A Brew by Any Other Name

Quick—what’s the difference between Cigar City Hunahpu Imperial Stout and North Coast Old Rasputin? Not much in the grand scheme of things. Both are beers from popular microbreweries; both are stouts. They’re even the same style of stout. So the names brewers give their beers, and how they brand them, often create much of the differentiation for the everyday drinker. But with the massive swell of microbreweries there has been an exponential proliferation of brand names during the past decade. As NPR reported at the beginning of 2015, craft brewers are starting to run out of unique options.

Brewmasters aim to separate their beers from the ever-growing herd by injecting the names with hometown geography, landmarks, history, descriptions of flavor, or bits of their own personality. But they’re also drawing on many of the same inspirations, ingredients, and trends, so overlap is inevitable. Locally, Elevator changed the name of its Dark Horse lager to Dark Force lager after Dark Horse Brewing expanded from Michigan into Ohio.

Some brewers have turned to witty wordplay to deepen the bank of potential terms, resulting in beers with names like Good Chit Pilsner, Barrique Okarma Black IPA, Duck Duck Gooze, and Smooth Hoperator. And Hoppopotamus Fresh Hop Ale. And Hoptimus Prime. And Hoppy Ending Pale Ale. Eventually we will run out of hop-related puns, though.

The names have grown more verbose and esoteric, and they’ve also become ripe for parody. The Magnificent Bastard website offers a “Craft Beer Name Generator,” which provides novel options by combining a flavoring or preparation technique, a yoga pose or bicycle part, and a beer type. With only a few clicks, I created Georgia Peach Gear Shift Cable ESB, Cherry-Topped Front Fork Double IPA, and Herbs de Provence Half Frog Scottish Ale.

Mmmm, you can almost taste that Scottish frog already. It’s so worty (sorry, we like puns too).

As the ranks of local craft brewers continue to expand, the list of original names will dwindle even further. So, to avoid conflict as these brewers begin to infringe on one another’s branding, here’s a list of potential monikers any of them can have for free.

Flyover State Fields of Grain Pilsner – We might as well play into twhe coastal snobbery. The bottle features a plane flying over a question mark, and the beer tastes like a breadbasket.

Goodale’s Good Ale – Hard to believe ComFest hasn’t already opened a brewery and pounced on this name, which seems too obvious to pass up.

The Fickle Hipster Sour Ale – It’s just Pabst Blue Ribbon, but the can’s design changes every three months.

Skull Session Saison – Football and beer go together like, well, football and beer, and in a place where Buckeyes games dominate Saturdays, drinking often becomes an all-day affair. Hence the need for this lighter session beer that won’t leave you concussed after mass consumption, unless you tackle a parking meter. At least be sure to wrap up.

Rye So Serious? –This red rye IPA has the lighthearted flavor of a joker, but the alcoholic punch of a villain. We don’t have to stick to hop puns, people.

Fussy Beast – We first printed the idea for this beer in the December issue of (614). The name was inspired by Smokehouse’s Fussy Sipper Pumpkin Peach Ale, which was a clever retort to the Budweiser Super Bowl ad that made fun of craft beer drinkers. So why not bring the craft-versus-domestic argument full circle and make a terrible version of the craftiest of craft beers? The flavors of peach would marry so well with the notes of aluminum. All will bow before the overly hopped yet watered-down glory of the Fussy Beast!