Empire Brewing Co. is a 20-year-old craft brewery out of Syracuse, NY. Among their stellar lineup of brews is a seasonal maibock lager, called “Strikes Bock.” Get it? Empire Strikes Bock?
For the 0.2% of readers who are scratching their heads, the beer’s name is a parody on the title of the fifth Star Wars movie, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. It’s genius. I love it. I’m not even a Star Wars fan, but I am a fan of words and clever beer names.
You know who’s not a huge fan of the name, though? LucasFilm, the entertainment service company founded by filmmaker, George Lucas in 1971, and acquired by The Walt Disney Company in 2012.
Why don’t they like it? Well, as you likely know, it’s quite common for companies to use pop culture as a marketing tool for their product(s). If you want exposure, associate your product with something your target audience already knows. Makes sense, right? Of course.
But it’s not just fair game to use any component from pop culture. There are rules. Laws. You see, LucasFilm owns the Star Wars name, and thus, if someone is making, marketing, or selling a product associated with that name, the people at LucasFilm (and in turn, The Walt Disney Company) need to be on board with it.
Well, it turns out they’re not on board with it, because after serving Strikes Bock on draft for a number of years, the guys at Empire submitted a trademark application to bottle and distribute the beer. LucasFilm said “Hold the eff up a second.” That’s actually not a direct quote. What they really said – in an opposing motion to the application – was that the beer’s name would “cause confusion among consumers.”
Empire denies this claim, stating that they’re simply paying homage to the film, “as many have done before.” David Katelski, Empire Owner, says the beer is a parody; something he considers to be the “sincerest form of flattery.” And the US Patent and Trade Office agrees with Empire, so they will soon be bottling and distributing the popular bock beer.
To celebrate the approval, Katelski and Empire’s Director of Brewing Operations, appear in a short video announcing it. They’re both sporting stone-cold expressions, and after about 20 seconds, I thought, This is it? Couldn’t they just write a blog post announcing their victory? Then I saw the Stormtrooper stirring beer with a Lightsaber in the background. Check it out. It’s pretty great.
Has anyone had Strikes Bock? If so, let us know how it was.