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Rock Art Redux

Side Dishes: Brewer vs. Monster continues


Published October 14, 2009 at 5:07 a.m.

Last week, we reported that Hansen Beverage Company, maker of Monster energy drinks, sent a cease and desist order to Matt Nadeau, owner of Rock Art Brewery. Why was the giant West Coast biz picking on a little guy in Vermont? Its reps claim the name of his “Vermonster” barley wine would “undoubtedly create a likelihood of confusion” among customers.

Since then, the news has spread like wildfire. On Monday, the Boston Globe ran a short Associated Press report on the controversy. On Facebook, a group called “Vermonters and Craft Beer Drinkers Against Monster” has swelled to more than 1300 members. Nadeau — who was cranking his “rallying music,” Danzig, when Seven Days called — says he’s received pledges of support from beer lovers nationwide. “We’ve had people in Hansen’s backyard — San Diego, Los Angeles — proclaiming profound support,” he boasts.

But George Bergin and Jen Swiatek, owners of the Beverage Warehouse in Winooski, took their distaste for Hansen’s actions a few steps further — they eradicated all traces of Monster from their store, even though it was their best-selling line of energy drinks. “We took down all [Hansen] signs; we emptied the coolers; we took down their racks,” says Bergin.

How have customers in need of caffeine been coping? “When we tell them what’s going on, they’ve been very supportive of Rock Art,” Bergin reports. “They purchase different energy drinks.”

At the suggestion of his lawyer, Nadeau declined to expound on the details of Hansen’s most recent communiqué, but he made it clear the company’s response wasn’t what he’d hoped for. “It basically was ridiculous,” he gripes.

Although Nadeau knows he can’t win a “dollar for dollar” fight against the much bigger biz, he says he’s happy to be giving Hansen’s reputation a smackdown, Vermont-style: “It’s not a good place to mess with. I guess the English found that out as well.”