Attorney for companies owned by LDS Church demands SLC brewery discontinue one of its beers

Bewilder Brewing said it will phase out the “Deseret” beer and sell the rest of its stock.

(Photo by Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Bewilder Brewing, shown in 2019, received a letter demanding that their Deseret IPA be discontinued.

A Utah brewery is stopping production on one of its beers — the Deseret IPA — after a demand from an attorney representing several businesses owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which asserted the name was a potential trademark infringement.

Cody McKendrick, co-owner of Bewilder Brewing Co. at 445 S. 400 West, Salt Lake City, said this week that the brewery was given a few months to cease production of its Deseret IPA and sell its remaining store of the beer. It also must not pursue registering the name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

“In the world of being threatened by legal action, just being asked to sell your product and not make it again isn’t probably the worst,” McKendrick said. “They didn’t try and come at us and recover any money or say we damaged their brand or anything.”

But, he added, the whole thing was “frustrating.”

McKendrick said he and co-owner Ross Metzger aren’t Latter-day Saints, but they grew up in communities that skewed heavily that way. McKendrick said they weren’t trying to make fun of Utah’s predominant faith by naming their beer Deseret.

With the Deseret IPA, “we wanted to make a beer for our local breweries owned by local people that had a local tie-in,” McKendrick said. They used local honey and locally grown grain, and the beer was malted locally. (According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the word “deseret” comes from the Book of Mormon, the faith’s signature scripture, and means “honeybee.”)

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ross Metzger & Cody McKendrick, owners of Bewilder Brewing, on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021.

In October, the brewery received a letter from Tyson Smith, an attorney at Texas-based Pirkey Barber. The letter said Bewilder’s use of the word Deseret could cause people to mistakenly believe that the brewery’s beer is affiliated with such LDS Church-owned companies as Deseret Book, the Deseret News, Deseret Industries and others.

Church officials didn’t return a request for comment.

Bewilder notified its customers in a newsletter Monday that the Deseret IPA — the first beer the brewery ever sold in state-owned liquor stores — would be phased out and replaced with a new item.

The new beer, McKendrick said Tuesday, would be a hoppy West Coast-style pilsner called Big Crispy. Until then, there are still about 1,000 cans of Deseret IPA available to buy in the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services’ system.

Even if Bewilder wanted to dig in and try to protect Deseret IPA, McKendrick said, “we don’t have the resources to fight back” and take on the church’s business entities, and “we’re not not trying to drag anybody down to build ourselves up.”

As of November, Bewilder filed an express abandonment to drop their application for the trademark, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

McKendrick said he and Metzger have tentative plans to rename Deseret IPA down the road and release it as a seasonal beer or a one-off beer, because it has “a bit of a following.”

“It bums us out that our first beer that we produced to get out to the masses [went] down this way,” McKendrick said. “But there’s other beers. We’ll make something, and it’ll be as good or better, hopefully.”

Bewilder is celebrating its fourth anniversary Saturday and marking the occasion with a party that will include the release of its Anniversary Ale, as well as food specials and a specially brewed firkin of beer.