Not so long ago, a Facebook discussion touched upon the topic of beer names. Some thoroughly enjoyed the whacky creativity, other found it to be nonsense and proof of poor beer. I found it food for thought.
With names like ‘Sexy Motherbocker’ or ‘F*ck de kerstboom staat in de fik’ (F*ck, the Christmas Tree is ablaze’) it may not be immediately clear we’re talking beer. The same actually goes for ‘Hel&Damnation’ or ‘Chateau Neubourg’. That seems to prove that a beer name does not necessarily has to identify a beer as such, let alone whàt kind of beer it is. Question remains though, how weird can a name be? Where does ‘fun’ ends and where starts ‘Slapstick Marketing’?
Kaspar Peterson, founder of Brouwerij ‘t IJ, gave serious thought to his beers and their names. As he aspired ‘a Belgian style’ he tried to underline that by using names like ‘Zatte’ or ‘Natte’. Consistency was not his thing though: how Belgian is ‘Columbus’? However, he made his point clear.
De Molen’s Menno Olivier originally used the medieval town’s name Bodegraven in his beer names, like ‘Boreft’s Blond’. Today that only resonates in his world famous beer festival. Soon he switched to ‘double names’: ‘Fire&Flames’, ‘Heaven&Hell’, and so on. It was a nice find and clearly made him stand out, albeit the fact it sometimes bit back at him: at Bier&cO we once received a defect keg where the bar attached a note to, saying ‘De Molen Rotten&Spoiled’. How is this abroad?
German beer name are, as to be expected, totally void of humor and simply describe the brewery, the style or the geographic denomination. What you see is what you get: it doesn’t get funnier than ‘Mein Hopfenweisse’ or ‘Kölsch’.
Even the Belgians do not excell at funny beer names, although one might expect differently. ‘Slaapmutske’ or ‘Deugniet’, that’s it. And when they’re funny the Belgians often don’t realize it themselves: they still don’t see why ‘Slagmuylder Slag beer’ is so funny. Point is, Belgian’s don’t go over the top like for example Het Uiltje did with ‘Dikke Lul, 3 bier’ (‘Fat Cock, 3 beer’ – a Dutch saying describing one’s disinterest). Or Brouwerij Boegbeeld who recently launched ‘Kutbier’ (‘Cunt beer’), a blond beer with prunes and a tribute to the Bossche Cunt. You have to live there to get it – the joke that is, not the beer. Trust me.
The British have their slapstick deep embodied and know no shame whatsoever anyway. Hence beer names like ‘Kilt Lifter’, ‘What’s Yours?’ or ‘Santa’s Butt’ being not rare at all.
And then there’s the Americans. I thought ‘Raging Bitch’ was the all-time high, and I was wrong. Well thought-through and classical references by Russian River Brewery to the first Roman historian actually writing about beer (Plinius Major’s “Naturalis Historia”) resulted in ‘Pliney the Elder’ and ‘Pliney the Younger’. Both beers are as excellent as their names, and the latter is so rare and sought-after people will happily bash each other’s skul l in for it.
The best-ever beer name, in my opinion, is from The States too. During the World Beer Cup 2010 Award Ceremony (The Beer Olympics), a gold medal went to a beer by Rock Bottom Alehouse. It was a Coffee Stout with Italian espresso called ‘Dude! Where’s my Vespa?’. I am not sure if the beer is still in production.