year was S$2.97 ($2.94) billion.