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April 27, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Radler Rant

I’m sorry, you can’t name your son ‘John’. A large multinational company has trademarked that word. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Well Dunedin based microbrewery Green Man encountered a scenario not unlike this one when they released their ‘Radler’ beer.

Radler is a style of beer which originated in Germany during the 1920s. It was created when the cyclists of the time decided they needed to drink beer and still be able to compete afterwards. The solution was mixing half lemonade with half lager. The mix was perfect for the cyclists and was named ‘Radler’—the German word for cyclist. We know it more commonly as ‘Shandy’. The resulting beer was generally half strength, around 2.5%, thirst quenching and sweet.

The issue arose for Green Man when they released their Radler in October last year. Unbeknownst to them, Dominion Breweries (DB) had acquired the trademark for the word ‘Radler’. So Green Man went ahead and invested around $50,000 in the beer, only to have DB’s lawyers pay them a visit and demand they change the name of their Radler to something else. As a result, Green Man’s $50,000 investment went down the drain—money a small brewery can’t afford.

DB’s Monteiths Radler (5%) is everywhere and is the reason for the trademark. It is not even true to the Radler style—making DB’s claim to the word even more outrageous. It is a full-strength lager mixed with lemon and lime flavoured syrup, resulting in a beer twice the strength of the style it claims to be. So why did IPONZ grant DB the trademark for this beer style? DB didn’t invent it, in fact, they have as much right to own the word ‘Radler’ as any winery has the right to own the word Chardonnay! And while they were at it, they snapped up the ‘Saison’ beer style as well—a unique style from Belgium/France which we can no longer import because DB own the word. Thanks, DB.

I’m ranting now, but this is an issue that goes beyond beer. IPONZ gave DB the trademark to this word because of a lack of knowledge about beer, and set a precedent in doing so. I think I’ll go out and try to trademark another German word: ‘Lager’. Why not? This is a case of a big brewery bullying a small competitor, using trademark protection as an excuse. A trademark that they shouldn’t have in the first place.

I’m boycotting all DB products to protest—not that that it’ll be hard to give up Tui. I hope others will join myself and beer lovers to protest this injustice.


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Comments (2)

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  1. Schtev says:

    Here here!
    I wonder if students could actually give up these DB products…?:
    Amstel Bier
    Amstel Premium
    Budejovicky Budvar
    DB Bitter
    DB Draught
    Double Brown
    Erdinger Weissbier
    Export Dry
    Export Gold
    Export 33

    I’d go for something like Bushman’s, Burmeister or NZ lager. Cheaper than the cheapest DB product and better tasting (as far as taste goes in beer like that).
    Or get real beer from one of the thousand craft beer outlets in Welly. You bastards are lucky.

  2. Graphical User Ynterface Armstrong says:

    Dave this was a great read it got my blood pumping nice one mate. You need to get this out to the public or whatever because it fucking sucks. Keep up the ranting, it is the only true form of communication. Catch you for a bear sometime bro.
    I’ll be reading the labels from now on

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