Red Leg, All Service

American Civil War soldiers who served in the Field Artillery were easily identified by the bright red stripes down the legs of their uniform pants. The United States Army has used color to distinguish its various branches (e.g., cavalry, medical, police) since the 1850s, and continues the tradition today, particularly in its dress uniforms.

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The Red Leg Brewing Company in Colorado Springs, CO pays homage to those “Redleg” veterans, and many others, through its production of high quality craft beer and its community service. Todd Baldwin, a former artillery officer himself and Iraq veteran, opened the brewery on July 4, 2013, with beers named in honor of traditions and customs of military service, including the Cutter Wit (referencing the small, speedy Navy boats), Devil Dog Stout (a nod to a nickname for a Marine), and SGT Pils (referencing rank in the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Army). Red Leg’s Brew Dog, Troop, likes to relax among the bright red bar stools in the taproom.

Sitting on my parents’ porch with a view of Pikes Peak, I had the opportunity to try the Howitzer Amber, which is sold in cans. The Howitzer, named for the piece of military artillery known for its short canon and high projectile trajectory, was full-bodied with a lusciously smooth mouthfeel. A sweet malt flavor dominated the taste, and the brew finished with notes of caramel and light hop earthiness.

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In addition to brewing beer, the Red Leg Brewing Company is committed to supporting the large military community in Colorado Springs. A portion of sales from its seasonal beers benefit area Family Readiness Groups, which provide assistance to families of soldiers who are deployed. Additionally, Baldwin, a strong believer in the value of skills learned from military service, formed “Rising Veteran Professionals” as a veteran entrepreneurial arm of the professional mentor groups Aspen Pointe and Rising Professionals. He hopes to help veterans grow their small business into successful ventures that will enrich the community and encourage young veterans like himself to create roots in Colorado Springs.

The Red Leg Brewing Company provides a compelling reminder of the service and commitment of our military members. Even retired, our military men and women continue to seek out ways to serve. Today is a good day to honor their pursuits, and as you raise that beer, consider how you may reciprocate in your community.

Water water everywhere and not a hopped drop to drink

A country that boasts the purest water in the world should apply that resource to the highest ends. Instead, Iceland has long maintained that its water produces the best coca-cola in the world – indeed Icelanders consume the most per capita – while outlawing beer for 73 years.

Frederik V restaurant tasting dinner

The world’s oldest extant parliament is not to blame for this blunder: in its very first referendum ever, the Icelandic population voted in favor of prohibiting all alcohol in 1908. The law became effective in 1915, but remained in full operation only until 1921, when the Spaniards refused to buy Icelandic fish – the main export – until Icelanders agreed to import Spanish wines. In 1933 another referendum legalized spirits, but teetotalers were able to maintain the prohibition on beer (with alcohol content greater than 2.25%), with the argument that beer would lead to depravity because it was so much cheaper than spirits. The success of the teetotaler argument is particularly surprising given that Iceland’s national spirit, Brennevin, is 40% alcohol and goes by the name “black death.”

There were attempts to counter the temperance movement, resulting in a brewing exception for American and British soldiers stationed in Iceland during WWII. Additionally, a businessman brought a lawsuit to demand the rights enjoyed by airline crews who could bring in a certain allowances of duty-free beer. While his suit was unsuccessful, the publicity resulted in a new rule that allowed Icelanders traveling abroad to bring in 12.2 pints of foreign beer.

The Alþingi itself voted to legalize beer in 1989 with a 13-8 vote in a full turnout of the upper house. In the end, the (currently un-)mighty Kroner carried the day, as Prime Minister Steingrimur Hermansson argued that beer sales taxes could help reduce Iceland’s budget deficit.

It took time, but the craft beer movement has taken hold of Iceland, and its pure water. On a recent trip to Reykjavik and the south coast of Iceland, I allowed that movement to take hold of me.  Not at all a teetotaler, and not at all depraved, I managed to sample several styles from Icelandic brewers:

Frederik V restaurant tasting dinner (paired with beer)

Stinnings Kaldi is produced by Bruggsmiðjan, a couple-run brewery in Árskogssandur.  Agnes Anna and Olafur Trostur brew the beer with a Czech recipe, but they incorporate Icelandic ingredients including Angelica mountain herbs.  The herbs create a woody and herbal flavor, which is rounded out by biscuit malt notes and a dry sour finish.  Kaldi, which means cold or cool in Icelandic, would be a nice warm weather option with its light body and medium carbonation.

