What's in a name - How we go about naming our beers.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or you just don’t follow us on twitter (why not?) then you’ll have seen that the Beer Name Euros are in full swing!
3 years ago, we held the first Beer Name World Cup, with our neighbours Elusive Brewing beating twitter legends, Pilot, in the final.
The concept is simple. We host twitter polls, matching up some great craft beer names from breweries across the country, and indeed Europe. Because despite some calling it silly recently, craft beer is all about fun, exploration and excitement. Of course, first and foremost it is always the beer and making sure we have a quality product. But with that in the hands of the brew team, we get to have some fun with naming that product.
We’ve all done it, walked into a random craft beer bar and made your decision based on a beer name that sparks your interest. It might be a pun, informative, or just a funny name, but that is often the first touch point. With the massive choice nowadays, we think beer names are important.
So, we wanted to give you an insight into how we go about naming our beers.
Throughout this blog - some sentences are numbered in brackets. At the bottom of the blog is a list of names of beers the sentences refer to.
There are 15 beers to guess in all, see how many you can get without looking!
The Start of the Process
Our beers are all brewery led. By that, I mean that it’s the brewers and the brew team that come up with the concepts for new beers, and of course sometimes they have amazing names for them as well. Most of the time, us here in the marketing department will be told what the upcoming brewing schedule is and what those styles are.
This is when the creative hive mind at Siren kicks into gear. I’ll let you into a secret, that’s normally just our Marketing Manager, Andy, with some help from myself.
We both love a pun, which I’m sure you’ve worked out by now. And so we’ll look at the style, the hops, the ingredients and start throwing some names out, be it pun, or word play or from finding inspiration somewhere.
This, however, doesn’t always go well…
When it goes wrong.
Remember our Baltic Porter collab with Salt? Well, my suggestion for that was “Trainless Porter”, which I came up with lying in bed one night (where we all do our best thinking!). I honestly thought I had it nailed. Trainless, being an anagram of Siren & Salt, and Porters work on trains don’t they?
Luckily, our process goes through several phases. The first phase is always getting a name past Andy. I think the reaction to this one was a laugh, maybe with bemusement. I admit now, he’s right… It’s a terrible name. In the meantime we still had to name the beer, so at that stage you go looking for influence.
You may remember a fantastic piece of work by Neal Agarwal called “The Deep Sea” - if not, check it out here: https://neal.fun/deep-sea/
This was doing the viral rounds at the time of naming this beer, and it was here Andy spotted the name we chose (One).
Actually Nailed it.
Pop Culture Influence
Music has been something that’s inspired a number of beer names here at Siren. The great thing about this is that those name suggestions come from all parts of the company, from a variety of influences. If someone has a piece of music, lyric, or a favourite band that’s inspired them… it gets suggested. You may remember the Black IPA inspired by a Gallows song (Two), or a number of Hip Hop inspired beers, including one you definitely can kick (Three) and a more notorious one (Four), and a cash rich honey one - (Five).
In the case of "Playing The Studio", it was a reference to the concept of using the recording studio as an instrument, not just recording the sounds as they’re playing live, but using technology, technique and innovation to bring another dimension to the party. The beer used brewing techniques in a similar way.
We’ve also had some wrestling themed names, as we tie the knot between nostalgia and desire. That thing we said about walking into a bar and choosing a beer purely based on a name - for us, if it strikes a nostalgic note and makes us laugh then we’re in. Examples here are a Rhubarb Crumble sour (co-incidentally realised around the time of both the Royal Rumble, and the Royals going into meltdown about Harry and Meghan - Six), and one named after Kane (Seven).
There’s other more deliberate series, like the beers named after Pulp Fiction… We’ll give you Comfortable Silence, Ten Dollar Shake and The Bonnie Situation but what’s the other (Eight)? The Pulp Fiction connection was two-fold. Firstly ‘fruit pulp’ and secondly the iconic $5 shake scene. Both seemed to fit our first attempt at a heavily fruited milkshake IPA. The price point was pretty tasty, too.
Some other deliberate series of beers, include Caribbean Chocolate Cake, Suspended in x or going back further in time Dinner for x. Who noticed that our latest California IPAs are all named after California Beaches - Silver Strand, The Wedge, Crystal Cove?
