Beer Names

Since I’ve been in the mood to make creative old fashioned beers lately, I have been thinking about how to name my farmhouse ales.  The way I think of farmhouse beers is that before the industrial revolution, beer was made on farms for the family and the hired help to slake the thirst and fortify the body during the hard work that was required to run a farm.  These beers were really just safe water and were not meant for discussing or evaluating.  Would these beers have names?  Probably not.  Maybe they would be designated light, medium, and heavy, but that would have been about the extent of any form of name.  So, should I name my farmhouse ales?

To name a batch of beer.  It is a tumultuous experience for me.  Is it good enough for a name?  Does it deserve a name?  Is that too gross for a name?  Does the name sound mean-spirited or juvenile?  Do I have to explain the meaning of priapism to the audience?  Has the name that pops into my head already been used by me or someone else?  See what I mean?

So often I feel that beer names need to be bold and powerful. I feel they need to be assertive and full of dread.  I usually think they need to convey the “sinful” nature of alcohol and perhaps be named after an AC/DC song.  Often I think they need to be reflective of their alcohol content, therefore assigning the  obscene and cruel names only for the most robust and potent beers.  No one wants to name a light and refreshing, low alcohol blonde ale, Blood of the Innocent.  But if one came across such a name on a bottle of rich, deep-red, 10% ABV strong ale with enough hops to rip out your tongue and spit it back in your face, you might accept that name.  As horrible and tragic the image it conveys may be.

Occasionally, something during the brew day will influence the name as it did during the brewing of a recent English IPA.  While I was setting up the propane tank and burner, there was a red-tailed hawk circling overhead.  Once I placed the full kettle on the burner, the hawk circled closer then soared off over the trees.  I thought that “Soaring Hawk IPA” would be a good name and it stuck.

Usually, I think of a style or a flavor of beer to brew and while I am brewing it, I reflect on the flavors that will (hopefully) be present, and start formulating a name.  At bottling time, I take the final gravity reading and taste the sample in the thief so I have a sense of what the final carbonated beer will taste like.  Then I can start really deciding on a name.  Once the beer is conditioned I will choose from several names that have been bouncing around in my head since bottling day and once and for all give it a name. 

If nothing comes to mind while having a bottle or two, then I start to get worried that I am not respecting my creation enough.  I have had this happen on two occasions.  One batch was a Belgian pale ale that was quite good and refreshing, but it just didn’t get a name.  The other was an English pale ale that was just simply too boring to give a name.  I really didn’t even like the taste of the beer all that much.  I did drink every last bottle, mind you, but it never got a name.

So, is it okay to have a beer that is simply named, Batch 43 or should I really try to give every one a name?  I know that when I reach the fiftieth batch it is going to be called Batch 50 because that is a milestone.   Can I reuse names?  Is it silly to name a batch Old Man Scratch II?  Should I use the software terminology and use version numbers?  Soaring Hawk IPA v. 2.0 doesn’t sound all that cool to me.  See what I mean about beer names? 

The Adequate Brewer



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