Headwaters can’t be Headwaters anymore

Headwaters Brewing of Waynesville was sent a cease-and-desist order earlier this month over its name. The dispute came from Victory Brewing Co. of Downington, Pa., makers of popular beers like HopDevil, Prima Pils, Golden Monkey and, you guessed it, Headwaters Pale Ale.

Who was using the name first? Headwaters owner Kevin Sandefur won the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce grant for promising new business with the company in 2010, but the grand opening of Headwaters to the public was in May of 2012. Victory released their Headwaters Pale Ale in bottles for the first time in-between those dates, in early 2011. However, Victory claims to have been developing the beer since 2010.

No matter who used “headwaters” first, Victory was the first to pay the $2,500 required to copyright it. And that’s what matters.

“It’s a sign of the times,” said Headwaters owner Kevin Sandefur. “Breweries are growing quickly and the days of handshake agreements are starting to disappear.” 

Since they had been using the name in commerce, the company could have continued on as Headwaters Brewing — but only in the state of North Carolina. Rather than commit to in-state brewing for the life of the company, Sandefur decided to change the name. “We’re installing a bigger [15 barrel] system later this year …. We didn’t want to be pigeonholed,” said Sandefur.

Thus the company finds itself in the process of officially becoming BearWaters Brewing. It’s only a two-letter change from the old name, and the logo and other branding will remain very much intact. “It allowed us consistency,” said Sandefur. “Our logo has had a very strong response.” The new name also plays well with their beer names, which include: Whitewater Hefeweizen, Ripcurrent Red, Angler’s Amber, Stiff Paddle IPA and Skipping Stone Stout.

What are “bearwaters?” Sandefur said it’s a vague term, but one with the right spirit for the company. “We’re very much about the flavor and region of WNC,” said Sandefur. “The new name evokes the outdoors, whether it’s a bear grabbing a fish … or pristine [bare] water with no pollution.”

The change of two letters will cost the company plenty. They have to replace all their pub visuals, marketing materials, and file all new paperwork across the board. Not to mention paying to copyright the new name. “It was an expensive lesson, but it’s all part of the learning curve,” said Sandefur. “We’re staying positive. And we’re happy with the support we received from local breweries and the Asheville Brewers Alliance.”

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