Occasionally, however, we end up with an accidental series of beers based around a repetition on a naming theme. One of our favourites is the IT theme. These beers aren’t linked by anything apart from tech themed names, but it makes us smile. Here’s 2 - what’s the third (Nine)?
The Beer Name List
As I’m sure you can tell, inspiration can come from anywhere Wherever the inspiration for a name comes from, whenever it comes - it goes on the list. Sometimes we’re able to use them for dedications, too.
When our brewer Felix decided to move back to Germany, we couldn’t let him go without brewing his favourite style and with an apt beer name (Ten). Unfortunately there was also (Eleven), a tribute to our drayman who was recovering at home for some time following a motorbike accident on the way to work one day.
* The good news is he’s now back to doing what he does best - delivering beer all over the country and throwing some incredible darts - cheers, Scott! *
We now have a huge list of potential names of beers, many/most of which may never see the light of day. But it’s a super helpful list to keep.
The first thing we do when adding to the long list is to check Untappd to see if the suggested name’s been done before. If it’s a beer that’s been popularised in the UK already, or too close to one already in production, then it’s scrapped. There are times when things happen at the same time, by coincidence.
Strangeley, right now Hackney Brewery have “Millions of Peaches” in the Beer Name Euros, inspired by the same song as one of our latest brews (Twelve).
Collabs and Brewery Led Names
In the case of collabs, it’ll often be a funny incident, or recurring joke that happens on the brew day that inspires the name of the beer. Collaborative beer naming can be even harder, because everyone has their own idea. For example, when we went away to Vibrant Forest to brew a collab a few years back, we suggested the name “Impeachment IPA”, with a bit of a Trump theme. This got rejected, and (Thirteen) was chosen. It’s a good thing it was, because the beer is still being produced as the name’s stood the test of time… The beer remains delicious to this day - look out for it!
And talking of Vibrant Forest, one of our joint favourite names came from when the Vibrant team came to brew a Red IPA here at Siren. You may or may not be aware, but both breweries use the same designer for our branding and label design - Studio Parr.
We have a spreadsheet that we update with latest beer names and ideas for Will to work off. As it was a collab between the two breweries, we decided to have some fun at poor Will's expense, and the beer was listed as "Bland Designs". Of course, it was actually to be "Grand Designs", a nod to Will's excellent work for both of us, and of course, to a certain lookalike.
And of course, sometimes we turn to you to help us. During one particular naming block in the office we turned to Social Media for help and inspiration. We ended up with so many names, I personally spent hours going through them. Ironically, the chosen name was suggested by none other than Andy Parker from Elusive Brewing. The beer was a keg only beer that would be served across Market Halls in London… Do you know it (Fourteen)?
Not to forget of course, our Crowdsourced Anniversary IPA - (Fifteen). A few people suggested that name and we absolutely love it. As soon as that popped it, we knew it was the one. It went on to not only name the beer, but the entire anniversary event. Sometimes, it’s just right there on a plate. Thank you!
Funnily enough, part of the festival - Bones of a Sailor - was also crowdsourced, as was The World Beyond My Window, a collaboration with HonestBrew for their birthday.
So, what have been our favourite names?
What I’m ideally aiming to do with every new release is come up with a name that somehow references the story of the beer, linking to something (and it could be anything) in the journey from idea to can, and then in turn it can inform the design of the label. Often the design can visually elevate the whole idea, so everything works in tandem together.
The Siren brand is built around the Sirens of Greek Mythology, and our flagship range tells stories of some incredible characters. So the naming of the beers that become flagship are certainly more tricky and need to serve a lot of purposes. However, we have a real chance to build a legacy on these beers, which is an incredible privilege. Hopefully the likes of Lumina and Broken Dream will stand the test of time. For more on this - sirencraftbrew.com/brand
We should also take the opportunity to shout out Ryan (Witter-Merithew - Siren’s first Head Brewer) who came up with some gems that just stick, like The Tickle Monster. I’d also like to make an honourable mention for Every Minute Matters. Green Cheek are MASTERS at naming beers so I didn’t want to let them down with our first collaboration together. This name is accurate, as hop schedules were being adjusted right up to the last possible moment and were critical to keeping the bitterness right. It was also my favourite Siren beer of 2020, so that helps! It’s also a very sneaky nod to one of my favourite bands, Future of the Left. Niche.
