They won the battle. Yesterday, Judge Sam Sparks of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas ruled in Jester King’s favor, along with co-plaintiffs distributor Authentic and retailer Zax, in their First Amendment arguments made against the way the TABC labels beer. Recall that TABC provisions hold that anything under 4% ABW must be labeled “ale” and anything under is “beer,” which brewers have argued often results in not only false technical labeling but also outside brewers eschewing the state for distribution…

We tend to forget things a lot in this industry (occupational hazard). So we’re running the most-opened issues of the year this holiday week. Enjoy…

Earlier this year we covered Tenth and Blake’s “Brewers Unleashed” R&D program, where T&B brewers dabble in experimental beers. Director of strategy Jeff White called the program “some version of an organic or new product development pipeline, from the brewers back to us.” The brewers have periodic pow-wows with the rest of the Tenth team, talking about the beer concept and whether it turned out the way intended…

It was bound to happen, with the all the private label “craft” riffing off popular styles, and, now it seems, even breweries. Bell’s filed a complaint in the Eastern District of Michigan Court yesterday against private label beer maker Winery Exchange for infringing on its 25-year-plus mark…

Brand building is arguably different in the craft segment, but it’s definitely still evolving. Here’s some on the latest: Anchor Brewing debuted a new website last week featuring all the rustic heritage of its 1896-born brewery, in an interactive and user-friendly format focused on video. Not just any videos. The high production value pieces manage to tell the story of brand icons like Liberty Ale, for example, which introduced the world to IPAs and Cascade hops; or Christmas Ale’s annual top-secret formula and longtime bottle illustrator, Jim Stitt…

A final note on BevNet’s “Brewbound” craft conference track: As a largely non-alc coverage outfit, it offered some novel perspectives on the beer segment. Case in point: During the craft investments outlook session, BevNet moderator Jeffrey Klineman asked whether there was room to have a craft brand “play from behind,” running losses but building volume and a high top line in hopes of a sale…

We asked a majority of the top 50 craft brewers for their closeout numbers and projections. So far we’ve gotten thorough responses from a handful, a number otherwise known as not exactly a representative sample. Still, their input is clearly topical: Everyone is thinking capacity. Most have taken price. Each sees individual challenges for the coming year. Let’s run it down…

Nothing says “success” quite like a guy in a Hawaiian shirt talking about his top-15 brewery. That’s the usual garb of Kona chief Mattson Davis, who shared key lessons behind his island-born operation’s 18-year evolution at Monday’s Brewbound conference. Foremost, he stressed the importance of targeting the home market at every step…

It’s simple math. If there are going to be some 800-plus new breweries coming online in the next couple years, shelf space is gonna get even tighter. And craft already gets an inordinate amount of space relative to its volume share…

What does craft look like at retail in Portland, which has the highest dollar share for the segment in grocery (Bump just listed craft dollar share in Portland food at over 32)? We visited several retailers, including Kroger-owned superstore Fred Meyer, Safeway, and private natural foods store Zupan’s Markets. Strategies were natch different based on target consumer and side of town: Neighborhood grocer Safeway in Northeast Portland does inordinate business with 12-packs, for example, and Widmer Hef is among its best selling in the package, along with some of Full Sail’s Session series and Bridgeport IPA. The other two skewed a bit higher-end and esoteric, with many large single format options. All foreshadow what could come to a market near you…

The end of 2011 is nigh. Planning for 2012 is [or should be, mostly] done. Now comes the hard part: Execution. The execs at CBA are in the thick of that, and have been all year. For it took more than lofty brands and plans to start the turnaround of Widmer, and kickstart Redhook full-year growth after 5 years of relative languish…

What does the Brewers Guild Meeting look like in a market like Oregon? A ballroom full of craft brewers, plus a few retailers and distributors. And these days, sponsors like JP Morgan Chase and Emma e-mail marketing. It’s a sign of the times…

Minnesota’s Cold Spring Brewing Co. is one of the foremost producers of contract craft in the nation. The company evolved into a large contract production company from the non-alc beverage business. By now, they’re a centrally located, flexible operation that can produce

North American Breweries vice president of sales James Pendegraft filled us in on some state-of-the-union insights for the No. 8 brewery in the nation (per BA numbers). Watch for consolidation, international expansion, possible M&A action and retail strategies from the parent of Magic Hat and Pyramid in 2012…

We’ll be closing out the year in the biggest markets for craft. Later this week we’ll report from Ground Zero for segment share – Portland, Oregon – where we’ll meet with CBA and Ninkasi and do a roundup of the Holiday Ale Festival, plus trends to watch from the leadership market. The latest share information for 52 weeks ending Oct. 15 per Nielsen shows Portland has an almost 35 dollar share in the food channel, up 2.7% over last year; in C-stores, dollar share is up 1% to almost 11…