The owners of SF brewery Seven Stills knew exactly what they were getting into when they decided to name their barrel-aged beer “In-N-Out Stout” after the famous California burger chain, completing their gag with a label that mimicked In-N-Out’s paper cups.
“I basically knew we would get one,” co-owner Tim Obert says of the “cease and desist” letter he received from In-N-Out’s legal team.
What he couldn’t have anticipated was the degree to which In-N-Out would play along with the brewery’s gambit, peppering their letter’s legalese with puns about the SF brewer and distiller.
“We hope you appreciate... that we are attempting to clearly distill our rights by crafting an amicable approach with you, rather than barrel through this,” In-N-Out’s letter reads.
With upstart breweries producing more one-time can releases and upping the ante on Instagram with their humor and imagery, these things happen. A lot. Think Temescal brewing’s “La Fizz,” a LaCroix inspired beer with a label to match. Or Cellarmaker and Alvarado Street’s dual effort on a “Big Lots” IPA that earned them a cease and desist from the retailer.
But as Seven Stills’ episode with In-N-Out illustrates, the frenzied consumer and media attention over a can that flirts with legal action might well outweigh the likelihood or severity of that action.
Acquiescing to In-N-Out’s request, Obert has relabeled the new stout ahead of its release. But with recent appearances on the nightly news over the dustup, the beer is likely to be the brewery’s biggest release yet. It’s still likely to taste like an In-N-Out Neapolitan milkshake, with strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate flavors. And at a release party, Seven Stills will even hand out some freebies: Burgers from In-N-Out, just to drive the point home.
What about the replacement label? Has Seven Stills learned its lesson?
Sort of. “Oh, it’s definitely going to get us another cease and desist,” Obert says.