Unlike the supply of baby names, which is replenished whenever a celebrity couple names their kid after a direction or a piece of fruit, the number of beer names is finite. And it's not surprising -- with over 4,600 craft breweries in America each brewing a wide variety of beer, and a limited number of words to choose from, it's difficult to select a beer name that hasn't already been slapped on a label.
And while we recognize the plight of the brewer in America regarding the naming crisis, we also have to point out some of the worst offenders.
How the hell did we get to this point?
It was just last September that the Brewers Association (the trade group that represents America's craft brewers) proudly announced that the USA was home to over 4,000 breweries. The all-time high was 4,131, and it took just another 10 months to crush that goal and hit our current count of over 4,600.
It's funny to look back at the plain old names for beers back when there was barely any competition on the craft scene. Sierra Nevada had a Pale Ale, a Porter, and a Stout. Anchor Brewing, another West Coast OG, had a Porter, a Brown, and an IPA. Yuengling had its Lager. Those are not just the styles of the beer -- those are also the boring names, and they're all so boring I fell asleep as I was typing them. At this point, it's unthinkable that you'd name any of your flagship beers something that plain. Think of popular modern-day beer series -- Great Divide's Yeti, Ballast Point's Sculpin -- they're memorable as all get-out.
In today's market, you have to stand out with whatever you have at your disposal.
Craft brewers need the attention
As this very publication reported a little over a year ago, there's a war in craft beer for shelf space and tap handles. No longer can a few huge craft breweries fight it out for your hard-earned dollars. Nowadays, breweries of all sizes are fighting to get your attention (and your cash). One way is to brew off-the-wall beers, like New Belgium (Ben & Jerry's flavors!), Dogfish Head (scrapple beer!), or Flying Dog (Old Bay beer!). They can also use beautiful can or bottle art that'll make the beer pop in the liquor store.
Another, much cheaper way to get attention, is to give your beer a crazy name. In 2005, I was living on the East Coast working a boring job (as in, not my current job), and a co-worker brought in a beer to celebrate. It was a bomber of Stone/Arrogant Brewing's Arrogant Bastard. Oh, how we laughed at the name! He had no idea what it tasted like, but the name cracked him up. The art was great too -- and even better? The beer was crazy good. I can't remember which beer I had last night, but I can easily recall the night I had my first Arrogant Bastard.
A good name can make a mark.
These beer names are atrocious
Unfortunately, in the quest to get attention with a funny name, some breweries miss the mark completely. There are plenty of sexist names for beers out there: it ranges from Deep Ellum's Dallas Blonde ("goes down easy," says the can) to SweetWater's Happy Ending to Midnight Sun's Panty Peeler. And from the sexist to just plain sexual, there's always the Great River Big Cock IPA (though proceeds partly benefit pheasants...?), The Beer Research Institute's Morning Sex, and Revolution's Threesome.
While the sexually tinged beer names can be offensive to some people, there are other beer names that are just generally offensive to anyone with half a brain cell left. Yes, I'm talking about pun-based beer names that give modern-day humor a bad name: AleSmith's Java the Nut, Ruckus' Hoptimus Prime, and Oskar Blues' Mama's Little Yella Pils.
And let us not forget the category of newfangled craft beer names that seem to say, "We've given up on trying to come up with anything good!" I'm looking at you, Tree House's JJJuliusss, Prairie's Standard, and Mispillion River's Holy Crap!. But since the craft boom shows no sign of slowing down yet, and as the number of noms de guerre shrink, these sorts of horribly named beers are going to continue to show up on shelves and tap handles.
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