In 2014, a few beers and the “yes, and” spirit of a marketing/design meeting led to a first in beer packaging: the 99-can case. When Austin Beerworks released it to promote its new Peacemaker Anytime Ale, the novelty made headlines around the country. Fast forward to December 2017, and the staff of Austin Beerworks woke up Christmas morning to find that PBR had released a 99-pack of its beer in Canada.
“We made it clear that we didn’t feel good about them copying an idea they didn’t develop on their own and that it just didn’t sit right for us,” Michael Graham, cofounder of Austin Beerworks, tells The Takeout. A social media back-and-forth ensued, but nothing came of it.
Then PBR pushed its luck again, releasing another 99 pack in the U.S. this spring. This time, after another round of trading barbs on Twitter, the general manager for Pabst not only called Austin Beerworks but stopped by the brewery. After meeting in person, the two breweries decided to seek an amicable, rather than legal, resolution.
“Social media is gasoline for any kind of altercation so I credit him for making the effort to stop by and putting a face to it,” Graham says. “We went back and forth—nobody wants to go to court, and can you even trademark a cardboard box? It came down to: We just wanted some recognition for it. We’d talked about a licensing agreement, maybe we’d get 99 cents for every box sold. There are legal issues with that too and it felt better to just put some money back into our community.”
Subsequently, Pabst agreed to donate $9,999.99 to the Central Texas Food Bank, resolving the issue in both parties’ minds.
“There’s so much industry infighting and bickering and the more breweries can work together to get people excited about beer, the better,” Graham says.
If you’re curious, the Austin Beerworks 99-pack boxes are available sale from the brewery, but just as an empty box. You’ll have to buy the beer yourself for a DIY version.