Friday, March 12, 2010

Rock Art Brewery and the Monster

Once upon a time, in the tiny state of Vermont, there lived a wise man named Matt Nadeau. Matt was considered by many a local hero, for he was not only a simple brewer, plying his trade under the banner of the Rock Art Brewery, but because in the middle a long, cold northern autumn, he fought and defeated an incredibly large and bothersome MONSTER. This is his story...

The Rock Art Brewery was founded in 1997 in the the humble location of Matt's Vermont basement. There, he worked as a single-man operation for four years. As the sales from his microbrews grew, he expanded his business by moving into a larger facility, as well as his workforce, which today numbers nine people (including his wife and himself).

To celebrate ten years of Rock Art beer, Matt crafted a superior brew - an American-style barleywine - with an unusually high 10% ABV content. The robust beer deserved a worthy moniker, thus Matt bestowed the name "VERMONSTER" upon his concoction.

For two years, Matt's VERMONSTER beer was brewed and distributed to fine adult beverage retail establishments, until one day - on September 14, 2009 - a greedy lawyer type arrived at his doorstep with a cease-and-desist letter from a company called Monster Energy (a subsidiary of the Hansen Natural Corporation).

A very dejected Matt immediately sought legal counsel. His team of high-minded lawyers told him quite clearly that the only way to defeat the corporation would be to fight it out with endless dollars in the court system.

The expensive court costs, coupled with the VERMONSTER cease-and-desist, not only brought sadness to Matt's heart but also the good people of Vermont.

One loyal Rock Art Brewery customer, who happened to own a movie production studio, asked Matt if he could offer assistance by shooting a short video explaining the how the big, nasty Monster was coming after Matt and his delicious beer. Matt's friend not only helped make the video, but together they posted it to YouTube.

Within days, the video had been watched and commented on by thousands of unique viewers. Beer aficionados - even those outside of Vermont - had picked up on the story of Matt and the MONSTER and began embedding the video to their blogs and writing about it.

Before long, people around the world were using social media tools and applications to share and discuss Matt's story.

On Twitter, thousands were supporting Rock Art Brewery by posting messages of support to the small business' Twitter page and by adding #ISupportRockArt" hashtags to their posts. Almost overnight, the company went from a couple hundred followers to a couple thousand.

An online petition was created on The petition was named "Tell Corporate America That You Will Not Tolerate the Bullying of Smaller Companies" and was signed by almost 1,500 people. The signers of the petition could let their voice be heard by not only signing their name, but by also linking
their signatures to their Facebook profiles.

And Facebook! There, in that miraculous digital space, a Group was created for "Vermonters and Craft Beer Drinkers Against Monster." Over 19,000 people signed up for the Rock Art Facebook group where they could discuss Matt and the MONSTER, as well as post video, pictures and events in support of Rock Art.

A Support Rock Art Brewery blog was created to aggregate the news stories about Matt and the MONSTER, as well as provide supporters with "The top 12 things you can do to support Rock Art Brewery," including contacting Vermont politicians online and the Hansen Natural Corporation Board of Directors.

Through a handful of social media tools - all of which were of no cost to Rock Art Brewing - a grassroots community had swelled to thousands supporting Matt and his small company while putting pressure on the careless corporate MONSTER. Organizing a community: what would have been costly - if not impossible - just ten years ago, was brought to reality by Matt, Rock Art Brewing and a multitude of beer lovers.

On a blustery October day, in tiny Vermont, the MONSTER conceded defeat to Matt and his social media army. The two companies settled amicably with Matt retaining the right to brew and distribute his VERMONSTER beer and agreeing to stay out of the energy drink market.

And that, friends, is how Matt Nadeau and his small company leveraged the power of social media to strategically defeat a large company and its foul MONSTER.


  1. Great story, yet very little of it is actually true. The small social media campaign had nothing to do with Monster backing off the letter at all. The letter was sent by a vendor that looks to protect company's trademarks. The truth is the management at Hansen's (Monster's parent company) knew virtually nothing of the tiny social outcry, they simply didn't see the beer as a threat and let the matter drop.

    While it makes for great social media folklore, it simply didn't happen that way at all. Matt remains a relatively unsophisticated and undereducated guy that seems to have now bought into his own fantasy of how events really unfolded.

  2. Chris, I love the tone of this post. It evokes the image of St. George defeating the dragon. I must be honest and admit that I will usually always root for the little guy, because I have seen several instances over the years where big, rich, and bad trumped right.

    I can't find much support for sirfbrat18's comments online. I wish he or she had included some sources, because I would like to read them. What I did find was a timeline posted at Beer News.Org. that pretty much agrees with Matt's version. I hope it's true. I think we all like to see the underdog win.

    Maybe this Vermont David really did take down the billion-dollar Goliath. And maybe social media was the sling he used.

  3. In situations like this one, I doubt it is a common practice for large companies to publicly justify their actions, which is what Hansen did in a letter posted on So, social media did make an impact. The momentum might not have been strong enough to squash the pending litigation, but it was definitely strong enough to garner a response from Hansen.

  4. This is a great example of social media working at its best for a good cause. I, too, searched for confirmation of sirfbrat18's allegations, and found none. I did find text of the original letter, which sure seems to have come straight from the lawyers representing Hansen:

    I love the fact that the social media campaign was carried out by loyal supporters rather than the company itself.

    And now I want to taste the beer! Chris, I know you are a beer aficionado -- did you come upon this story as general research or were you already a fan of the beer?

  5. Unfortunately I've never had anything from Rock Art Brewery. As a completely independent brewer from Vermont, I imagine it's hard (if not impossible) to distribute their products in the southern U.S. It's alright - we have plenty of other good beer that's brewed around here.
    As for this story, I was initially turned on to it from a video I saw on
    And based on some of sirfbrat18's comments, particularly "Matt remains a relatively unsophisticated and undereducated guy," I can only speculate that he/she is either a Hansen's stock holder or a wine drinker.

  6. Haha, or perhaps a disgruntled former employee...and don't knock wine drinkers...we can appreciate good beer also.