The legendary Rasputin is synonymous with a variety of immoral and evil practices. You wouldn’t normally build a brand around a guy known as the “Mad Monk,” but that didn’t stop North Coast Brewing from naming a beer after him or Corsair Artisan Distillery from naming a whiskey after him.
North Coast Brewing’s Old Rasputin beer is supposedly well regarded in craft beer circles. I haven’t tried it, and frankly I’m not even sure if it’s available here in Nashville.
I’m much more familiar with Corsair, which makes my favorite gin. I haven’t had the Rasputin whiskey, but it sounds amazing. Here’s a description from the website:
TO MAKE OUR EXPERIMENTAL RASPUTIN WHISKEY, WE FIRST BREW A TRADITIONAL RUSSIAN IMPERIAL STOUT BEER. WHEN WE DISTILL, WE PASS THE NEW WHISKEY VAPORS THROUGH HOPS, ADDING SPICY FLORAL NOTES TO THE BIG MALT AND CHOCOLATE FLAVORS OF THE STOUT. AGING IN CHARRED OAK BARRELS ADDS VANILLA AND CARAMEL. THE END RESULT IS A RICH, VERY COMPLEX HOPPED WHISKEY.
Yesterday, North Coast Brewing sued Corsair for trademark infringement in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The gist of the dispute is that North Coast Brewing thinks consumers would mistakenly believe that Old Rasputin beer and Rasputin whiskey come from the same source. This is a tricky one. I get that consumers could encounter both of these products at the liquor store, but this is a finicky group. These are products for beer and whiskey snobs who spend lots of time doing research. And who is going to inadvertently pick up a bottle of Corsair’s whiskey thinking that it was made by North Coast Brewing?
Anyways, this will be an interesting one to watch. The craft beer industry is booming, which has made finding names for beers increasingly hard to do. This had led to an outbreak of trademark litigation. For an industry that tries so hard to cultivate an image of fun and care-free living, the recent litigiousness is a black eye for the brewers (but admittedly great for us trademark lawyers). Now it appears that the brewers have set their sights on makers of spirits.