Beers that you like but with names that you're embarrassed to say
I ordered a Hoptical Illusion tonight at a pub; a solid brew. But I just felt a little weird saying to the bartender "I'll have a pint of the Hoptical Illusion". (This is particularly embarrassing when said within earshot of a "local" drinking a Bud). I then thought about other beers that I really like but that I'm often embarrassed to say the name of including:
- Middle Ages' "Wailing Wench"
- Orkney Brewery's "SkullSplitter"
- G.G. Brewpub's "Smoke Gets In Your Rye"
- G.G. Brewpub's "Amber(ly) Eyes"
- Bell's "Two Hearted Ale" (which I've mistakenly called "Twiced Loved" (due to the use of a heart symbol on the label) and "Once Bitten Twice Shy")
- Downtown Brown (multiple breweries have stumbled upon this clever rhyme)
So I find myself trying to name the beer that I want by a more generic name (e.g. stout, brown, wench). But inevitably the bartender gets confused and I'm forced to say the full name.
Note: Any beer with a French name I adore saying even if the actual meaning is a bit contrived sounding: La Fin Du Monde, Maudite, Eau Benite . . .
I always assumed it's a carry-over from the homebrew crowd, which likes to make up funny names and parody labels (something I also did with my own beers). I think it's shortsighted for craft brewers to do it, since it probably turns off just as many people as it attracts. I would think that a lot of non-beer geek types- sophisticated "wine" people, etc., would lump some of those great beers with goofy names and cartoon characters on the label in with 3 Stooges Beer.
As a non-macro beer drinker, I often get asked about those "wacky" or "weird" beers people see in the store. I remember in particular a co-worker who just couldn't stop laughing at having seen a beer named "Seadog", complete with wacky cartoon drawing of a dog with a funny hat. I tried to explain that it's a pretty good brewery but he didn't hear me over his own laughter. (Didn't A-B be in trouble for having a dog "spokes-species"? Ditto for the "Joe Camel" cigarette character. I often wonder why the micros have been immune from such criticism since there are a LOT of cartoon labels.)
I also don't see why brewpubs that ONLY sell their beers on premise feel the need for the wacky names, I usually just ask for "your pale ale", instead of the "Rosie's Tale Waggin' Pale Ale", etc.
I've always given a pass to barleywine/old ale humorous labels, since that DOES seem to be a UK tradition (same for some Belgian specialty beers). I remember being in line at a local drug store that also sells beer (unusual in NJ) and had a pretty good selection. One beer, a recent release, didn't scan. The cashier yells out to the manager, "Hey, I'm having trouble with this 'Blithering Idiot' !" and all the old ladies in line looked at *ME* and slowly started backing away or moving to the other register...
But, for the most part, I start out with a negative view of all those cartoon animal/wacky named beers until I read or hear something to change my initial prejudice. I have come across quite a few that have changed my mind, of course, but I never understand why a brewer would be happy over a customer who buys something feeling that it's *in spite* of its name or image.
I do note (perhaps based on my age -g- ) that in the beer groups, when the subject of "cool labels/names" comes up the modern definition of "cool" (or it's new equivalent "sick"- yeah, I want a "sick" beer...) to me seems to equal- "embarrassing".
I don't know; I kind of like the idea that micro-brewed beer has yet to be shoved into a snooty niche, which would disallow a sense of humor about the product.
Don't you find it sort of fitting that a product which makes you drunk doesn't take itself too seriously? Perhaps the brewers imagine that after you've imbibed a bit of their product, you'll find yourself pleasantly amused by their attempt at comedy.
By the way, I'm curious, when you write about "cool" labels and names, does that category include "Seadog?" In which universe is a cartoony dog in a hat cool and not absolutely kitschy? Perhaps the same universe where people are still saying "sick."