Why is it that so many craft brewers feel they have to have some weird name
for their products, names such as (fictitious but not far off) "Creeping
Spider Beer" or "Pasture Droppings Seasonal Malt Ale" or "Arousal Malt
Beverage", etc. There was once a time when a beer name included the brewer
and the style. Personally, I am put off by these "cutesy-wutsey" names.
James Leo Ryan ..... Austin, Texas ..... firstname.lastname@example.org
This is not new. It was a well established practice way back in the
mid-80's here on the West Coast when new micro-breweries were popping
up everywhere and vying for attention. I recall being put off by
these silly names, too. One of the most ridiculous was Cat Piss Ale.
How stupid is that? If anything, the name game seems to have mellowed
Today at BevMo I saw a beer called Red Menace, and there was a
Stalinesque looking dude on it. It was a "red" ale. I thought it was
kinda witty. And a commentary on how much things have changed since
HUAC. ("'Schlitz'? Sounds kinda jewy to me. Let's look into it. Could
be a commie front.")
Cat Piss? Hey, you notice it. Perhaps even...remember the brand name?
(Then one of the guys at the meeting seconding the motion they call
their brew Cat Piss, 'cuz cantcha see a guy yelling at his friend to
bring him some more cat piss hahahahaha!)
The theory is that it'll create a more memorable name. And in some cases,
the name of the beer is what gives it its cachet. I seriously doubt many
people would get such woodies over Arrogant Bastard if it weren't called
And if you just go for the generics, the name can start to fade into the
background, and then perhaps the sales. Not everyone's going to get the
level of recognition of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
But yes, there are some spectacularly stupid names out there. I'm willing to
overlook it if the beer is good.
It's usually the late-comers who have to quickly differentiate their
brews from those of the established brands in a crowded market. A
flashy logo and offensive name is the quickest way to catch the eye of
a beer buyer who is perusing shelves already crowded with beer from
small breweries. They are apparently less willing to go the long slow
route of building a beer up by reputation, word-of-mouth and
I would never even consider trying Arrogant Bastard beer or the
similarly branded Fat Bastard wine just because of the names. There
are an ample number of very good beverages with less offensive names to
I always assumed it's a carry-over from the homebrew crowd, which like
to make up funny names and parody labels (something I also did with my
own beers). I think it's shortsighted for microbreweries to do it,
since it probably turns off just as many people as it attracts.
As a non-macro beer drinker, I often get asked about those "wacky" or
"weird" beers people see in the store. I remember in particular a
co-worker who just couldn't stop laughing at having seen a beer named
"Seadog", complete with wacky cartoon drawing of a dog with a funny hat.
I tried to explain that it's a pretty good brewery but he didn't hear
me over his own laughter. (Didn't A-B be in trouble for having a dog
"spokes-species"? I often wonder why the micros have been immune from
such criticism since there are a LOT of cartoon labels.)
I also don't see why brewpubs that ONLY sell their beers on premise feel
the need for the wacky names, I usually just ask for "your pale ale",
instead of the "Rosie's Tale Waggin' Pale Ale", etc.
I've always given a pass to barleywine/old ale humorous labels, since
that DOES seem to be a UK tradition. (I remember being in line at a
local drug store that also sells beer (unusual in NJ) and had a pretty
good selection. One beer, a recent release, didn't scan. The cashier
yells out to the manager, "Hey, I'm having trouble with this Blithering
Idiot!" and all the old ladies in line looked at *ME*!).
But, for the most part, I start out with a negative view of all those
cartoon animal/wacky named beers but have come across a few that have
changed my mind.