Frederik V restaurant tasting dinner

Freyja – named after the Norse goddess of fertility – is a Belgian-style wheat beer from Ölvisholt Brugghús in Selfoss.   It pours a hazy golden color with notes of citrus and coriander spice.  I can imagine it as a quenching summer beer.

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Ölvisholt Brugghús also produces Mori Red Ale and Lava, a smoked imperial stout.   Mori smells primarily of sweet malts, and its taste follows accordingly, with notes of caramel, citrus and pine.  The tongue feels a decent dose of carbonation, and a bitter finish.  Some bitterness is appropriate for a beer that the brewery describes as a tribute to a boy who sought refuge from the cold after escaping a volcanic eruption, only to be refused shelter by a local farmer and left with no choice but to freeze to death and forever haunt the farmer and his descendants.

Lava, the darker beer without the dark story, pours an opaque black and is all smoothness, sweet chocolate, roasted malts, and smokey coffee flavors, rounded out with alcohol esters (at 9.4% ABV).

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Vatnajökull Frozen In Time beer, yet another Ölvisholt Brugghús brew, offers a tourist attraction in itself, incorporating water from the floating icebergs of the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and local thyme spice.  The beer is sweet with flavors of dried fruit, caramel, honey, and a heavy dose of thyme that makes the flavor unique.

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Einstock Brewery, located in Akureyri, functions as the experimental arm of Iceland’s Viking Brewery.  It brews its Icelandic White Ale as a classic Belgian witbier, with orange peel and coriander, producing a light, carbonated, very drinkable beer.

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Þvörusleikir Nr. 28 is a holiday amber ale brewed in Reykjavik by Borg Brugghús, the experimental arm of Egill Skallagrímsson Brewery.  Its holiday spice seemed to focus on pepper and cinnamon, accompanied by malty toast, earthy hops, and peach flavors.

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Viking Brewery markets its Black Death as an English Stout.  The brew appears very dark in color, but feels lighter in the mouth than you’d expect.  However, the flavor is rich and sweet, with tastes of smoked malt and roasted coffee.

Frederik V restaurant tasting dinner

Þorrabjór 2015 from the Gæðingur Öl Brugghús, a delicious English Brown Ale, was probably my favorite beer of the trip.  It pours closer to the thickness and color of a porter, and the mouthfeel is quite smooth.  The brew tastes of caramel, roasted malts, and coffee, starting out sweet and finishing with a very slight bitter note.

For better or for worse, the ready availability of craft beer at many establishments allowed me to sample a satisfying variety of brews.  I was impressed by the diversity of styles and the efforts by Icelandic brewers to incorporate local ingredients into their recipes.  For all their talk about pure water, it’s about time Icelanders realized that the real “depravity” of beer was in its 73 year absence.

 

Trademark dispute reaches bovine proportions

More sharks have been spotted swimming in the beer trademark waters these past few weeks, and the most recent sighting comes in the form of a (red) bull shark.

Startup brewery Old Ox in Ashburn, Virginia filed a trademark application at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), for its name OLD OX BREWERY, and its logo, – a large white “O” with an overlapping, smaller light blue “X” – for “beer, ale, lager, stout, porter, [and] shandy.”

In response, energy drink producer and extreme sports sponsor Red Bull filed an opposition proceeding against Old Ox’s application. Old Ox faces different challenges in an opposition proceeding at the USPTO compared to the more familiar courtroom litigation.  A courtroom litigation addresses whether use of a mark infringes an existing mark, and a finding of infringement may result in money damages and an order to stop using the mark.  In contrast, an opposition seeks to block federal registration of a trademark. Accordingly, if Old Ox loses the opposition, it simply can’t own a federally registered trademark, but that does not necessarily block the mark’s use by Old Ox. Using the mark, however, would come at the risk of being sued in court by Red Bull. Arguably, the USPTO proceeding is a smaller undertaking than a full-scale litigation, but the David/Goliath imagery still holds.