However my absolute favourite is Thousand Things, a beer brewed in collaboration with Tate Eats to support their 2019 Van Gogh exhibition, which showcased the largest collection of Van Gogh’s paintings in the UK for nearly a decade. I loved how everything linked in this project. The recipe itself was influenced by the looming Cypress tree in the foreground of The Starry Night. We were no strangers to using Cypress, but in my opinion it worked wonders in this beer. It provided nuance, brought different elements together (and there were many elements) and tempered the sweetness which otherwise would have been overpowering, an easy mistake to make with milkshake IPA.
The Starry Night also influenced our design. Our friend Ben Hasler worked on a beautiful illustrative interpretation. As a nice touch, it so happened that Ben had once produced a pixelated self-portrait of Van Gogh as part of a formative project.
But the name Thousand Things actually came quite late. I researched Van Gogh looking for a nugget of inspiration that we could work with, and found this quote from a letter in which he was describing the artistic process to his brother.
Like an actor
on the stage in a
— where you have
to think of a
at the same time in a
single half hour.
The worlds of art and beer often overlap, but that line really resonated with me at the time. We’re always taking on a lot at Siren, I think most growing breweries work like this too. This was a beer with many moving parts, many people involved, many deadlines, and we’d made life difficult for ourselves by brewing a pretty high-concept idea that we had to get right first time. All of this no doubt among a hectic production schedule and who-knows-what other projects on the go.
The name seemed to encapsulate everything and came from the artist himself, so it was a perfect fit. Also... it just sounds nice ;) I’d love to bring this beer back one day and see how the design comes out on a can.
Go here to find out more about Thousand Things - https://www.sirencraftbrew.com/stories-and-events/blog/siren-x-tate-thousand-things-ipa
I have so many favourite names... Andy is something of a beer naming machine.
But I'll be a true narcissist now and mention some that I’ve named. I’m pretty pleased with the aforementioned wrestling name, and also “Granola Coaster” - it rolls off the tongue nicely, and luckily the beer was fantastic, especially the Cacao and Orange version.
I’m also quite pleased with Maltiverse, because it sounds like something from Rick & Morty. Juice Em’ Up was cool as well.. I should have given that to Elusive Brewing for an 8-bit themed juice NEIPA though.
A Black IPA, “Let The Night In”, was always a favourite, as we were punning it around head brewer, Sean Knight, and it worked with letting the darkness into a light beer. Also a small shout out for “Going Out Stout” as well. Obviously, it uses Micky Flanagan’s “Going out out” routine as inspiration, but it works on two levels as it was former brewer Sean Lord’s last recipe before he left to move to Germany; quite literally, his going out stout.
But I’m going to go with “Bubbling Bubbles”. It’s not one I named, but it came from a video that did the rounds on Twitter, which was sent to us by Rob MacKay from Drygate, after some nice timeline juxtaposition.
One day in the Siren office, when Jason our ops manager was trying to concentrate, we all played the video clip from our computers and phones… you can imagine how frustratingly irritating that was. Sorry Jason, but it helped created a moment that inspired a great name for a Brut IPA.
So there we go…
So there you have it. It can be a pretty quick process sometimes, but often there’s a lot of thought goes into naming beers. If you have any questions about the origins of any beers, feel free to give us a shout on Twitter.
Don't forget to join the #BeerNameEuros voting!
Scroll down for the answers to the mini quiz!
One - The Abyssal Zone
Two - In The Belly Of A Shark
Three - A Tribe Called Zest
Four - No Biggie
Five - Mind on my Honey
Six - Royal Crumble
Seven - Big Red Machine
Eight - Three Little Fonzies
Nine - Accept All Cookies
Ten - Tschüss
Eleven - Low Side
Twelve - Peaches Everyday
Thirteen - Stone Sap
Fourteen - Fable
Fifteen - The Grateful Eight