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Acclaimed brewery sues former head brewer

The community of craft beer brewers is often proud their own grassroots approach to doing business. Many are staunchly anti-big business at least until they get a purchase offer they cannot refuse. Many also strive to keep the business plan straightforward and to grow organically, choosing to focus on product rather than expanding their business footprint.

A ripple in the community

Toppling Goliath has quickly become one of the top-ranked breweries in the world thanks to such flagship ales as Pseudo Sue pale ale and its barrel-aged stouts. Now the Decorah, Iowa-based brewery has made news inside the tight-knit brewing community as well as in national media outlets for taking action against its former head brewer, who worked there from 2015 to 2017.

The lawsuit

The brewer now works at Thew Brewing in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which he started with his brother. According to the suit, the brewer violated a non-compete agreement he signed, which stipulated that he could not work within 150 miles of Decorah for two years following his departure.

The lawsuit seeks damages and an injunction against the brewer’s work at Thew, which opened March 16, 2018 at a location that just over 100 miles from Decorah.

Toppling Goliath also alleges that the brewer had access to confidential and proprietary techniques, formulas and recipes and is using those trade secrets for financial and professional gain. The suit claims that the brewer told the company as much when he announced his departure.

Non-competes are drafted for a reason

The case is scheduled for trial on August 31. While the craft beer scene takes pride in its sense community, small breweries are like any other small business. Non-competes are designed specifically for this situation where employees go out on their own or are poached by competitors.

The smart business owner needs to protect their business interests or face potential loss of earnings and brand identity. This helps ensure that their business remains viable now and in the future.