There is constant discussion on beer-related social media about beer names. Some names are childish, misogynistic or disgusting in other ways. Other names (and artwork) are blatant violations of intellectual property. Then you run into the issue of repeated names, where multiple breweries have beers with the exact same name. Many breweries complain that it is getting hard to name a new beer, with so many “good” names already taken by other breweries. It is also apparent that some breweries make no effort to check whether or not their great new beer name is already in use. This led to the following tweet from Carla Jean Lauter:
This issue got me thinking, is it really that hard to come up with unique names for your beer? We have over 6000 breweries in the country now, and many put out a huge variety of releases every year, it’s easy to find even small breweries with over 100 beers to their credit. So I decided to run a little test, I would come up with a bunch of potential beer names that I would be interested in using if I started my own brewery, and then I will look them up on Untappd to see if they are already in use by someone else. I promise that I didn’t look anything up ahead of time, as I write this sentence I have no idea how unique any of the ideas will be. I’ve divided the ideas into 3 categories, each that would serve as a major inspiration for my fake brewery. I actually have a bunch of other sources of beer name inspiration, but I thought these three would be a good start.
1. I am trained and currently work as an organic chemist, I have a PhD and everything, so any brewery I run would need to have a chemistry theme to some of the beer names. Here are a few ideas I brainstormed:
Oxygen: Definitely an IPA, since so many craft beer drinkers consider hops to be at least as important as the air that they breathe. Untappd hits: 2 direct hits (Drakkar Brewery in Russia and a homebrewer), a few other places use the word as part of the title, but not a bad start.
Zwitterion: The name for a molecule that contains both a positive and a negative change, would be good or a beer with heavy doses of malts and hops, like a hoppy amber or barleywine. Untappd hits: 1 direct hit (Atom Beers in Hull, England), no other mentions.
Named Reaction: When a chemist discovers an important new reaction it usually ends up being named after the author who publishes the seminal paper (actually in academia it gets named after the professor who leads the lab, usually the grad students do the grunt work and get zero credit). I love when breweries allow any employee to bring recipes to the table, and this rotating series would be in that vein, giving credit to the inventor. Untappd hits: 0. First clean name!
CCOH: An abbreviated version of the chemical formula for ethanol, this would be perfect for a big and boozy imperial stout. Untappd hits: 0. Kind of surprised by this one, not enough organic chemistry nerds in the brewing business.
Low pH: Low pH is indicative of an acidic solution, and it is acidic compounds that give sour beers their tartness. Untappd hits: 1 (a homebrewer). MobCraft Beer in Milwaukee has a beer named Low PHunk, which is close.
I am also a huge music fan, and I love when breweries use subtle shout-outs to the songs that inspire them (song titles, album titles, or lyrics) when they name beers. My favorite era is early to mid 90’s rock, so that would be heavily represented. Bonus points to anyone who can identify all of the following songs:
Thoughts Arrive Like Butterflies: A rotating series of IPAs, each with a new mixture of hops. Untappd hits: 0. I had heard that the more words in the title the more likely it would be available, we’ll see if that holds up.
Mind Riot: Definitely a beer where the appearance and taste don’t align, like a blonde stout or a clear beer that tastes like a NEIPA. Untappd hits: 3 (Corridor Brewery in Chicago, Seattle Cider Company and a homebrewer).
Five Against One: Either a beer with 5 different hop varieties or a big beer aged in 5 different barrels and then blended. Untappd hits: 0. I searched with both the numerical characters and the words, still zero hits.
Paintings of Rebellion: Not sure the style, but this beer would feature unique can art designed by local artists, especially artists heavily involved in political/social causes. Untappd hits: 0. I hope someone uses this now, seems like an awesome beer name to me.
Saw Things So Much Clearer: Definitely a lager, probably a crisp and clean pils. Untappd hits: 0. Not surprised on this one, a bit of a mouthful.
Like The Coldest Winter Chill: A big and boozy quad perfect for the darkest days of winter. Untappd hits: 0. Apparently there aren’t many professional brewers drawing inspiration from the bands I love.
Trapdoor in The Sun: Probably a saison, something that is light and easy drinking but subtly complex and deep. Untappd hits: 1 (a homebrewer named Monkeywrench Brewing).
If This Doesn’t Make You Smile: Does it even matter what style of beer this is? If you saw a beer with this name on a menu you’d have to order it! Untappd hits: 0. Another awesome and readily available beer name.
Finally, I love books and spend lots of time getting engrossed in series by my favorite authors. My reading tastes tend towards epic/high fantasy (if the PhD in chemistry didn’t give it away this will confirm that I am a huge nerd), and some subtle references to the works of my favorite authors would be a must. I passed on Tolkien and Rowling (assumed those names had been done), but I will be impressed if you know the origins of all of these:
Coppermind: Perfect for a thought-provoking amber ale. Untappd hits: 0. Some similar names (Copperline and Coppermine), but no direct hits.
Worldsinger: Another title that could work for a variety of styles, I think a traditional Abbey ale would be the best choice here. Untappd hits: 0. I searched as one word and two, no hits either way.
Sylphrena: A saison with a big pop of hoppy goodness. Untappd hits: 0. I would have been really surprised if this came up.
World of Dreams: I could go a bunch of different ways here, but a pastry stout seems the best route. Untappd hits: 0. This one shocked me, I was sure someone would have used it by now.
Doomseer: Something boozy and dark, maybe a barrel aged barleywine. Untappd hits: 0. A couple close names again (Doomsayer, Doombier), but no direct hits.
So out of 18 potential names I came up with for my fictional brewery 13 were completely clean and 2 others had only beer used by homebrewers. I think that provides a pretty definitive answer to the question, I am not even a very creative person and I have a ton of potential beer names. A good creative team should have plenty of leeway, maybe just try to avoid hop-related puns.
With that I will pass it to my readers: what do you think of my potential beer names? If you started your own brewery what beer names would you use (and are they available)? What would be the theme/sources of inspiration for your beers? Let me know in the comments or on social media!