The Name Game

Arrogant Bastard AleOne of the things I love about brewing is the creativity that seeps in at every opportunity – that perfect mix of malts, that carefully chosen yeast strain, that skilful blend of hops which all add little nuances to the end result.

It doesn’t just stop with the final brew. With the best beers, it runs through the entire process, from barrel to glass.

Craft brewers and micros in particular are very creative with their names and branding.

Their beer names often reflect local landmarks or historic incidents.

But if not protected, any other brewer could use the same name, causing confusion or, potentially, damaging reputations.

We looked at this through my day job, as part of a feature on brewing for the magazine I edit. My colleage spoke to a local solicitor – Catherine Slater, partner at Serjeants LLP – who provides specialist advice on the protection and enforcement of trademarks, designs and copyright worldwide, an important consideration for micro breweries.

She said that as well as brewing really good beer, breweries also have a great tradition of coming up with ingenious and often witty names for those beers which further distinguishes them from the offerings of the giant breweries.

However, there has been a trend in the food and drink business for the giant companies to actively try to make their goods look like the offerings of a small, independent business.

If the big breweries ramp up their efforts to try and mimic the presentation of craft beers, it may well lead to more trademark disputes.

“The best way for smaller breweries to prevent such a dispute affecting them is to protect their own branding with trademark registrations in both the UK and internationally for when the time for expansion is right,” she said.

“The rights are then secured and can be used to stop any brewery, no matter how big, using a similar name, logo or strapline.”

On the other side of the beer mat, the Norwich-based brewery Redwell was accused of infringing the trademark rights of the energy drink Red Bull, which said its name was too similar.

Red Bull decided not to proceed with a case, but it’s still a warning shot to micro-breweries that they are not so small that they won’t be scrutinised, making protection vital as well as being a valuable asset for the balance sheet should a buy-out occur further down the line.

Anyway, the point of this post isn’t to get bogged down in heavy legal mumbo-jumbo.

It is to celebrate the creativity of brewers who not only manage to come up with the perfect pint, but then who can come up with a name so ingenius and clever that if you see it on the shelf or behind the bar, your first and only reaction is “Yeah baby, gimme gimme gimme.”

So, with that in mind, here’s my top five:

5) Shut Thi Gob. The Barnsley Brewing Company has a full range of beers with the names spoken in the local vernacular. Bee By Gum, Bobby Dazzler and the delightfully-monickered Ronnie’s Owd Cock are all worthy contenders, but none can hold a light to its signature strong brown ale.

4) Evil Dead Red. Any beer which pays homage to arguably the greatest comedy-horror flick ever committed to celluloid has to be a good thing, right?

3) Arrogant Bastard Ale. “You are what you drink and I’m a bitter man,” or so say The Macc Lads. Can’t really argue with this one…does exactly what it says on the tin.

2) Buster Nut Brown Ale. In the list for two reasons – it’s a nice innuendo, but its also made by the Ska Brewing Company and anything which manages to combine my favourite type of music with my favourite type of drink deserves my utmost respect.

1) Swift One. This pale bitter from Hampshire-based Bowman Ales just nicks top spot for my money. Why? It’s subtle, it’s multi-layered and when you say to your other half “I’m just nipping out for a swift one,” it can mean whatever you want it to.

What’s your favourite beer name? Leave it in the comments below and if it makes me laugh, I’ll send you a virtual pint this Friday.

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