November 26, 2007
Michelob or michelada?

You know, I just love a good David versus Goliath trademark fight.

Mambo Seafood is taking on the mightier Michelob in a beer brawl.

The fight began in 2003 when the local seafood and Mexican restaurant chain filed a trademark application for its Mambo Michelada -- a combination of beer, lime juice, salt and the company's spicy michelada mix.

Michelob owner Anheuser-Busch Cos. responded to that U.S. Patent and Trademark Office application, saying the Mambo Michelada will damage its name.

"The term Mambo Michelada is confusingly similar to the brand name Michelob," said Frank Hellwig, one of Anheuser-Busch's attorneys -- in the only comment the company provided for this article.

Mambo attorney Daniel Schein, though, argues in court documents that Michelob is pronounced "mick-a-lobe" and the Mambo Michelada is pronounced "mom-bo mee-chee-la-da."

As was the case with Star Bock Beer, I'm with Mambo Michelada. Frankly, I think they've got a stronger case, too.

The lager is not popular with Mambo's mostly blue-collar, Hispanic immigrant customers, said Mike Ho, Mambo owner and president, and he doesn't stock it.

Mambo does, however, buy about $200,000 worth of other Anheuser-Busch beers a year, according to depositions.

"We've never had an instance where our customers ask for a michelada and we bring them a michelada and they say, 'No, I meant Michelob.' That's never happened," said Robert McKinley, Mambo's chief operating officer.


Mambo has spent more than $100,000 thus far fighting for the Mambo Michelada, which Ho said he brought to Houston in 1996.

"Back in '96, there was no michelada in Houston," Ho said. "People are using it more now."

Ho's Mexican stepfather introduced him to the michelada, a beer-based drink popular south of the border.

The words michelada and chelada come from the Mexican slang for beer, or chela, said one beer analyst in Mexico City, who follows Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo, which is half owned by Anheuser-Busch.

Some say chelada. Some call it michelada. Some add tabasco sauce or other ingredients, depending on the part of Mexico where the drink is made, the beer analyst said.

"It depends on the region. We call anything that has beer and lime a michelada," said the analyst, who did not want to be identified.

"Obviously, it's very ironic, an American company trying to have the exclusivity on that name," the analyst said.

Ironic, perhaps, but not the least bit surprising. My best wishes to the Mambo folks in their legal battle.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 26, 2007 to Food, glorious food

Several years ago, a friend and I were at Mambo waiting to pick up an order of fish. The bartender came over and asked my friend if he'd ever had a michelada. He said no, and the bartender gave him one to try. What a smart move by the bartender. Not only does my friend now regularly order micheladas at Mambo, so do I, and so do several of our other friends. Mambo has probably sold us several hundred micheladas on the basis of that one sample.

We have spent some time reverse-engineering their michelada. After trying numerous hot sauces, we figured out which one they use: Valentina Salsa Picante, which is available at Fiesta. Salt, lime juice, and lager beer (Dos Equis XX is great for this) round it out.

Posted by: Kenneth Fair on November 26, 2007 10:55 AM

Budweiser & Bud Light also sell canned Michelada style beers (that taste atrocious), I wonder if Michelob is going to sue their own company over that beer.

Mambo's Micheladas are good, but I tend to prefer Connie's over on Airline.

Kenneth - I'll agree that it does taste like Valentino's, but doesn't Mambo's sell their michelada mix in little powder packets? How do they get a powder version? Or am I confusing Mambo's with some other restaurant?

Posted by: joe on November 26, 2007 1:30 PM