What’s in a name?

There’s a com­mon stereo­type that real ales have sil­ly names. You can see this stereo­type in action in Viz’s “Real Ale Twats” sketch­es kind­ly uploaded by Stonch back in Sep­tem­ber.

Actu­al­ly, this isn’t as true today as it used to be – I was look­ing through a cou­ple of fes­ti­val pro­grammes recent­ly, and the tru­ly daft names were few and far between.

But look hard enough and you can still find the Old Stoat­Wob­blers, Tid­dly Vic­ars, and the famous Pid­dle in the Wind. You can groan at ter­ri­ble puns like “San­ta’s Claws”, and “Smok­ing – then they ban­dit”. Then there are the “ha-ha, aren’t we being polit­i­cal­ly incor­rect” names such as “Dry hopped Naked Ladies” and “Top Tot­ty”, usu­al­ly with a high­ly amus­ing pump clip too. Very sea­side post­card.

Why do brew­ers go to all that effort to pro­duce what might be a good brew and then cheap­en it with a lousy name? I’ve thought of three pos­si­ble rea­sons;

  1. they think it appeals to the sense of humour of the aver­age real ale fan
  2. it’s a way of catch­ing the eye at a beer fes­ti­val, when there are hun­dreds of oth­ers to choose from
  3. actu­al­ly, the beer isn’t very good, but they’re hop­ing to sell it on its nov­el­ty val­ue.

There might be some­thing in (1) but it’s based on a gen­er­al­i­sa­tion which does­n’t hold true. I’m sure I’m not the only real ale fan to find sil­ly names a bit tacky and an insult to my sense of humour. So, by exten­sion, (2) does­n’t work for me either. It’s not that I won’t drink a beer such as “Cun­ning Stunt” because of the name, but I’m more like­ly to pick some­thing with a sen­si­ble name and label, that sug­gests qual­i­ty and integri­ty. This is because I’ve now start­ed to believe in option (3) and asso­ciate stu­pid names with ama­teur gim­micks, and thus don’t expect the beer to be any good.

Inci­den­tal­ly, while “research­ing” this, I found an old arti­cle (from August 2003) on the sub­ject. It makes pret­ty much the same points as above:

There are too many rather sug­ges­tive names in real ale, which I don’t think does the indus­try much good,” said Steve Reynolds, mar­ket­ing direc­tor at Spring­head brew­ery.

Do these sil­ly, sex­ist or crude names actu­al­ly appeal to *any­one*? Or am I just a prud­ish, po-faced stormtroop­er of polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness…?

N.B. I’ve nev­er had any of the beers men­tioned above – they might taste great!


6 thoughts on “What’s in a name?”

  1. I agree with you on this. It’s been said before but brew­ers don’t seem to lis­ten. It makes their prod­ucts look ama­teur­ish, as you say.

  2. I think that all three options have some truth to them, but would tend to side with 2. I’ve seen lads at fes­ti­vals think­ing they are tru­ly hilar­i­ous order­ing a pint of Old Nip­pletweak­er or what­ev­er the lat­est jokey named beer might be.

    Sad­ly stu­pid­ly named beers do appeal to a cer­tain clien­tele.

    There was a bit of ker­fuf­fle many years ago about Oakham Old Tosspot until it was explained what the ori­gins of the beer name are.

  3. Sad­ly stu­pid­ly named beers do appeal to a cer­tain clien­tele.”

    Yes, about five rug­ger bug­gers who’ve come to a beer fes­ti­val to take the piss. Ordi­nary human beings in ordi­nary pubs would be instant­ly put off by such gim­mick­ry, as it sug­gests they’re get­ting an ama­teur­ish prod­uct.

    I think St Peter’s always do very well because none of their beers have daft names – they just describe what type of beer it is. As such, new cus­tomers at the Jerusalem Tav­ern are less baf­fled than they would be oth­er­wise.

  4. Bet­ter beer in North Amer­i­ca, arriv­ing late to the game, seems to be try­ing to make up for their late­ness by hav­ing some of the crass­est and most obnox­ious names. Thank­ful­ly most of those were put out by fly by night mar­ket­ing com­pa­nies and applied to con­tract brewed odd­i­ties. The sad thing is that after being burned a cou­ple of times by a stu­pid name with some fan­cy art­work, I avoid­ed some good brew­eries because their nomen­cla­ture and pack­ag­ing looked gim­micky.

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