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!

Boak

Council sponsored beer

breckland.jpgA while ago, I wondered why more local breweries didn’t advertise by the sides of railway lines, like they do in Germany. One reason we came up with was that local councils wouldn’t want to be seen to promote booze or boozing.

Well, Breckland council have no such worries — earlier this year, they joined forces with the Iceni Brewery to come up with a special beer to welcome home local troops who’d been fighting in Afghanistan.

It’s not clear whether the council actually subsidised the brewing of this special batch of beer, but they’re certainly not shying away from being associated with and promoting a popular, successful local brewery.

I don’t know about you, but nothing about this makes me think (Daily Mail voice): “NOW LOCAL COUNCIL BACKS BINGEING”.

More councils should be backing, subsidising and promoting local their local breweries. They should be proud of them like Breckland Council is of Iceni.

Bailey

Why aren’t British towns more proud of their breweries?

landwehr.jpg

I’ve been travelling a lot for work in recent weeks, and I’ve noticed one obvious difference between the UK and Germany: British towns don’t advertise their local brewery at the railway station.

The long slow slide into a railway station in Britain does not offer romantic views. You see broken, graffiti’d trains; old sheds with the windows smashed; stacks of sleepers; brambles with knickers and plastic bags tangled up in them; if you’re lucky, you might spot a couple of workmen in orange jackets scratching their behinds and staring at something on the ground; or a big but withered floral display welcoming you half-heartedly to whichever town you’re visiting.

Compare that with the experience of whipping into a German station, where you see: the painted wall of a huge brewery near the station; a billboard for another of the town’s breweries; an even bigger billboard for the town’s biggest brewery; and a lot of smaller signs for the local beers being served in the station cafes. In short, you know before you get off the train what the local brew is. Cologne station has a collosal ad for Dom Kolsch inside the station, hanging over the platforms.

In Britain, you have to spend a few hours in advance Googling, or poring over the Good Beer Guide, or you might never come across a local brew the whole time you’re in town. That can’t be right. Local councils: subsidise an ad for your local brewery on the bleak ride into town. It can only do you good.

Pic is an uninspiring, recycled photo of Cologne cathedral. I’ll try to find a more apposite image tomorrow..

Pic is now slightly more relevant — they’re very proud of the local beers in Rothenburg. This charming picture of a group of oddballs with wispy moustaches and traditional costume enjoying Landwehr Brau is on the main road into town from the station.

El Legado de Yuste – Spanish abbey beer

yuste.jpgBoak is on tour in France and Spain.

A few years back Heineken España brought out El Legado de Yuste, “the first spanish abbey beer”, apparently brewed in the tradition of the master brewers of Flanders. I picked some up yesterday to give it a go.

It has a nice aroma – possibly slightly Belgian, definitely very malty. Initially a very good malt flavour but this quickly fades. It has an extremely weak body and quite a watery aftertaste. Some bitterness but no hop aroma or flavour. It´s too carbonated for a Belgian abbey ale. My initial reaction was that it was a watered-down Salvator (as in the Paulaner dopplebock – not that inconceivable – they are all part of the Heineken conglomerate). Because of its wateriness, it might be quite refreshing on a hot Spanish day – except for the fact that at 6.5%, you´re not going to drink many in the sun before the “heatstroke” sets in.

Ron Pattinson has listed it in his European beer guide and says that he´s not sure if it´s top or bottom fermented. I´m none the wiser from the bottle, it just says it´s made with “exclusive” yeasts (and vienna malt and specially selected hops) . It strikes me more as an amber lager effort than a belgian ale, whatever they use.

There is a website in Spanish devoted to this product, if you´re really interested. Lots of “history” of the product, suggestions on how to serve it (with game, apparently) and even a comprehensive guide to different types of beer. So I­t´s obviously targeted at the would-be connoisseur. But it doesn´t do anything for this amateur. I´ll stick with Salvator – maybe over ice?

Boak