Raymond Horwath not only has a Big Ass family, after years of acrimony it's a happy family. In 1995, Horwath, a principal in the Jack Russell Brewing Co. at Camino in El Dorado County, filed for a trademark to the brand name "Big Ass," which he felt would be reflective and catchy for bolder style of beers coming out of Jack Russell. "It's a slang term I'd heard, and thought it would apply really well to adult beverages," says Horwath, a Fairfield businessmen. Others did, too.
After Horwath was granted the trademark in 1998 he licensed its use to Milano Family Winery in Mendocino County for a blended table wine called "Big Ass Red" whose entertaining and striking label easily catches the eye on cluttered wine shelves.
At around the same time, however, Adler Fels Winery in Sonoma County began to release its own line of "Big Ass" varietal wines, with equally amusing and alluring labels.
Naturally, this led to a series of suits and countersuits, details of which are chronicled by Kevin McCallum in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. As McCallum notes, the issue now has been resolved in a way that allows all parties involved "to continue producing their cheeky wine labels."
Beer labels, too. At Jack Russell, the line of beers that Horwath and his partners produce include a Big Ass Hefeweizen (an unfiltered wheat beer) and a Big Ass Weizen Bock (a wheat beer with a high alcohol content). (Locally, they're stocked at Beverages & More and Corti Brothers.)
"It's an effective compromise, with everyone giving a little bit," says Horwath. "Everyone's agreed that they won't step on each other's toes." Horwath will get licensing fees from the wineries, but under the terms of the agreement he can't divulge what they are.
The Big Ass brews, he notes, have helped promote Jack Russell into the 69th largest microbrewery in the country.
At 2380 Larson Drive just north of Camino, Jack Russell is open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, though hours are being expanded an hour or two during the current Apple Hill harvest season; (530) 644-4722.