New Name, Old Flame
Willamette Brewery relaunches as Oakshire
By Elliot Martínez
The next time you’re ordering up a pint of locally crafted brew at your regular watering hole, you’ll likely spot a new player among the familiar row of tap handles. But Oakshire Brewing, though you might not recognize the name or logo, isn’t exactly the new kid on the block. Formerly known as Willamette Brewery, the freshly branded Oakshire Brewing is still providing bar-goers from Eugene to Portland with the same quality-driven craft beers we’ve come to know and love. But why the name change and new logo? And why Oakshire?
In September of last year, Willamette Brewery received a cease and desist letter from Laurelwood Brewery. Portland-based Laurelwood was concerned about similar logos, both depicting silhouettes of trees. Laurelwood feared that customers would confuse the two tree logos and erroneously associate the two breweries. In late April of this year, Willamette Brewery received yet another legally threatening letter — this time from local wine producer Willamette Valley Vineyards, stating that they owned the trademark for the name “Willamette” on alcoholic beverages. Willamette Brewery’s Jeff Althouse had already sought the advice of a trademark attorney and was conjuring up ideas for a new name for the brewery as early as March 2008.
“We finalized on ‘Oakshire’ in mid-May,” Althouse said, “and the transition to ‘Oakshire Brewery’ will be completed this week, once we’ve swapped out all the old tap handles.” With his brother Chris, Jeff spoke about the rebranding process at Oakshire’s inaugural name-change picnic last Sunday. It was a beautiful afternoon as the new logo, a stylized, solitary oak tree developed by Bryan Taylor of Treemen Design, flew high on a banner atop the modestly sized brewery. Jeff welcomed family and friends of the brewery while talented head brewer Todd Friedman looked on with a smile as everyone sampled his full line of Oakshire beers. Live music and hearty conversation filled the air. Speaking to the crowd, Jeff said: “The oak tree is the quintessential symbol of the Willamette Valley. The solitary oak signifies the strength and solidarity of Oregonians. As for ‘shire,’ in our minds, this describes our bioregion and the people that live and thrive here.”