Naming Beers in 2017 – A Tough Spot to Be In
For years, breweries have been challenged with not only brewing the best beer they are capable of, but also catching the eye of the fickle consumer. We have seen and heard it all at the height of the craft beer boom. Breweries in the Midwest, such as 3 Floyds, Pipeworks and Half Acre, have pumped out branding combinations of mythical, cartoonish, metal and just downright silly, while many of the higher-end brewers have been going the hard to read/hard to pronounce route, utilizing French, Latin and Dutch names to appear more fancy, and probably because they’re available to trademark. Needless to say, it’s a very competitive market out there, and brewers must do what it takes to stand out on the shelf. I’m here to roll my eyes at all of it lovingly and equally, by running down the most common gimmicks we are witnessing on the shelf.
Hop Puns – Ah yes, the good ol’ Hop Pun. The Hopsecutionor is going to drop the guillotine on you. Maybe when he is done, the crowd will cheer Hop Hop Hooray? Whatever Hoppens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas? It’s getting a bit old now, but there is no end in sight to hop puns. There are too many breweries to name that must be consulting with corny dads and uncles all over the world. As a bonus tip, if you are in the beer industry, turn off Facebook comments on your birthday, or you will receive 100+ “Hoppy Beerthday!” combinations on your newsfeed.
Latin/French/Dutch – Quid hoc nomen? Durum est? Et dicunt, quod non? Seriously, I hate sounding so close minded and uncultured, but there is nothing worse than going up to a tasting room bar and trying to order a beer that I have to break out Google Translate for. It certainly seems fancy and sophisticated, it just puts some of us in an awkward position, and really puts the whole “PLY-NEE vs. PLIN-EE” debate into perspective. Our dear friends at The Bruery are the most notorious offenders of the hard to pronounce beer names, but there are many other breweries like them, who get real complex with the names of their Belgian, French and wine-inspired beers. This article was inspired by last week’s announcement of Firestone Walker’s Leo vs Ursus: Fortem, which is fairly easy to pronounce, is still another draw from the Latin well.
Blonde Ales – There is a bit of a debate going on right now due to our current political climate about being politically correct or incorrect in marketing of craft beer. One of the biggest hot button issues that surround the craft beer industry is the centuries old tactic of using attractive people to sell goods and services. More to the point, using pin-up girls and blonde haired women to sell the otherwise bland and boring blonde ale. The point of this article is not to dig deep into that discussion, but rather to point out how played out it has become. Dirty Blonde? Hollywood Blonde? Does the Carpet Match the Drapes Blonde Ale? Enough already!
90’s Hip Hop – I’ve seen an uptick of brewers born in the early 80’s using 90’s hip hop references for their beer names. I think of that as the golden era of rap/hip hop. This new go-to gimmick doesn’t bug me yet, but I’ve seen it used by Abnormal Beer Co, their buddies at J. Wakefield Brewing and Monkish Brewing. Figueroa Mountain Brewing did a quick run of early 90’s rap references including Weiss Weiss Baby. Dock Street Brewery in Philly has been using Wu Tang Clan to tie into a saison release. It’s cute now, but hopefully it doesn’t get played out. Like Arnold wondered, what you talkin’ bout Willis…
Let’s put IPA on the end of it! – We’ve lived through the sad times of Black, White and Red IPA. Only the most behind-the-times brewers have leaned on this gimmick as an attention grabber. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for hoppy black ales, hoppy wheat ales and hoppy red ales. With that all in the rearview mirror, there is a new class of products on the market that are leaning on the letters I P A, as it is a sure-fire way to sell your beer. Five years ago, any beer with fruit in it was considered a fruit beer, and something knuckleheads would even say is for girls. Fast-forward to today, and a muted-down pale ale with fruit is a fruited IPA. I just about lost my shit when I saw Boulder Rock Hard Cider release IPA – India Pressed Cider. For the love of god, just stop.
Old Something Something Barleywines – Over the past five years, I’ve seen the popularity dwindle on the strong, malty barleywine. This is most likely due to the easy availability of the market favorite West Coast IPA, and of course, a shift in trends. Or maybe it’s because brewers never went outside of the box, and stopped adding “Old” to the beginning of their barleywines. I get it, the beer takes a while to mature and enjoy, but come on!
Fart Jokes/Dick Jokes – I’m a proponent of potty humor, it’s a guilty pleasure of mine. Intersecting potty humor with something I’m planning on ingesting, not so much. Dirty Sanchez Brown Ale? Mustache Ride IPA? Dutch Oven Crop Duster Porter? I’ll pass. Let’s not let Ohio’s Hoof Hearted get off the hook here, a concept brewery revolving around flatulence.
Oh, I get it. In following brewers and breweries struggle to get that trademark approved and or not get a cease and desist letter from another brewer or wine maker, I know all too well that naming a beer is no easy feat. Couple that with the stiff competition to get that consumer dollar, and you have yourself a real predicament. Here’s to hoping that no matter whether a new wave of creative names emerge or not, that the quality of the beer remains the even more important aspect than the branding or ridiculous name.
What ridiculousness did we forget? Please share in the comments here or on social media.