Barley Mowat 

Naming Your Brewery

with 3 comments

There’s so many new breweries cropping up in BC that there will be one or two more by the time you’re done reading this article. Screw the recession; craft beer is booming big time in BC. The LDB reports 50% year-over-year growth in sales for breweries of 16,000hl or smaller (about the size of Lighthouse or smaller), and I suspect the only reason that growth wasn’t higher is that we straight up drank all the beer on offer. Seriously, craft breweries in BC are starting to actually run out of beer because they can’t grow fast enough to meet demand.

So, say you’re a homebrewer with delusions of grandeur or, more likely, a savvy marketing guy who just sorta understands what craft beer is thanks to a recent Scout Magazine article written by a clever, yet surprisingly handsome bearded journalist. Before you’ve sourced out some money, a few bits of equipment, and warehouse space to put it in (which can now both be in Vancouver and have a lounge), you will need a name.

Picking a good brewery name is incredibly important. It’s responsible for the first impression of your beer to potential customers. It’s how customers recognize you on the shelf, and it’s how they search for you on the Internet. It is, arguably, more important than how good your beer is. (In response to the thousands of sudden, sharp intakes of breath I just heard: it doesn’t matter how awesome your beer is if no one will drink it because it says “Canned Shit” on the side)

Although, curiously, some alternate spellings of “shit” sell well.

So, here it is: Barley Mowat’s Guide to Naming Your New Brewery. I’ll give you a breakdown of brewery names, from worst to best, and cite examples in BC that meet these criteria.

Worst: Names the LCLB won’t let you use

Nothing is worse than a name you can never register a liquor license with because it violates the LCLB’s 1920’s views about what is right and moral to put on the side of a bottle. This category is such a poor choice for a brewery name, that every example here is fictional.

Examples: Binge Beer, Underage Ales, Get Drunk Now Brewery, Beer is Better Than Wine Brewing Company (this one will likely get you blackballed forever by the wine-myopic LDB)

Pretty bad: Names that lie

Breweries tend to be in fairly boring places, places like industrial parks, or down by the sewage treatment plant. But why let the awful truth stop you from associating your brewery with a place that’s much nicer? Nevermind how much damage will be done to your brand once people find out you straight up lied, that’s a problem for Future You to deal with, and that guy’s a jerk.

Examples: Stanley Park Brewing (Annacis Island), Coal Harbour Brewing (East Van), Deep Cove Brewing (North Van), Barkerville Brewing (Quesnel)

Brewery’s don’t just limit themselves to lies about location, they also dabble lies about their actual existence. Shadow Branding is an all-too common tactic whereby a larger brewery invents a whole persona to go with a new beer because… um… the marketing is… uh… easier, somehow? I actually don’t know why they do this, although the big boys do have a lot to gain from distancing these new “craft” brands from their macro roots. I’ll dig deeper into this in a future post.

Examples: Stanley Park Brewing (Turning Point… yup, they’re a two-fer), Cariboo (Pacific Western), Shaftebury (Sapporo)

This is a common dating site tactic, as well. I mean, he could be a NHL defenceman, right?

Better: Place names

Naming your brewery after the location it is (actually) in is not a bad plan. Many breweries are so named, in fact. The trick is to try and be as specific as possible, because eventually another brewery will open up, and suddenly that Google search for “Vancouver Brewery” turns up a dozen other breweries in addition to your own. Just be sure to draw the line somewhere, though, as “534 Cambie Street, Second Floor Brewing Company” doesn’t have a great ring to it–try “Crosstown Brewing” instead. (Sidenote: Anyone? That’s an awesome building just begging for a nano, and it’s for lease!)

This approach becomes an issue, though, if your brewery grows enough that you need to move. If you think finding a good space is hard, wait until you need to do that AND have that space be on a specific street.

Examples (bad to good): Vancouver Island, Whistler, Powell Street, Yaletown, Townsite

Better still: Named after the brewer

This creates a nice connection between the public and the brewery, unless your name is Smith. There’s something neat about waltzing up to a beer fest booth labeled “Jim’s Brewery” and discovering that you are, in fact, talking to Jim himself.

