'Brewhaha' erupts when Conn. firm claims '401'

'Brewhaha' erupts when Conn. firm claims '401'

Brewery 401 has a new name but the logo is still in the process of being converted to reflect the new "Crooked Current Brewery" name. A new logo will pay tribute to Rhode Island's corrupt history.
New name for Pawtucket brewery has state corruption at its core

PAWTUCKET - A brewery from neighboring Connecticut has staked claim to Rhode Island's recognizable 401 area code, a move that has forced Pawtucket's newest brewery to change its name.

Owners of Stony Creek Brewery in Branford, Conn., notified the owners of the newly opened Brewery 401 on Mineral Spring Avenue in early June that they had trademarked the digits 401 for their line of beer called the (401) IPA India Pale Ale that they market to Rhode Islanders.

Brewery 401 owners Jason Lourenco and Nicole Pelletier were then forced to change their name, settling on one they had originally considered but thought might be too "risque," according to Lourenco.

The new name, "Crooked Current Brewery," refers to "Rhode Island's history of corruption," Lourenco told The Breeze.

Tempers flared online after it was revealed that Brewery 401, at 560 Mineral Spring Ave. in Pawtucket, would need a new name, with several commenters on Facebook lambasting the out-of-state company for trademarking the numbers. Some questioned whether such a trademark is allowed, while others called on the director of the Rhode Island Craft Brew Races, Matt Gray, to keep Stony Creek Brewery out of the local races.

Should an out-of-state company be allowed to trademark the Rhode Island area code? Comment below.

Gray told The Breeze he thought it was "unfortunate" that a Connecticut brewery would take numbers that "represent Rhode Island" so an in-state company can't use "our own area code."

He said he was confused about why Stony Creek Brewery would take the digits to begin with, as the (401) IPA has "nothing to do with our state."

Gray said he and the Brewery 401 owners have "moved on." He said that Stony Creek hasn't been officially excluded from the Rhode Island races.

"I haven't denied them an invitation and I haven't sent them one either," he said.

He said that Stony Creek will be involved in similar craft beer races in Connecticut. The company is not coming to Rhode Island "only because of the number of other brewers involved," he said, and because each brew race focuses on the brewers of the host state.

This isn't the first time a Pawtucket brewery has had to change a name over a trademark issue. Foolproof Brewing Company, which operates right up the street from Crooked Current Brewery, was previously High Jinx Brewery.

According to Stony Creek's website, "our (401) IPA India Pale Ale is produced specifically for beer lovers in Rhode Island. Like Stony Creek's first two IPAs, 401 embodies a distinctively American IPA flavor. Enjoy its light amber color, hops, light citrus flavor and peppery finish. First bottled April 24, 2013."

Stony Creek owner Manny Rodriguez said he was "unaware of any controversy" surrounding the 401 trademark.

"We created our 401 India Pale Ale specifically for our neighbors in Rhode Island and it continues to sell well for us," he said. "We are a small company too. A registered trademark protects the brand for all craft brewers. In fact, it protects the brand for any company with a registered trademark."

Lourenco is taking the trademark issue in stride, saying he and Pelletier are actually happier to bring back their original name in time for the brewery's festival debut next month.

The state's history of corruption was the element he and Pelletier originally wanted to highlight when they started their brewery earlier this year, said Lourenco. They ended up getting nervous about it and going with a more traditional tribute to the state, complete with the area code and standard Rhode Island icons in the logo.

"We're quite excited about this newfound chance, actually," he said. "We even joke periodically that perhaps there was some divine intervention involved pointing us back toward our original idea."

The brewery itself will double as a museum of sorts detailing the state's corrupt past to make tours a more unique experience, said Lourenco.

"We didn't want to be just another brewery showing kettles and fermenters," he said. "We wanted to offer our guests something fresh, especially since we're the smallest brewery in Rhode Island. We wanted to be sure ticket holders received their money's worth and now we're even more confident we'll be able to provide such an experience."

Lourenco said "the most painful part" of the trademark dispute with Stony Creek Brewery was losing so much time changing over "mountains of paperwork" associated with the name change. He and Pelletier had customized shirt and keg orders "only hours away from being processed" when they received an attorney's letter notifying them of the issue.

"Luckily, we were able to cancel them in time, narrowly avoiding (a more than $10,000) loss that very well could have crippled our small business before it even started," he said. "That left a little under $1,000 as our loss, which was in the form of signage, business cards, and a small order of shirts that served as proofs for our large order."

Jason Lourenco, president of the newly named "Crooked Current Brewery." (Valley Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)