A Chandler brewpub is finding that Arizona State University is not flattered by being immortalized in its product known as Sun Devil Ale.
SanTan Brewing Co., which has produced the beer for about two years, has received a cease and desist letter from the Arizona Board of Regents asking that another name be found for the popular drink.
Instead of contesting the issue in court, owner Anthony Canecchia said he will comply and will hold a naming contest during January and February to find a new title for the ale.
“We decided not to fight (ASU President) Michael Crow’s empire and instead will let our loyal patrons come up with an alternate name,” he said. “We will have some fun with it and let our customers be a part of it.”
So far the best new-name offering is Wildcat Ale, but Canecchia figures that could bring the same type of protests, but from a different direction. So he’s looking for more suggestions.
Participants are being asked to design a logo to go with their new name, too.
Although the situation has its humorous aspects, it’s not very funny to Canecchia. He faces added costs to market the beer under its new name. Also it’s galling to him that ASU has targeted him for trademark enforcement when many other businesses are allowed to use the Sun Devil name with and without licensing arrangements with the university.
“We asked them for a licensing agreement, but they wouldn’t budge one bit,” he said.
Canecchia said the company has invested thousands of dollars in marketing Sun Devil Ale, which will now cease to have any value.
The ale is available to the public at the brewpub and at numerous other bars and restaurants in the East Valley that have account agreements with SanTan Brewing, he said.
Canecchia said he chose the Sun Devil name for the ale not to attract students but to indicate it’s locally brewed.
“It is our most popular product,” he said. “It has a nice character to it. It is an infinitely drinkable beer. … Hopefully, we will find a new name that will still associate it as a great local product.”
An ASU spokeswoman said the university closely guards the use of its federally registered Sun Devil trademark and has a blanket prohibition against its use on alcoholic beverages.
“We don’t want to provide an enticement to drink to our undergraduate population, which is largely under age,” said Terri Shafer, associate vice president of public affairs, referring to Arizona’s legal drinking age of 21.
But there is one glaring exception: the Sun Devil Liquors and Wine Cellar at 235 N. Country Club Drive, Mesa, which has used the Sun Devil name for decades.
Shafer said ASU officials let that slide because it is a single store located far from any of the ASU campuses. Also the store doesn’t use the maroon and gold ASU colors or symbols such as the Sparky mascot with the name, she said.
She added the name is attached to a store, not to a specific alcoholic beverage as is the case with Sun Devil Ale.
Lori Eccles, co-owner of Sun Devil Liquors, said the store secured its own trademark on the name in 1982 and therefore it has been protected from any attempts by ASU to remove it.
“They have never really bothered us,” she said. “It has had that name for at least 30 years.”
Eccles, whose family has owned the store for the past 22 years, said the Sun Devil name is beneficial because “people remember it.”
Meanwhile, anyone who wants to offer a new name for Sun Devil Ale can visit www.santanbrewing.com or stop at the pub at 8 S. San Marcos Place in Chandler. Contestants must be Arizona residents at least 21 years old.
The winner will receive a keg of the yet-to-be-named ale, Canecchia said.