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Ale in a Day's Work

Brendan Palfreyman is so good at repping craft breweries, they named a beer for him

Published in 2019 Upstate New York Super Lawyers magazine

In the mid-2000s, Brendan Palfreyman bought a homebrew kit and began making batches using his sink and stovetop. His first was an IPA, and from there he moved onto milds, stouts and porters. 

“Typically, your darker beers are easier to make—easier to hide the flaws,” he says, laughing. 

In 2013, a couple of years into a trademark and patent litigation career and almost a decade into homebrewing, Palfreyman moved upstate, where his roots are.

“My rates plummeted,” he says, “so I was able to finally start talking to [and representing] these craft brewers who I had built relationships with.” 
Palfreyman’s first beer client was Binghamton’s Galaxy Brewing Co., which needed trademark assistance. Since first pulling up a stool at Galaxy’s bar, Palfreyman has worked with 151 companies in the craft alcohol beverage space—about 95 percent are breweries; the rest a mix of meaderies, wineries, distilleries, cideries and one sake brewery.

He’s built his beer empire largely through small sips: Twitter posts, New York State Brewers’ Association blog posts, and quotes in The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times and a handful of industry publications. 

“My Twitter schtick has become that, when these [brewing] disputes arise, I don’t just give a quote or commentary,” Palfreyman says. “I’ll go through the complaint or motion papers in detail … highlighting or calling out issues where pieces are weak or strong, and breaking it down so people in the industry can understand what’s actually happening.” 

While most of Palfreyman’s craft brewery work involves trademarks, his five-person team also helps with licensing, corporate formation and change, and real estate and employment issues.  

“My clients still have day jobs sometimes—they’re teachers, farmers, engineers,” Palfreyman says. “They typically don’t have a sophisticated understanding of the legal requirements … so a lot of what I have to do on that end is education. ”

Extra education breeds extra love. When then-Vermont-based Casita Cerveceria (now in North Carolina) was facing a threat to its trademark in 2017, it tapped Palfreyman, who got its mark registered. Along the way, Palfreyman bonded with Casita owner and head brewer Ryan Witter-Merithew. 

“[Ryan] took one of my recipes, added his own house yeast culture and named it ‘Palafrenero,’ the equivalent of Palfreyman in Spanish,” Palfreyman says. While now retired, the double-barreled IPA—praised on BeerAdvocate for its notes of “lemon, warm biscuits slathered in honey, and grapefruit”—had this homage on the back label: “The noble Palafrenero is driven by determination to be purposeful in action and masterful in erudition.” 

Palfreyman hasn’t homebrewed since his son was born a year ago, but he’ll be brewing up a New England IPA when time allows. Until then, working in an industry he loves is enough.

“My client meetings are much more fun than I imagine a typical lawyer’s are,” Palfreyman says. 

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