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

CAMRA Sessional Cask Fest

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One of my all time favourite CAMRA events was the Spring Sessional Fest of Ale of two years past (review here). Sure, it wasn’t perfect (few things are), but it was a great way to spend an afternoon. The company was entertaining, the crowd was friendly, and the sun was shining in through the London Pub’s windows (remember when pubs were required to have darkened glass? WTF was with that?) Adding to this general mood of happiness was the beer itself.

The past decade or so has seen two forms of arms race in the craft brewing world. First, there’s the “how many hops can we cram in this beer without actually turning it green” race, which has slowly morphed into the “so what, it’s green, wanna make something of it?” race. Running parallel to this is the “let’s jack up the booze” trend. A long time ago a 6% ABV IPA would have been considered quite the strong ale. These days, table IPAs regularly top 7 or 8%, with the higher Imperials reaching for (and sometimes exceeding) 10%.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t make these high ABV monsters. They high alcohol helps blend together/take the edge off some of the stronger malt/hops flavours that come with the big beer crowd. Additionally, high ABV beers tend to cellar better, and man am I ever a sucker for a cellaring ale. Plus, there are other, less subtle benefits.

Like making baseball tolerable. You thought I was going with pictures of drunk co-eds doing regrettable things, didn’t you? Shame on you; I’ve matured since my early days.

It’s just that I feel we’ve lost something by moving away from our humble end-of-the-workday table beer roots. Remember how awesome it felt to be able to crack open a bottle of beer on a Tuesday and finish it with no fear of impeded performance on Wednesday? Me neither, but my diary reports the feeling to be awesome. We’ve left those days behind, and now find ourselves in The Time of 8% ABV Saisons. (Aside: I like both beers, especially Deckhand, but Saisons were originally low ABV refreshers for the end of a long day’s manual labour)

That leads us to CAMRA’s latest event: the 2013 Spring Sessional. Sessional’s are low-ABV beers that don’t skimp on flavour. Sure, they might not punch in you in the face like their bigger brethren, but how often do you find yourself thinking “Man, I could go for a full pint of Singularity right about now.”

The goal with sessionals is to create a beer that can be enjoyed 20 ounces at a time, without fear of waking up in the bathroom stall at the Alibi Room, under a blanket, with a note to let yourself out pinned to your chest (note: not actually a thing that happened. I swear. It was a poncho). To accomplish this, they focus on more subtle flavours that build up in your mouth over the course of a pint but don’t wear you out. As I like to say with great sessionals: “This beer tastes like another pint.”

The focus of the event has slipped a bit from 3.5% ABV to 4.5% ABV, and the tasting glasses have shrunk from 10oz to 6oz, but the spirit is still the same. As well, since low-ABV beers are not exactly hugely popular, or even produced by most breweries, we are virtually guaranteed that the entrants will be interesting, novel experiments, which is what I most love about casks. Throw onto that pile of awesome-sounding-beer-event CAMRA President Adam acting as “cask police” and things get even better: many “casks” served locally are really just beer in a cask-shaped vessel–Adam will ensure that is not the case here.

Am I going? Damned straight. And you’d best too, if you know what’s good for you. I heard this AM that there are tickets still available, and for an event of this calibre, that’s been on sale over a month, that is a bloody crime. Shame on you, beer public. You call yourself beer geeks and you allow THIS to happen? Go buy tickets. Buy them all. Buy one for your dog, if you have to, he likes beer.

Okay fine. Here you go. Happy now?

Written by chuck

April 26th, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Beer and You

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Blink and You Miss It (VCBW Preview)

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Vancouver Craft Beer Week, that annual celebration of all things awesome and right with this city, is coming back for yet another year. To that end, they launched their website, event listings, and ticket sales all in one fell swoop. Notably improved from last year was both the ticketing partner (Eventbrite) and the timing (noon vs midnight) of the launch.

Ticketing was so vastly improved, in fact, that Hoppapolooza sold out in thirty minutes instead of three hours. Yup, sorry, it’s all gone now. Yes, I got tickets. Thanks for asking! Don’t worry about the other events–they won’t sell out for some time yet. If you’re stuck with too much money and no Hoppapolooza tickets, what should you do? Here’s my guide for VCBW 2013:

1. Hoppapolooza IV. Yeah, I know both sessions sold out, but I have to rub it in a bit more. This is probably the single best beer event in BC. Imagine Nigel Springthorpe (Alibi Room) calling in every favour owed him to put together the most amazing beer list any BC geek has ever seen. That’s Hoppapolooza. Pro Tip: If you didn’t get tickets, try lining up the next day at 5pm to sample the leftovers. Usually Nigel goes a bit nuts, and even the most dedicated crowd of beer geeks can drink all of the awesomeness in one go. Or wait for tickets to show up on Craigslist at a 300% markup.

2. Cicerone vs Sommelier. I always contend that beer can trump wine for food pairings. Not everyone agrees with me, but even most of the naysayers admit it’s close. Wine v Beer dinners are always lots of fun, and this should be no exception.

3. PDX Beer Week. This one won’t be special so much for the awesome beer on hand (perhaps mostly because Portland Craft ALWAYS has awesome PDX beer on tap), but more for the people. The brewmasters of Gigantic (Ben Love), Ninkasi (Jamie Floyd), Upright (Alex Ganum), The Commons (Mike Wright), Alameda (Carston Haney), and Occidental (Ben Engler) will be there. When you cram this much US brewing talent in a small space, I virtually guarantee some Canuck brewers will also turn up.

The rest is your standard mix of festivals, dinners, and general beer-love. While I’m jaded enough to look at the master list and find it a bit boring, 99.9% of the beer drinking public is not me. No matter what tickets you pick up, you’ll find yourself in a room surrounded by beer geeks. You’ll have a great evening, make some new friends, and then want to take a shower to get all that beard hair off. Cuz eewwww.

Written by chuck

April 22nd, 2013 at 2:35 pm