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Fight over beer-cap censorship fizzles when feds back down

By The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A Northern California brewer who tangled with federal regulators over the caps on his beer bottles said earlier this week that officials had given him permission to keep the message "Try Legal Weed."

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau had ordered Vaune Dillmann to stop using the caps, which are a play on the name of the town where he brews his beer — Weed. The bureau said the message amounts to a reference to illegal drugs.

Dillmann appealed and was preparing for a legal fight when he received a registered letter saying he could continue using the bottle caps. He shared a copy of the letter with The Associated Press on Aug. 5.

"Based on the context of the entire label, we agree that the phrase in question refers to the brand name of the product and does not mislead consumers," said the letter, dated July 31.

The dispute started last winter after Dillmann sent the agency Mt. Shasta Brewing Co.'s proposed label for its latest beer, Lemurian Lager.

He included the same bottle cap he'd been using on his other five brews. This time, the branch of the U.S. Treasury rejected it because of federal laws that strictly prohibits drug references on alcoholic beverages.

Since the dispute was publicized in April, Dillmann said he has received letters, phone calls and messages from more than 1,200 people around the world — including old friends and his high school football coach in his home town of Milwaukee.

"We have not had one even remotely negative comment," Dillmann said.

Dillmann started his brewery in 2004 and named the company's first official brew for the town's founder, Abner Weed, a timber baron who eventually was elected to the state Senate. He was only the latest resident to exploit the name of the town of 3,000, which sits beneath Mount Shasta about 230 miles north of the state capital.

All the attention has led to booming sales, but it's also been stressful, Dillmann said.

He plans to resume using the now-infamous bottle caps, which had been replaced with blanks while the dispute was pending.

Dillmann also drafted a letter thanking supporters. His message: "Weed fought the law and Weed won!"


Brewery gets go-ahead to use once-banned label (news)
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But distributor says Connecticut agency's decision may have come too late to allow sale of ale in time for Christmas. 11.12.05

Maine drops ban on 'Santa's Butt' beer (news)
But distributor says he will continue lawsuit because state law still allows officials to deny applications for beer labels that contain 'undignified or improper' illustrations. 01.09.07

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