What’s in a (Beer) Name?

How breweries come up with your favorite brew’s name

By Louis Garcia

When you walk into your local beer store something is quickly apparent: the number of beer styles and breweries to choose from is staggering. With so much on store shelves, naming a beer has become important for local breweries trying to stick out from the crowd.

The process to find the right name is as varied as beer styles.

“It’s a lot of fun coming up with names because you either name it something that really means something to you, something you have a connection with, or something that has a connection with Minnesota itself,” says Adit Kalra, co-owner of 612Brew.

612’s co-owners will often hang out and have fun when discussing different names. They named Rated R after a Tupac Shakur song they liked. Mary Ann, brewed with ginger, pays homage to Gilligan’s Island characters Ginger Grant and Mary Ann Summers. The show was something each co-owner grew up watching.

Sometimes the story is a little deeper than that.

Flight at 612Brew // Photo by Brian Kaufenberg

Flight at 612Brew // Photo by Brian Kaufenberg

Six years ago Kalra went searching for a killer tiger in India. Not only would the Minnesotan of Indian descent find such a beast, but it would also inspire one of the brewery’s beers, Shere Khan (Tiger King).

“When I was driving through India searching for man-eating tigers about six years ago, I was in the jungle and I found a tiger,” Kalra recalls. “They call it Shere. My driver and guide’s name was Khan. So we combined the two and made Shere Khan. So it’s actually named after a real tiger that I was looking for in India.”

For him it makes the beer, an India Pale Ale brewed with Indian spices including saffron, different and much more personal.

Sharing a personal bond with a beer’s name isn’t uncommon, but ensuring the name actually makes sense and has a purpose is important.

Jason Medvec, co-owner of Big Wood Brewery, explains that all of the names they’ve given their beer promote the brand, but also hint at what drinkers are getting into before the brew washes over their taste buds.

“It says a little bit about what the beer is,” Medvec says, using Bad Axe, a hard-hitting Imperial India Pale Ale he says is badass, as an example. “It kind of signifies what the liquid is inside the can—and it’s a double-entendre like Morning Wood.”

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