Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Evolution of a Beer Part II: What is in a Name?

Once an idea has been hatched; once a beer style has been chosen; once you have a recipe in mind; it is time to decide upon a name. Thinking up a good name for a new beer makes a marketing department salivate like it had just been served a perfectly cooked 16 ounce sirloin. But we here at Maritime Pacific do not have a marketing department, so it is up to a select few individuals to brainstorm ideas and choose a name.  We must come up with a name that will cause the same reaction in a beer consumer that we got from said marketing department.

Finding a good beer name is not as easy as it sounds. There are several factors that can give brewers massive headaches or can cause them to want to stick a pencil in their eye.  The first factor is we are an industry that has been strong and healthy for over 30 years now. And, you know what they say…There are no original ideas. Finding a name after 30 years of growth in an industry is difficult to say the least. Add to this fact, you a happy person with bottles of beer flying off the shelf only to wake one morning to find a “Cease and Desist” letter in your mailbox telling you to stop selling your beer because some other brewing company in who-knows-where has copyrighted the word “The.”

Of course once you have maneuvered through this river of taken names, now you must deal with the TTB because they must approve every beer name. There are obvious words that I will not get into here because George Carlin has done a perfect job listing them.  But there are other words, words such as “strong”, which cannot be used because of their connotation. Now imagine giving yourself a pat on the back because you think you have a clever name for you beer; one that has not been used before; and you have a perfect label made up only to hear back from the TTB telling you that the name you have chosen has not been approved because they do not like the use of the word “the.”

In addition to the TTB and the myriad of used names, there are a couple of factors to coming up with a beer name to which I was not accustomed. The first was the name had to be nautical or maritime in theme.  I was born in a small farming community in the Midwest. What do I know about all things nautical? The other factor was there were up to five people trying to come up with this nautically themed name.  For nine years prior to my arrival at Maritime Pacific, I created my own beer names. I worked solo.  Needless to say working in a group gave me massive headaches and I wanted to stick a pencil in my eye.

There was one thing that kept popping in my head as we all tried to come up with the perfect name. Do you remember the episode of the Simpson’s (yep…a cartoon reference) in which a group of writers were sitting in a conference room and are being asked by Krusty the Klown and some executives to come up with a name for a new character they wanted to introduce to the Itchy and Scratchy cartoon?  The main honcho tells the writers, “Something along the lines of Poochie, only not so stupid.” After Krusty and the honchos leave the room, the writers look at each other with one saying, “Soooo, Poochie okay with everybody?” All the writers agree and said meeting is over. Well…that is what this process felt like at times.

After three weeks, we as a group came up with a list of possible names, but none of them gave us that feeling. You know the feeling. Personally I was getting frustrated and desperate. It had never been so difficult to come up with a name for a beer before.  So I started asking everyone to help including: my beloved, my father-in-law, the pub staff, and that guy that was sitting next to me at the bar. You know that guy.  Anyway, it seemed hopeless. Our deadline to get the label done and approved by the TTB was quickly approaching. With one last attempt, I turned to Glen Falconer’s brother, Quentin, who served up a tasty morsel of information.  Glen was into SCUBA diving.  What a find! I turn this tasty morsel over to George, and by the next morning we had our name: Decompression.  It was the first name I had heard (that was not in use…Thank you very much Big Time for using Maelstrom!) that had it. There was no more discussion. We have our name.

Now we have our newest seasonal and its new name. From start to finish it almost took two months to come up with the idea, the style, and its name. I am exhausted and need a beer. Of course there could not be any other surprises in store for us that would make this new endeavor even better. Could there?

Corey Blodgett
Head Brewer & Blogger

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