Beers these days sure have some funny names, don’t they? Cue the Shakespeare quote and let’s talk about whether or not a “rose by any other name” might “smell as sweet.”
It’s getting harder for breweries to come up with names for their product that haven’t already been used before. The last few years has even seen brewery pitted against brewery – brother against brother – over similarities of names. This usually has the plaintiff looking like an ogre not wanting to share his toys, but put quite simply no one wants to be the precedent by being the nice guy. There are copyrights to protect and the toil and success of a business to maintain.
Staying regional and self-referential tends to work best. Look at our own Pensacola Bay Brewery. It’s not terribly likely that some brewery in Colorado is going to suddenly name their beer Lil’ Napoleon or De Luna.
Sometimes the name comes from an inside joke. In fact, Brew Hub out of South Florida has a beer called Inside Joke! Denver, Colorado’s Trve (pronounced “True”) Brewing Co.’s entire name is an inside joke about metal-heads – and beer nerds – who take their culture too seriously.
Then there are the clever names. Hell or High Watermelon, Hoptimus Prime, Mama’s Little Yella Pils and Blitzkrieg Hops come to mind. Very “punny,” guys, very “punny.”
Some of these are just getting silly. Santa’s Butt. Moose Drool. Screaming Ape. Tactical Nuclear Penguin. Pretty much the whole Sweet Water line-up, too. It’s definitely keeping things original and difficult to copy.
In a call-back to what Pensacola Bay does, here’s one from Smuttynose Brewing out of New Hampshire. Their original brewery was on Smuttynose Island, its name derived from old sailors seeing it from the horizon as the “smutty nose” of some sort of sea leviathan. While being “smutty-nosed” is used in ornithology to describe black-nostril birds, I’m not sure how it made the leap into grizzled sea dog speak.
Smuttynose Brewing has been around long before the upstarts who are now wracking their brains for a clever label; 1994 to be exact. Their love of hoppy, balanced beer is best expressed by way of their Finestkind IPA. This one ranks right up there with some of the best in the biz. Hazy gold-yellow with a pillowy head that leaves thick sheets of lacing, Finestkind is loaded with scents of grapefruit rind, tropical fruit, candied pineapple and turbinado sugar. Flavor-wise, it delivers upon what the scents had promised, but it’s the way Finestkind goes back and forth that does it for me! First, a burst of sweet malt followed by a big, swelling wave of citrusy hops. Then, it’s back to some caramel malt before finishing with a long, bitter-sweet wave goodbye; flavors rolling like the waves that batter the shores of Smuttynose Island.
They could’ve called this Rat Soup for all I care! Smuttynose, you’re a name amongst names and this IPA is top-notch!