The Name Game

It’s not just wine makers that can come up with evocative or silly names for their products; brewers have been getting in on the act for years. But what’s in a name? Just how do breweries think up the names for their latest brew, from the cheeky (Mother In Laws Tongue Tied), the scary (Skull Splitter), the celestial (Lemon Dream), and the downright rude (Dog Bollocks, Jack’s Nasty Face)?


Commonly, beer names give an indication of what’s going on, on the inside – Batemans’Dark Mild, the Meantime Brewery’s Chocolate and Coffee Beers (which do in fact contain these ingredients) and MacQueen’s Nessie, from Austria’s Schloss Eggenberg brewery, made using malt imported from Scotland.

Just as winemakers display grape varieties, beermakers use their chosen hop variety as a starting point – Whitbread’s Fuggles Imperial and Young’s First Gold Wood. Cascade Premium Lager, brewed in Australia, is also named after the hop variety, and, Long Leg, the newest brew from Cameron’s, in Hartlepool, takes its name from the stilts formerly used by hop pickers.

The Brooklyn Brewery, in New York, has opted for comic book style beer names to reflect the ingredients in its heavily hopped BLAST! and its malty Monster Ale. Brewmaster Garrett Oliver says: “I enjoy the whimsical names of many of England’s beers so we called this beer ‘Monster’ because it was big, strong, a bit dangerous if treated disrespectfully, and rather difficult to brew. We always played Bach’s haunting organ piece Fugue in D Minor when we brewed it and it employed so much malt that it once burnt out my mash mixer motor.”

Names can indicate more complex ingredients too. The Alaskan Brewing Co, in Downtown Juneau, makes Alaskan Smoked Porter, which is brewed once a year in small batches, using water fed by glaciers, and then smoked over Alder wood. “When it was first released at the Great American Beer Festival, it was in high demand,” says Amy Woods from The Alaskan Brewing Co. “The brewery booth didn’t list it as being available, so only those who knew about it would ask for it. Many tasters came to the booth, leaned forward, and quietly said, ‘smoke’ and that word alone was enough to prompt the crew to pour it.”


Other breweries like to evoke a sense of place, whether it’s the country – Beer Lao (made in a ‘tropical paradise with spring water from the foothills of the Himalayas’), or the brewery – Alcatraz Brewing’s Searchlight Golden Ale and Penitentiary Porter.

And it helps if the brewery has an unusual name too. The location of the Boggart Hole Clough Brewery, in Manchester, England, gives a wealth of potential beer names. The brewery is situated on an ancient site with ‘cloughs’ (ravines and gullies) and a Boggart Hole, which refers to a ghost (or boggart) that is thought to haunt the area. By happy coincidence a ‘brew’ is also a common term for a hill in the area. Thus, the beers are Valentines’ Brew, Clough Brew and Blackley Brew.

The Church Brew Works, however, located in a restored church in the Pittsburgh suburb of Lawrenceville, USA, wins the award for the most bizarre location, with its steel and copper brewing tanks housed on the altar. Naming the beers – Celestial Gold, Pipe Organ Pale Ale and Pious Monk Dunkel – was obvious, and not a leap of faith, though the names have caused problems.

Article continues in Issue 14 of Beers of the World Magazine

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