Hipster beer names

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I'm used to the names of beers-and-such following the pattern <BRAND> <STYLE>, like "Yuengling Golden Pilsner" or "Orval Trappist Ale". Occasionally things get a bit more creative, like  "Victory HopDevil" or "Huyghe Delirium Tremens".

But a couple of days ago, in the food court of the Moynihan Train Hall in NYC, I was intrigued by a large ad for selections from Threes Brewing, which has a shop there. The picture below is what I think is the same line-up, copied from their website (click for a bigger version):

That particular array of beverage names, in left-to-right order, is

Fool's Errand, Temporary Identity, Here Ya Go, You People, I Hate Myself, Bad Wallpaper, Crying on the Inside, Logical Conclusion, Beyond the Void, Constant Disappointment, Chronic Myopia, Unreliable Narrator, Unintentional Fallacy.

On their website you can also find

Attention Span, Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More, What I Thought I Thought,  Passing Time, Regional Dialekt, Theatre of the Absurd, Hold Your Applause, Unmitigated, Far Between, Food for Thought, Stasis, Yclept, My Righteous Self, Don't Fool Yourself, …

The website's tasting notes continue in the same vein, and not always in ways that make me eager to try a can. Thus for Beyond the Void we get "Genetically Modified Oranges, Papaya, Various Children Candies, Bouncy, Jello Shots".

What I Thought I Thought has "Natty, Kumquat, Sprite, Cosmo, Soft Oak"; Crying on the Inside has "Blood Orange, Rainbow Sorbet, White Papaya, Orange Tic Tacs, Resin".

Perhaps it's only a matter of time before we get similarly whimsical brands of cheese, yoghurt, salsa, and so on?



  1. D.O. said,

    October 15, 2022 @ 9:39 am

    Drinking beer requires, or induces, mild depression.

  2. Tim Rowe said,

    October 15, 2022 @ 10:13 am

    British real ales have long had whimsical names like that. Often with mild innuendo, though that's becoming less common as brewers come to realise the innuendo was probably putting as many people off as it was attracting.

  3. Robert Coren said,

    October 15, 2022 @ 10:19 am

    I will confess that when I'm deciding what beer to order, I am often beguiled by interesting names. I also note that beer descriptions are getting more and more like the traditional ones for wine (which invariably described flavors I am unable to detect).

  4. jin defang said,

    October 15, 2022 @ 10:53 am

    I noticed that all the cans in Prof. Liberman's photo are IPAs or "double IPAs," the latter being a mystery to this non-beer drinker. Wine names have also become more fanciful—one brand prominently displayed in my supermarket is "Cupcake," though I doubt the wine tastes like one. Another, whose name translates as "At the Old Farm" has a rooster prancing across the label. Yuck.
    One wonders if the marketing technique isn't superior to the product.

  5. Cervantes said,

    October 15, 2022 @ 11:08 am

    It seems like every beer in the cooler that isn't a national brand (Budweiser etc.) is an IPA, and they all have bizarre and irrelevant names. They probably get them from the band name generator.

  6. Roscoe said,

    October 15, 2022 @ 11:28 am

    I think I saw that list on yesterday’s racing form.

  7. Victor Mair said,

    October 15, 2022 @ 11:53 am

    They know their beers are insipid, so they make up for it with whacky names and whimsical non-ingredients.

  8. Starry Gordon said,

    October 15, 2022 @ 12:06 pm

    I noticed the new breed of names in wines a few years ago. I conclude that those who buy and consume them don't actually care what they taste like; the point would be to strike an attitude and impress one's companions. But what do they drink when no one is looking?

  9. David L said,

    October 15, 2022 @ 12:30 pm

    This is what happens when English and/or Philosophy majors can't find a decent job and decide to start a brewery instead.

    To Prof. Mair's point, I have a general sense that the beers I prefer are the ones with plainer names. But more research is needed, as they say, and I may well undertake some this evening.

  10. Stephen Hart said,

    October 15, 2022 @ 12:56 pm

    Cupcake is a vineyard name. They have wine names like Red Velvet, Black Forest and ordinary names for varietals.

  11. Rod Johnson said,

    October 15, 2022 @ 3:06 pm

    Without actually trying those beers, how do you know they're insipid, or that they somehow reflect an inability to get "decent" jobs? What an old-fogeyish pronouncement. Maybe it's just good-humored fun. We live in a golden age of beer. There are so many great beers out there, even ones with hipster names.

    It's impossible for me to read those names without thinking of Culture ship names.

