Barley Mowat 

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Naming Your Brewery

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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

May Beer of the Month

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The more astute of you might have noticed my BOTM not being updated for April. This is for a few reasons, namely:

  1. I was in Bolivia
  2. No beer stood out in April
  3. I plain old forgot

Mostly, though, it was number two there. I always said I’d skip a month if no beer of note was released, and that was the case. Sure, there were a few that piqued my interest slightly, but in the end none of them really fit the bill.

May, though, is a different story. A beer was released in late April, and is still available in stores right now, that is definitely something to think about. It’s Driftwood Clodhopper. Clodhopper is virtually unique amongst beers in BC because it’s brewed with barley grown and malted in BC. Sourcing local barley might seem like a huge chore when there’s a nice website you can just plain old order the stuff from by the pallet-load, but it’s the next big step for breweries to take on the road to making better beer.

The problem is this: sure, it’s nice and easy to order from that catalogue, and you sure do get a consistent product, but you know who else can order from that catalogue? Everyone. Every single brewery in BC can, and does, source barley from one of a handful of possible locations. Barley contributes as much flavour to a beer as yeast and hops do, both of which are carefully considered before being used (yeast is mostly propagated in-house, and hops are increasingly locally sourced, or even home grown in some cases). Barley, though? Give Ed at BarleyWorld a call and get 500kg of the Malt. See if we can’t get some with less rats this time.

But not no rats, though. They help with stirring the mash. And add flavour.

Not Driftwood Clodhopper, though. This is made with barley grown mere minutes from the brewery. Sure, the farm isn’t very big, and the harvest is likewise small, so they’re restricted to this one release, but the demand is there and it’s growing. Unique, malt-forward beers are coming.

Unless, of course, the government doesn’t do anything. You see, one of the main advantages of using all-BC ingredients in your booze is you can then sell the resultant happy-juice tax free from your establishment. The goal here is to create demand for BC-grown ingredients that are traditionally sourced from out of province. Demand equals jobs which equals, let’s face it, votes. Wineries have long enjoyed this little break, and just recently the government opened up the legislation, stared long and hard at the wording, and changed it… to include distilleries. Breweries, on other hand, can just go fuck themselves.

How does this threaten beer made from local malt? I mean, if it’s better, you’ll do it anyway right? You sure would, if the farmer hadn’t already sold it to distillers. Yeah, that locally distilled, high octane, booze, in addition to being awesome, is also made from–you guessed it–barley malt. Sucks to be a brewer wanting to make better beer.

Oh well, enough rambling from me, go out and enjoy this beer, and think about all the political nuances that went into its creation.

Tasting notes:

APPEARANCE Low, almost no, carbonation. Dark red/brown body.
NOSE Some darker fruits (plum, cherry), thick sugar/malt nose, with a hint of spiciness on the end.
TASTE Smooth, lots of blackened caramel, and just a wee bit of Belgian funk
SHOULD I BUY IT? Yes. Buy three. No, four.

Coles notes:

Brewery Driftwood
From Victoria
Name Clodhopper
Style Abbey Dubbel
SOA Now Bronze
SOA Potential Bronze
Drink Now. Might improve with some age, but it’s good right now.
Label Seriously, what an ugly label. What gives, guys?
Availability Widely available at LRS
Cost $7-10 per 650ml bottle.
Similar BC Beers None right now

Written by chuck

May 6th, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with

Granville Island Cloak and Dagger

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Well, here we are. GIB has finally let loose with the 2013 version of their Cascadian Dark Ale, the 2012 version of which started the whole CascadiaGate issue. Or, at least, that’s Steamworks’ story and they’re sticking with it.

For their part, Steamworks has since announced that everything is fine, and they realized the errors of their ways. Anyone can use “Cascadia” in the style of a beer, just so long as they don’t use it as the name (then they’ll have to pay $1). But I digress, this is not a story anyone even remotely familiar with beer in BC is not completely sick of. Kind of like our overly restrictive beer laws. What? Those are still here? Crap.

Pictured: Great beer in Costco. This is a thing that happens elsewhere in the world.

GIB also took the opportunity to relaunch their Limited Release Series as the Black Book Series. The beers themselves will be familiar versions of Brewmaster Vern Lambourne’s brews of years past, but they will have funky new labels and, for the first time, names.

Naming the beers is a concession to the “style but not name” requirement from Steamworks above, but also overdue. Good beers deserve names. The branding, though, is curious, as it de-emphasizes the “Granville Island Brewing” aspect so prevalent on GIB’s Molson-brewed beers, and instead highlights the specific beer. Frankly, the difference in quality between Molson’s “Granville Island” and Vern’s “Granville Island” has long been ill-served by the similar-looking bottles, so I say “well played, GIB.”

Anyway, back to the beer. What was the point of everyone turning towards Steamworks last fall and muttered “The fuck?” if not to protect a brewery’s right to make a fantastic hoppy beer and rightfully–truthfully–call it “Cascadian.” Sadly, that hypothetical beer is not this one (although Parallel 49 just released a Cascadian Dark Lager…)

Cloak and Dagger is a Cascadian Dark Ale, and all CDAs tend to be good, but it lacks that massive hop punch that trademarks the style. In fact, this is somewhat of a sweet ale… with an approachable taste, and that’s my main issue. CDAs are a beer nerd’s nerdy beer, and this just isn’t that. Sure, it has some of the toasted malt we all like in our CDAs, but that’s about it.

Tasting notes:

NOSE Dark malt, some roast coffee, and a mild punch of hops
APPEARANCE Black as night with light tan head
TASTE Sweet malt, although some bitterness from the roasting, not a lot of hops to back it up
SHOULD I BUY IT? Depends. Do you like sweeter, maltier IPAs? Then yes. Otherwise, give it a skip.

Coles notes:

Brewery Granville Island
From Vancouver
Name Cloak and Dagger
Style Cascadian Dark Ale
SOA Now None Awarded
SOA Potential Not a cellaring ale
Drink Now.
Lawsuit odds I’ll give you 4:1. I just don’t see them doing it.
Availability Widely available at LRS
Cost $? per 650ml bottle (free sample).
Similar BC Beers Howe Sound Gathering Storm

Written by chuck

April 30th, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Posted in Beers

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