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11/28/2004

What’s in a name?

By Paula Aven Gladych
The Daily Times-Call

With names like Schnorzenboomer Pale Bock, Old Chub Scottish-Style Ale and White Rascal Belgian-Style Wheat, it is clear that microbrewers have a lot of freedom when it comes to naming their products.

Frosty brews take on the persona of revered pets, mountain peaks, sporting techniques and fantastic creatures out of people’s imaginations.

Schnorzenboomer is the house brew of the Main Street Brewery in Cortez. The owner of the pub and brewery “was in Germany at the tail-end of World War II as a kid,” said brewer Branden Miller. “He had an Air Force buddy from America and they would get tipsy and make fun of each other. Schnorzenboomer was the name the American gave to German bombers.”

Old Chub, produced by Oskar Blues Brewery in Lyons, was originally produced as a winter seasonal beer.

“For us, we wanted a simple, bold label. The beer is very bold, and we wanted to convey an attitude in its simplicity. We think it does that,” said owner Dale Katechis.

The name of the beer came about last Christmas when staff at Oskar Blues began toying with a Santa Claus-themed name and label. One phrase thrown out in the discussions was “the old chubby fat man,” he said. “Old Chub stuck with us and became our winter seasonal offering.

“Then the beer kept selling through the spring so we decided, ‘Let’s keep making this beer.’”

The beer-naming process “really kind of grows within the brewery,” Katechis said. “We’ll have a couple of beers after work, start talking about the day, beers and thoughts, if you have any beer names that intrigue you, and that’s how it all gets started.”

There is “not a lot of marketing genius behind it. We don’t stand around analyzing it. It’s a very grass-roots angle to keep it fun and refreshing and alive,” he said. “You’ll find in the microbrewing industry … that people are truly passionate (about beer) and have a blast.”

White Rascal came about because Avery Brewing Co. president and brewmaster Adam Avery wanted to have a picture of a jester on one of his labels.

“Belgians call wheat beers white beers,” he said. Rascal was another name for joker or jester.

As far as how he names most of his beers: “I’m basically insane,” he said.

Avery claims he comes up with some of his best beer names while drinking Avery-produced brew, many stemming from things in his own life.

Identifying himself as a “recovered Catholic,” Avery sticks to religious themes for many of his beers, including The Reverend, Salvation and The Beast.

Many have sporting themes “because I like to play outside,” said Avery, whose brewery is in Boulder. “All kinds of names come out of my head,” he said.

Many of the brewery’s labels are ornate. The Beast, for instance, uses foil that is blacked out except for the teeth and eyes of the ferocious monster protruding from the bottle as a three-dimensional hologram.

“I think people who drink microbrews will go around and see what people are making. I don’t think it hurts to have a cool label,” Avery said.

Some consumers do not understand where he’s coming from with beer names and labels, but “at least it is making people make a decision. I put a lot of time and effort and thought into labels. I do the same with the beer inside,” he said.

Eric Wallace, president and co-founder of Left Hand & Tabernash Brewing Co. in Longmont, said the names of his beers vary.

“Some names just seem to spring to life on their own and others have a long, drawn-out gestation period where you have a group of people together and no one can really jump on one and say, ‘That’s it!’” he said.

Wallace added that, “sometimes it is really easy. Other ones take forever.”

Like many microbreweries, Left Hand allows its staff to offer suggestions for new beer names. They may even score a couple of cases of beer if they submit the winning name, he said.

The brewery’s hottest-selling brew, Sawtooth Ale, was named after the Colorado peak.

“We had a good view of it when we started the brewery,” Wallace said.

The company’s Black Jack Porter was named after the tar-coated leather tankards people drank beer out of during the Middle Ages. The label shows a Jack of spades holding one of the leather tankards.

Does Left Hand stick to any one theme when naming its beers or devising labels? No.

“Sometimes we’re looking to convey exactly what’s in (the bottle),” he said. “Other times we are looking to Colorado or something local to give people something they recognize. It varies quite a bit. We don’t have a set system. It would be a lot easier, but not nearly as fun like that. We have a lot of space we can play around in.”

Paula Aven Gladych can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 211, or by e-mail at pavengladych@times-call.com.