    [(myl) I'm betting the beers are good, though they're on the expensive side. And the Culture ship name connection is perfect — I should have thought of that! ]

  12. Rod Johnson said,

    October 15, 2022 @ 3:16 pm

    A better link

  13. martin schwartz said,

    October 15, 2022 @ 3:48 pm

    A bit off-subject, but…. I was once fascinated in a liquor store
    by the various brand labels of a German varietal wine called
    Cröwer Nacktarsch. The all showed an adult, but with different
    facial expressions indicating stern duty or ecstatic rapture, spanking
    a boy's 'bare rump' (Nacktarsch), one label at least having a German verse amounting to:

    The kid snuck down to the winec-ellar, all full of sass;
    the cellar-master caught him, and whacked him on his …..

    In a supermarket I found interesting the various brand names
    and label illustrations for hot sauce. One I remember was
    "The devil burns in his own hell".

  14. Philip Taylor said,

    October 15, 2022 @ 4:02 pm

    To the best of my belief I have never encountered Cröwer Nacktarsch, but your comment reminds me of something I have not seen since my childhood days — Fry's Five Boys chocolate. The wrapper featured five variants of the same boy's face, each face in turn depicting one of five emotions — desperation, pacification, expectation, acclamtion, realisation (the last with the sub-text "It's Fry's !").

  15. JPL said,

    October 15, 2022 @ 5:46 pm

    To me, it's the nature of the expressions, as a group, that I find interesting. The language, in this case English, includes a lot of stock phrases, conventional expressions, often repeated in a mechanical (robotic) and unreflective mode of language use (esp. by journalists and other people in the "media"), that are interesting and strange if one reflects on them. People are reflecting on these expressions in a more poetic mode, tweaking some ("Beyond the Void"), and there is an element of the absurdist tradition running through it all. The conventional unself-aware mind desiring "respectability" tends to wax pretentious, and we've seen it here in wine-tasting descriptions, and this trend counters and laughs at that. "What I Thought I Thought" (but was mistaken): a reflection on factivity and meaning- behind-the-scenes. Apparently naming (beer, bands, race-horses and boats (culture ships, whatever they are)) is a good way of making people take notice of what sometimes passes as expressions of thought. (Remember Martin Amis and his "war on cliche"?) There are so many of these in the language, not lexicon necessarily, but nevertheless available in the English repertoire. My favorite here: "Unreliable Narrator". When we use these expressions we should be aware that something more comes with them than the superficial "meaning of the individual words" and make use of that. ("You People" is a totally different beer from "Decent People".)

  16. martin schwartz said,

    October 15, 2022 @ 7:03 pm

    Cröwer is in fact a rare variant of Kröwer. From the viewpoint of
    lingusitic history the Wikipedia "Nacktarsch", as to the origin of the name, makes VERY pleasant. reading. I confess I used
    the English trans. option instead of the German original.
    There is a nice range of illustrations online.

  17. Arthur Baker said,

    October 15, 2022 @ 7:13 pm

    Prof. Mair, the beers may be insipid, but could not possibly be as insipid as Budweiser. Bud redefines insipid, setting a new benchmark for insipid. A Bud was one of only two beers I didn't finish in a drinking life which now considerably exceeds half a century. I'll tell you what the other unfinished beer was if you promise never to offer me another Budweiser.

  18. Victor Mair said,

    October 15, 2022 @ 7:14 pm

    I promise, Arthur.

  19. David Morris said,

    October 15, 2022 @ 7:16 pm

    To alcohol! The cause of – and solution to – all of life's problems. Homer Simpson.

  20. Oop said,

    October 15, 2022 @ 7:50 pm

    Strangely, I have never seen complaints about English major hipsters unable to get a decent job christening cars or ships, although a Ford Taurus has nothing to do with animals, a KIA Sonet with poetry, or HMS Agamemnon with Ancient Greece. The same goes for, say, plants: Granny Smith tastes nothing like an old lady. Or cities, even: Paris, Texas has no similarity to the original. Nonsensical naming is an old and solid tradition. What's it with beers that makes people turn particularily sour?

    I suspect the only thing that keeps bookworms from naming beers after actual Culture ships is copyright.

  21. martin schwartz said,

    October 15, 2022 @ 11:04 pm

    I can't check details now, but somewhere in a Harry Mathews novel
    there is a Baron von (vel sim.) Nominator, named after his family's
    production of Nominator, a beer which earns its own name.
    It's probably more convoluted and funnier than that.

  22. Jerry Packard said,

    October 16, 2022 @ 6:54 am

    When they get to “notes of pencil lead“ that’s when I quit.

