Elevator Brewing Co. owner Dick Stevens recalls taking a call shortly after his brewery released Razz Wheat and Blue, a wheat beer with hints of raspberry.
Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery co-owner Art Oestrike wanted to let Stevens know that the name was suspiciously close to the Athens brewery’s own product, Razz Wheat.
Oestrike was worried that craft beer buyers would be confused. After a conversation that both men described as amicable and lighthearted, Stevens agreed to tweak the name of his beer, which is now called Red Wheat and Blue.
“The name game is a pretty fun thing within breweries,” Oestrike said. “So many people want to interplay on hops, grain or wheat. But you end up with people who maybe didn’t know they were using a name within the market.”
Nastiness among beer makers is exceedingly rare, but local brewers described awkward yet good-natured phone calls as craft breweries proliferate and think up interesting names for their concoctions.
Breweries sometimes opt for simple names that describe the style of their beers, but more often they dream up clever monikers to differentiate their products.
Brewers said titles mostly come from folks sitting around a table and throwing out names until they agree on something. That’s how Sideswipe Brewery came up with names like Sexy Weekend and Pixelated Sun, owner Craig O’Herron said.
“We have a little bit of a drinking roundtable, and we just kind of see what we still like the next day,” O’Herron said.
The next step is an internet search to see if another beer already has that name, and a trademark search if the beer is intended for long-term production.
“When we’re making a beer, we throw around ideas,” said Jim Gokenbach, owner of Zaftig Brewery in Worthington. “We think about what the beer is, what the brand is, and we kind of go off of those two things without even thinking about all the names that are out there.”
Zaftig’s Hazy Miss Daisy beer, for example, is a hazy, fruit-forward IPA that isn’t as bitter as similar styles, Gokenbach said.
Numerous central Ohio breweries invoke the uniqueness of their region, often with a nod to a certain university.
The owners of Land-Grant Brewing Co., for example, originally were going to go with Oval Brewing, after the Oval on the Ohio State University campus. After learning of a vodka distillery in Austria with that name, they decided instead to honor OSU’s origin as a land grant university.
Some of their brews are variations on that theme. The 1862 Ale, which was one of their original beers, harkens back to the year the Morrill Act was passed into law, setting aside money to create land grant universities to teach agriculture and engineering.
OSU athletics are a major inspiration for other area breweries. Elevator tips its hat to Ohio State football with Bleeding Buckeye, a red ale.
Land-Grant gets in on the act with a beer called Stiff Arm, which features a picture of a football player striking the Heisman Trophy pose on its cans. The brewery also pays homage to other Columbus sports institutions. The brew Massive is a nod to the Crew SC.
A handful of brewers turn to foreign languages for inspiration. Zaftig comes from a German and Yiddish word that means “full-bodied,” Gokenbach said.
Buckeye Lake Brewery looked to its namesake lake for ideas. Bang and Go Back, which was released this week, is named after a boat race that was once a regular feature on the lake, owner Rich Hennosy said.
“The boat race was very unique,” Hennosy said.
Participating boats would set their throttle at the beginning of the race, he explained, and weren’t allowed to adjust their speed until they crossed the finish line.
The competition featured a common start and finish line. Racers would take off in the same direction after they heard the starting gun, and when the starting gun fired a second time (that’s the “bang”), they would turn around and, well, go back.