Red Bull’s opposition states that the OLD OX mark is so similar to RED BULL marks that they are likely “to cause confusion, mistake or deception among purchasers, users and the public, thereby damaging Red Bull.” In support of that statement, Red Bull offers: “An ‘ox’ and a ‘bull’ both fall within the same class of ‘bovine’ animals and are virtually indistinguishable to most consumers. In addition, an ox is a castrated bull.” A publicly-posted letter by Old Ox’s president Chris Burns reveals that Red Bull has demanded (likely in “settlement” discussions) that Old Ox never use the colors red, silver or blue and never use bovine terms or images.

I don’t know about you, fellow consumers of bovine-associated products, but I had no idea that an ox is a castrated bull. Of course, when I did my homework, I discovered that Red Bull is not telling the entire truth. It turns out that an ox can also be an uncastrated bull, or a female bovine – what seems to be most relevant to ox-ness is its status as a beast of burden.

For purposes of the opposition, the USPTO will evaluate the likelihood that consumers will confuse the OLD OX mark with the RED BULL marks. The most relevant factors of the analysis here will likely be the similarity of the marks in their entireties as to appearance, sound, connotation and commercial impression, and the relatedness of the goods attached to the marks. A quick and dirty analysis reveals that OLD OX looks and sounds nothing like RED BULL. Though both are associated with beverages, Old Ox produces alcoholic beverages, beer in particular, while Red Bull produces non-alcoholic energy and soft drinks. These Old Ox registrations do not contain any bovine images or claims to a particular color, but I’d hazard a guess that beverage consumers faced with the idea of an ox, particularly an old one, won’t associate it with the red fighting bulls featured in Red Bull logos, even if those consumers do happen to be bovine classification experts.

(See if you are confused by comparing images from Old Ox and Red Bull Facebook pages!  Would you think that an Old Ox beer is associated with Red Bull, or that a Red Bull energy drink is associated with Old Ox Brewery?)

Most often oppositions are voluntarily terminated because the parties reach a settlement agreement before the opposition runs its course. Here, it appears that the parties are in discussion, but “Red Bully” hasn’t budged on its terms. I imagined that Red Bull’s USPTO filing would suffer the same fate as Lagunitas’ recent ill-fated court complaint, namely voluntary withdrawal following public outrage across social media on the internet, but that has not yet come to pass. Let’s hope the USPTO is more reasonable, and less confused, than Red Bull.

Hops: protector of neurons

Hops have long been used in Chinese medicine to prevent and treat various ailments, from tuberculosis to heart disease to cancer. Recently, data from scientists at Lanzhou University support a role for hops in protecting the brain from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The Lanzhou scientists – Juan Yao, Baoxin Zhang, Chunpo Ge, Shoujiao Peng, and Jianguo Feng – identified oxidative stress as a primary cause of neurodegeneration, because neurons are particularly vulnerable to “free radicals” – atoms (or groups of atoms) that have an odd number electrons and are formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. Free radicals create the most damage when they form chain reactions and react with cellular DNA or cell membranes, often killing the cell. Cell death has more impact in the brain since neurons have limited replenishment over the human lifetime compared to other cell types. However, this process occurs throughout the body and is the reason why “antioxidants” – molecules that block activity of free radicals – are so trendy.

Yao et al. hypothesized that Xanthohumol (“Xn”), a compound in hops that has already been studied for various pharmacological properties, may protect neurons from oxidative damage. They isolated Xn and tested its effects against oxidative-stress-induced neural cell damage in a particular line of rat cells (PC12). The data showed not only that Xn may itself attack free radicals, but also that it activates a transcription factor (a protein that helps make DNA from RNA, thus regulating gene expression, contributing to cellular processes such as development and communication) called Nrf2 in the rat cells. Nrf2 in turn increases activity of cytoprotective genes, and correspondingly, availability of their antioxidant gene products, including glutathione, heme oxygenase, NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase, thioredoxin, and thioredoxin reductase. This activity by Xn provided a protective benefit for the cells against free radicals and their negative oxidative effects.

The scientists state that the data show the first demonstration of this mechanism underlying the neuroprotective action of Xn. While it’s not clear that the hops in a pint of beer a day will supply sufficient Xn to protect your neurons, the study suggests that Xn is a good pharmacological candidate for prevention of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Yao J, Zhang B, Ge C, Peng S, Fang J. Xanthohumol, a Polyphenol Chalcone Present in Hops, Activating Nrf2 Enzymes To Confer Protection against Oxidative Damage in PC12 Cells. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. 2015.