100th Meridian

I love the Tragically Hip.

I don’t love that the remaining members of what used to be the Tragically Hip are suing Mill Street Brewery for a beer Mill Street trademarked “100th Meridian Organic Amber Lager” over six years ago.

The former band claims that fans are being misled and are confused in thinking that the beer is in some way associated with the band. So what? When I saw the beer it immediately took me back to every semi-sober Roadside Attraction, arm-in-arm with my besties, belting out the chorus in unison “…at the hundredth meridian…where the great plains begin…”.

Gord, Johnny, Paul, Rob, thanks for the memories. Name a song and I have a memory to go with it, a connection, and a feeling. The playlist of my youth that I am forever grateful for. Mind if I buy my beer now?

The former Hip is suing Mill Street because guys like me might buy that beer simply because of its name and what it means to them. Why should Mill Street benefit from a visceral reaction deeply influenced by The Tragically Hip and good old Canadian geography?

Because “100th Meridian Organic Amber Lager” has nothing to do with the Tragically Hip. The same way the song “Islands In The Stream” has nothing to do with Dolly Parton’s boobs. People just think about them when they hear the song. The Hip wrote a song about it, and Mill Street labelled a beer after it.

A lot of people that I talk to about this like to bring up that Mill Street is profiting off the Tragically Hip by using their likeness to the sell the beer. I have yet to see any blatant examples of this.

Here is a post I pulled from Mill Street’s Instagram page:

Mmmmmm Doritos

There are quite a few like this and admittedly the first thing I thought of when I saw this one was “Mmmmm Doritos”, beer second, and Hip third.

The former Hip said that they tried to “sort things out” with Mill Street for months but were unsuccessful. I can only speculate that “sorting it out” meant the former Hip felt entitled to some beer money or asked them to change the name of the beer. I think the use of their image to sell beer is a simple cease and desist. Looking at their social media it has already been tended to. Even the examples posted by the former Hip were confusing to fans because one was promoting the Hip’s last concert, and the other in question was posted by another Instagram account and just shared by the brewery. Not even their post.

This is where I could be swayed. If the argument was that Mill Street (not its customers) are blatantly using images of the band or Gord Downey to promote their beer then I agree with you, it’s not OK at all. They should have to remove those posts. However, if you are convinced that trademarking and naming the beer “100th Meridian Organic Amber Ale” is not OK because it makes people think of the song “At The Hundreth Meridian” by the Tragically Hip we don’t agree at all.

In fact, if the former Tragically Hip wins this lawsuit it leaves me with so many questions…

Like who is next? Little Bones Wings?

Little Bones Wings named their whole business after a Hip song. Not convinced…make sure you try their Bobcajun CLASSIC DRY(ISH) the next time you order.

Just a quick look and I found a tribute beer called “Tragically Hopped“, multiple “Fiddlers Green Restaurants“, and a beer called “Trois Pistoles” in which the description insists it gains its fans with “complex character” not the Tragically Hip. Maybe Mill Street should have gone with “100e Méridien” to avoid any backlash.

What about cover bands…ahem…”tribute bands”?

Bands” like the Incredibly Hip and Strictly Hip get to sell out shows dressing like Gord and singing his songs. They make money directly imitating the band and performing their lyrical property and nobody cares. Or do they?

Artists? Are they exempt?

If this guy makes bank going around painting murals of Gord on buildings is that OK? Should he be able to profit by painting the likeness of a Canadian Rock icon? Or does he need permission and if so from who? The former Hip doesn’t mind…

I bought this sweater on Redbubble and it’s the most expensive piece of clothing I own. I bought it because I love Gord and the Tragically Hip.

I am sure the sweater cost the artist $6 and I paid $80. The band got $0, is that OK? There are all kinds of Tragically Hip art on RB so maybe there is some kind of agreement I don’t know about. Can I make a Hip shirt and sell it online?

Would this be happening if Gord were still alive and the band was making music?


Why do I care so much when I haven’t even tried the beer?

I think it’s because the Tragically Hip I know and love is gone and life will never be the same. When I see a beer label, or any tribute to the band (intentional or not) it’s a reminder of my youth growing up and I feel like that is what is being attacked. I went to all the concerts and called in sick the next day, I bought the albums and inflated merch at the shows. I genuinely supported the band for what feels like a lifetime. Throwing them in the face of everyone I could who couldn’t name a Hip song let alone get a feeling from seeing one on the side of a can.

Ironically (sorry Alanis can I say that?), it feels like the very band that gave me so much of my youth is working at taking it back. All for what seems like nothing more than recreational outrage.

It’s just so un-hip.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • 100th Meridian. A geographical term, owned by no one.
    A band uses it in a song, makes money. Cool.
    Now a brewery uses it on a can, and it becomes wrong? Double standards?
    Crosby Stills Nash and Young used the term Southern Cross in a song, they made money too. Cool. Bands try to make great music, and get paid. Breweries , make beer, try to get paid.
    I fail to see how band members here feel they are owed $$ by a beer company. maybe I don’t look deep enough….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *