Ratsherrn does the Unthinkable and Tries to Trademark "Craft Beer" in Germany

There were recently many rumblings around the internet as the dastardly attempts of Ratsherrn Brewery attempting to trademark "craft beer" surfaced. When I first saw Ratsherrn appear on store shelves around Hamburg last year I was excited that the city appeared to have a craft brewery starting up and attempting to invigorate some beer culture into a very dry scene. After sampling most of the line I initially thought that even though their beer ranged from okay to terrible at least they were trying. As I did more research about the brewery and found out that they are owned by Nordmann Group I became disgusted and appalled that one of the largest beverage distributors in Germany was behind this coup.

One of the worst culture shocks for me, upon arriving in Germany from the US, was that I found most people to not be passionate about beer and especially beer diversity. If you ask most Americans they will tell you that some of the best beer in the world is brewed in Germany. Sure most of the stuff on the shelf here is highly drinkable despite being incredibly boring and predictable but, it beats the hell out of BMC. Also there is absolutely amazing beer to be found if you happen to find yourself in an area like Franconia but that beer isn't easy to find outside of that region. This adds up to an overall unimpressive beer landscape, and while it is emerging the craft beer scene in Germany is a decade behind what is available in the US, and is also lagging behind many other European countries. This is one of the main reasons that I find the underhanded and misleading attempts by Ratsherrn and Nordmann to be so despicable.

To trademark a term like "craft beer" and co opt it to one brand, and a lackluster brand at that, would set a certain substandard ideal for the creativity and imagination that innovative brewing demands. If great craft brew was available across the country then maybe this would be less of an offense, but to attempt to market the very soul of a movement just to look cool and make money goes against the very principle of how I envision craft beer. Curious but uninquisitive beer drinkers might then try Ratsherrn and think this is the embodiment of craft beer and then rightfully return to the classic and dependable German beers on the shelf (not that people should stop drinking these, but I love variety).  Where would this leave the many amazing craft brewers springing up around Germany whose beer is already difficult to find?

Ultimately the Nordmann Group and Ratsherrn are just being greedy. Their slogan of "Just Craft. Real Taste" trickles hollow over the tongues of beer drinkers. I feel to them craft beer is nothing more than a trendy marketing term and that they hope to cash in on a market segment which has exploded in the US. This is one reason that makes the recent discussion about defining craft beer in Europe started by BrewDog so important. Without a firm understanding of a fluid concept there is a waterfall of deceit for soulless corporations to send us over. The calculated efforts of the Nordmann Group emblazoning craft beer across the Ratsherrn logo, The Craft Beer Store, and Craft Beer Days is no mistake. They are attempting to show that they are craft beer and all others are pretenders (unless of course they would like to pay for the honor to use the term).

At this point you might say to yourself, "Average Guy what do I care if some corporation wants to market its product? Why do you care?". The reason I care is that being the Average Guy means that despite not being able to wave money around to get what I want, I can vote with my dollar (well I guess Euro in this case). I would much rather support local businesses who care about their customers, their community, and their cities instead of lining the pockets of some rich jackass (I'm staring at you Nordmann Group). If we the average people and beer drinkers funnel money down their beer bongs we might as well just start tithing to BMC and forget about craft beer. One of the main aspects of craft beer's success has been the outreach to local communities stomachs. When a small area is given access to an amazing and local product, they will consume it and continue to patronize the business resulting in the item staying close, but allowing word to spread thus causing the at times mythical status that certain breweries enjoy. When we chose not to care and accept a substandard product we in turn lower the standard to our detriment and Nordmann Group's gain.

Luckily the attempt to trademark "craft beer" was not successful, and I only have to imagine the consequences if this insult would have came to fruition (or maybe fermentation?). Hopefully this can serve to highlight the progress of true craft brewers in Germany while reminding us all how important being an informed consumer is. We can blindly flail our glasses under any pouring tap, or we can chose and chose wisely where we send our money and what standard we expect from those we willingly give it to. We all have personal preference on brewer and style, but we must always make the distinction between brewer and manufacturer,craft beer and swill. Ultimately craft beer is more than a marketing term for Nordmann and Ratsherrn to throw around and water down, it is an ideal and a movement alive with passion and creativity that needs to be embodied and imbibed and no false words on a label will ever be able to do that.

For further reading on the subject check out this excellent blog post (in German) by Felix.
Taken from http://www.lieblingsbier.de/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/RatsherrnCraftBeerMarke.jpg
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About Colin Smith

Hi, I'm Colin, I love a good hoppy IPA, but I can find immense enjoyment in a solid session beer, imperial stout, quadrupel or a nostalgic beer from my past.

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