September 27th, 2012 by Crafty Pint
For the latest in our series of pieces looking at the importance or otherwise of beer names, we take a trip across the Tasman to the home of the Yeastie Boys. They’re a pair of brewers with a tendency to give their beers names as colourful as the drink inside the bottle, names into which a fair amount of thought has been poured. Or has it?
Here’s Stu McKinlay, the deceptively tall man of beer and pants matching fame (above right) to reveal all…
How important is the name of a beer?
To us it’s hugely important… it’s like naming your naming our children.
Why haven’t you just gone down the named by style route?
I’ve always been really interested in how UK breweries often gave their beers interesting names but we New Zealanders tended to go with less fanciful ones… A style is fine if you are going to base your entire range around classic styles, like Tuatara and Three Boys have done, and if you want people who are into those classics to buy your beer. But our beers are less easy to categorise and I think the fun names go with the fact that they are, themselves, fun beers.
A unique name gives you something else in your brand armoury and it can be far more punchy than a style or a descriptive name. When people say “Rex Attitude” everyone knows what it is and who made it… the same couldn’t be said of “strong smoky golden ale”.
How do you come up with names for your beers?
Most of our names, believe it or not, come in advance of the beers themselves… I listen to a lot of music and a lot of that influences the ideas I have and the beers we make. Almost all of our names come from music or pop culture references, with some being easier to work out than others.
For example, I first came across the Mike Oldfield tune “Punkadiddle” right at a time I was thinking everyone was obsessing too much with strong hoppy pale ales. That tune is anti-anti-establishment song, if that makes sense, and that is what the beer Punkadiddle was all about. A 3.7 per cent Ordinary Bitter… It was a reminder that we don’t have to go high-octane to make our beers “craft”. It was us taking our shirts off to play a folk tune when everyone else was shredding with their 7 per cent IPAs. Frankly, I’m surprised there aren’t more perms in the craft brewing world!
It was, in some respects, as much a reminder to ourselves as it was to everyone else. People don’t tend to shout about low ABV beers so occasionally you have to make one to remind yourself how good they are. Many of our beers follow similar patterns… the tune comes along, just as the idea is in my sub-conciousness. Rex Attitude was another tune that hit my stereo just as the vague beer idea was bouncing around in the part of my brain that holds all these concepts.
Do you have a favourite among your own beer names? If so, why do you like that particular one?
I’ve always had a soft spot for Punkadiddle. It was a beer I really enjoyed drinking and it ended up getting its own pair of (houndstooth) pants courtesy of a Hashigo Zake personalised tap badge.
It’s got that cracking element that I love in a beer name, that characteristic that will have people spotting it in a bar and thinking: “What the fuck is that?” They have to ask, and then half of our job is done… I also really love the contradiction of Digital IPA.
What’s your pick of beer names from others?
The first couple of craft beers I drunk a lot of were “Owd Jim” (from a now defunct Wellington brewery called “Strongcroft” that my dad used to get flagons/growlers from) and then, on my own accord a few years later, my epiphany beer was “Bookbinder” (the gateway beer of many).
There’s those odd English names like “Sneck Lifter”, Workie Ticket" etc. And those strong beers that seem to be really suit their names, like “Mammoth”, “Debilitated Defender”, “Old Knucklehead”, “Old Peculier”, “Freddy Walker”, “Bigfoot”… I love the fact that 8 Wired have developed a strong theme around their brewery name with Hopwired, Rewired, Haywired and your own Mountain Goat has named their seasonal releases the “Rare Breed” series. And everything from Moon Dog, of course!! Mikkeller have plenty of good ones too.
Thanks, Stu. Yet another brewer to liken his beers to children or babies a la Moon Dog and Red Duck, two of the others to contribute to this series, alongside Feral. Next up, an insight from one of the big boys – Matilda Bay.