Examples: Hoyne, Phillips, Russell, R & B

I would be remiss, though, in not pointing out a minor issue with three of these names:

  • Russell is named after founder/brewmaster Mark Russell and his brother Peter who, sadly, is are longer affiliated with the brewery that still bears their name.
  • R&B’s Rick Dellow and Barry Benson, though, can still be found down on 54 East 4th street, but R&B has to be about the worst e-name for a business ever. It’s almost impossible to search for in any online database, and all these fun new apps for rating beer (think or untappd) have to be specifically updated to support the & in the middle, and even then it’s often easier to just search for Red Devil Ale to find their brewery.
  • Hoyne Brewing, named after owner/brewer Sean Hoyne is better, but there is a chance for some confusion since Sean isn’t the only brewer in the Hoyne family. Most recently, brother Paul Hoyne was the brewmaster over at Lighthouse so there isn’t much risk of this right now, but if he were to strike out on his own life could get interesting.

Best: Uncommon or made-up terms

These are probably the best type of name for your new company. Uncommon or completely made-up terms are easily trademark-able, and provide unique search results for potential consumers. This is by far the largest category of brewery names in BC. As a side note, I don’t mean breweries with common, single-word phrases for names. Those are bad, folks:

Bad: Bridge, Ridge, Cannery, Tree, Wolf, Canoe, Swan’s, Storm

If you really want to have a generic term in your brewery name, try slapping a adjective in front of it. Truck Brewing is a terrible name, but Red Truck is less so. Think of all the other breweries that used this tactic:

Good: Big Ridge, Big River, Dead Frog, Noble Pig, Okanagan Spring, Red Truck, Tin Whistle, Steel Toad

Either that or pick a less common noun. “Bridge” or “Tree” are common, every day nouns, but when was the last time you used “Driftwood” in a conversation that wasn’t about beer. Again, while “Driftwood” isn’t awful, it could be a lot better. Here are some from okay to great.

Better: Driftwood, Wheelhouse, Crannog, Brassneck

Lastly, after you’ve picked a few good naming candidates, make sure to take 5 minutes and perform both a Canadian Intellectual Property Office Trademark Database Search and US Patent and Trademark Office Search.

Even if you have no plans to expand into the US, that other brewery down south might not feel the same way about Canada. A bit of effort here to pick a unique name (and register it) could avoid you a potential host of problems down the road.

Written by chuck

May 13th, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Posted in Beer and You

3 Responses to 'Naming Your Brewery'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Naming Your Brewery'.

  1. I noticed you referenced Cariboo Brewing as a so-called shadow brand of PWB. It is actually not. The beer is all brewed in Prince George (“the crown of the Cariboo”) on the site of Prince George’s original brewery, the Cariboo Brewing Company, purchased in a defunct state by Ben Ginter in 1957 and morphed into PWB in later years. The physical ties to the Cariboo Brewing Company have never been severed, however.

    Frank Peebles

    29 May 13 at 11:37

  2. @Frank — You have just summarized one of the big issues with classifying breweries as shadow brands: there is no good definition of what is or isn’t a shadow brand. Most people would say a shadow brand is a beer brewed by a brewery that doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t quite get you all the way there.

    By that definition Cariboo 100% IS a shadow brand, since there is no such company as “Cariboo Brewing Company.” However, at one point in time such a company did exist, so it could be argued that PWB is actually just a renamed Cariboo, meaning that Cariboo, while not an actual legitimate brewery of the likes of, say, Parallel 49, still isn’t technically a “shadow brand.”

    This gets more complicated when the parent company has purchased more than one subsidiary, as in the case of Whistler/Bowen/Kamloops all being owned by Northam, and even more complicated when the child is still a legally separate entity with dedicated staff and a physically separate facility, as in the Granville Island Brewing and Molson situation (and again yet more complications arise when you realize that most of GIB’s beer isn’t actually brewed in said separate facility).

    My article on shadow brands will touch on all these points, and as a consequence it’ll be quite long 🙂


    29 May 13 at 12:16

  3. Client back-linking is not a supported practice, from a web developer standpoint I frown at the idea too. You are far better off keeping the page/source clean and benefit from client word-of-mouth.

    Lise Emerton

    17 Aug 13 at 13:45

Leave a Reply