Choosing a name for a brewery. At first it seems like such an easy task. There’s no shortage of ubiquitous names on tap handles across the country. The feelings and memories they invoke serving to cement their place as craft brew heralds. Though, I suppose that is the beauty and power of branding. Every brewery wants a name that encapsulates “who they are” or “what they stand for.” How can something so important be summed up in a mere name? Are we serious, trite, sarcastic, how can anyone live with one overriding emotion? Yet, that was the task at hand.
The other shoe drops when you realize that not only are you competing with 5,000 other breweries for names, but every liquor and wine producer as well. With more than a few having similar motivations, goals, or just thinking “that sounds cool.” Then, of course there’s making sure no other local business has something similar. On that note, I never realized how many ultra-trendy coffee shops and restaurants exist within the Twin Cities that utilize otherwise awesome brewery names.
There’s always the possibility of using your last name, and that can work great. It’s certainly served the old guard and big brew well for the last few hundred years. But what does that really say about who you are as a company? I homebrewed under the moniker “Beest Brewing” for some time, but even that name was already claimed.
I next tried to use my kids’ names, or at least the meaning behind them, but that was panned as confusing, off-putting, or hard to connect with. Sorry boys. That being said, there will be a War Crow beer from us at some point, of that I am stubbornly certain.
Combining all of that with my tendency to obsesses over details created a perfect storm of frustration. For example, I’m the kind of gamer who will start most RPGs over 2-3 times after putting in a few hours because I didn’t like the way my character was shaping. What this lead to was many long nights at the kitchen counter pouring through name generators, surfing results, wiki pages, etc.
To arrive at the lesson of this ramble: get a marketing expert on board ASAP. The ability to brain storm with professionals, and people other than friends and family, was ridiculously effective in narrowing our thought process. Sitting down with Melissa the night after our first marketing meeting, she had a simple question; “What beers do you like?” The answer: hoppy and barrel aged… And with that, months of uncertainty seemed to fade away and a new focus was gained. Hop & Barrel Brewing Company was born.
As cool as it would be to say “that was it,” it really wasn’t. The headaches of searching out other similar names, other breweries and alcohol manufacturers, and taking over the URLs kept us busy for the next month or more, but in the end, it was very well worth it. Having a name was the step that moved this dream from a plan to a business. Ideas coalesced and could be anchored to something other than the ethereal idea of a generic brewery, we now had a name to which we could pin our hopes and dreams.
TLDR: choosing a name is an awesomely-rewarding critically-important pain in the a$$.