What’s in a Name?

A Fat Tug by any other name would be just as hoppy. But the name of your beer can entice or drive your average beer drinker away. I probably wouldn’t pick up a six pack of Camel Squirt if that beer even existed, but a bottle of the Belgian beer Verboden Vrucht (Forbidden Fruit) with the picture of a naked Adam and Eve on the front… Yes. I want to drink that beer and take part in that original sin.

Big Rock Brewery clearly takes its name from the big glacial erratic (a rock carried by a glacier) 18 km south of Calgary, Alberta. That big rock, which is also known as the Okotoks Erratic, is one of the world’s largest known glacial erratics, weighing in at an estimated 15,000 tonnes. (The name was derived from the Blackfoot word for rock, okatok.) I like where Big Rock brewing was going with this. Find the biggest thing around and use at as your marketing tool. Similarly, there’s a tiny brewery in Oregon called Gigantic… clever. They also make a wicked IPA.

Up until eight years ago, I had never heard of the beer Stella Artois. Who is this Stella? And how did she get so popular? Well, the original Belgian brewery was called Artois brewery. It launched Stella, which is the Latin word for star, as a Christmas beer in 1926. It is essentially a pilsner; a far cry from the spicy, caramelly high-alcohol craft beers that we normally associate with winter specialty beers, but I’m guessing Christmas was different back then.

Every time I eat at Sanchez Cantina in Whitehorse, I eat delicious Mexican food and wonder about the beer Dos Equis (Two X’s). It conjures up cartoons of clay jugs with the double XXs on them that were supposed to contain moonshine. Dos Equis is a lager originally brewed by Wilhelm Hasse in Mexico in 1897. The beer was called Siglo XX to welcome in the 20th century and the bottles were marked with the two Xs, the Roman numeral for the number 10, natch. No moonshine here, just clean, peri-centurial fun.

Many breweries have taken their names from geographic inspiration – Yukon Brewing, Granville Island Brewing, Creemore Springs, etc. Others stole their beer names from other breweries’ geography. Brewers in the city of Budweis (Ceske Budejovice in the Czech language, in what is now Czech Republic) started making golden pilsners (a style borrowed from the breweries in the Czech town of Pilsen) in the mid-1800s. The Budvar brewery’s version of the pilsner was called Budweiser Budvar. In the late 1800s, American brewer Anheuser-Busch began making a beer that it also called Budweiser. This led to an ongoing dispute between the two breweries for the rights to trademark the name Budweiser. Anheuser-Busch is allowed to use the name Budweiser for the beers it markets in North America. And just to make things confusing, it also signed a deal with the Budvar brewery to import Budvar Budweiser into the U.S. and sell it under the name Czechvar. So, if you want to try the real thing, skip the American Bud and head straight for Czechvar. You can find it in the specialty beer section of the Whitehorse liquor store.

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