    [(myl) Since you need to get past the obligatory Riesling "gout de pétrole", maybe you should persevere?]

  23. bks said,

    October 16, 2022 @ 7:06 am

    It's an ancient marketing maxim that customers prefer to select one from an assortment of similar but not identical items. " I like this one better than that one." Cabbage Patch dolls or Threes Brewing IPAs. Same as it ever was.

  24. Victor Mair said,

    October 16, 2022 @ 8:26 am

    @Jerry Packard

    One of the all-time Language Log comments. Thanks!

  25. Mike D said,

    October 16, 2022 @ 11:22 am

    "Oop said,

    I suspect the only thing that keeps bookworms from naming beers after actual Culture ships is copyright."

    if titles of books cannot be copyrighted, can titles of ships?

  26. Philip Anderson said,

    October 16, 2022 @ 3:54 pm

    As Tim Rowe said, “interesting” names for British beers are common (although not usually philosophical), and the brand is often omitted for familiar ones – Old Peculiar doesn’t need to be prefixed with Theakston’s; brand + style is less common I think. Cheeses also have “interesting” names, e.g. Stinking Bishop.
    I’m intrigued that the British IPA style (originally brewed for the long sea journey to British India) has been adopted in the USA, and that it is spelt out in full, except in Double IPA.

  27. Arthur Baker said,

    October 16, 2022 @ 4:08 pm

    Thanks, Prof. Mair. The other undrinkable beer was Tetley's in Leeds. It had lumps in it, which might have been teabags. It was all I could do to stop myself pouring it over the barman's head.

  28. Victor Mair said,

    October 16, 2022 @ 6:31 pm



    Reminds me of a book I wrote about the world's most popular beverage.

  29. Victor Mair said,

    October 16, 2022 @ 6:31 pm

    From one of my students:

    Somehow it seems that each of these beers describes the generation (unfortunately, my generation) that created them – my favorite of all being “Constant Disappointment” IPA.

  30. Andreas Johansson said,

    October 17, 2022 @ 1:36 am

    Should I be worried that Oop apparently knows what old ladies taste like?

    It's true we're living in a golden age of beer, at least as far as the range of options is concerned, but I do wish IPA would go out of fashion, and not only because of the unfortunate acronym.

  31. Peter Grubtal said,

    October 17, 2022 @ 2:54 am

    Philip Anderson –
    British beer tradition has gone international. In Germany you find IPA everywhere now. Brown ales, stouts, pale ales, amber beer, Imperial IPA can also be found on the shelves of the supermarkets. The irony is that Germans have long sneered at English beer.
    A few years ago at a place in west Argentina that was so tiny that everyone went to the only bar to get an internet connection, they were offering (Argentina brewed) stout.

  32. TonyG said,

    October 17, 2022 @ 5:02 am

    @Philip Anderson: That's Old Peculier, you ignoremus. Where did you misspend your youth?

  33. Philip Anderson said,

    October 17, 2022 @ 7:30 am

    The Old Dungeon Ghyll, Langdale. Walking from there to the New Dungeon Ghyll was enough of a challenge after a couple of pints, without a spelling test. I can’t remember what I drank at the Drunken Duck.

  34. Terry Hunt said,

    October 17, 2022 @ 8:27 pm

    Philip Anderson –You have unleashed the beer pedants! India Pale Ale was not brewed for the voyage to India: it was brewed for consumption in India.

    Early in its development, it was serendipitously found that the gentle rocking and temperature variations the beer underwent in its casks on the months-long voyage matured it in new and interesting ways.
    Its higher-than-usual hop content was intended to stop it spoiling en route (the original reason for hops being added to beer), and this coincidentally suited the taste of British expatriates in India, who had became accustomed to the bitterness of the quinine concoctions they consumed to ward off malaria.

    In modern versions, IPA's bitterness and (often) strong citrus-fruity notes (from particular hop varieties) should make it impossible to describe as "insipid", even if it's not one of the insanely over-hopped versions some American like to brew and drink, along the same lines as "who can eat the hottest chilli?" macho competitiveness.

  35. Terry Hunt said,

    October 17, 2022 @ 8:30 pm

    I swear I checked those italic markups carefully.

  36. Philip Anderson said,

    October 18, 2022 @ 6:11 am

    @Terry Hunt
    Exactly, it was brewed so it would survive the voyage to India – for the voyaging not the voyagers.

  37. Robert Coren said,

    October 18, 2022 @ 9:22 am

    Terry Hunt refers to "the quinine concoctions they consumed to ward off malaria"; my understanding is that you'd have to consume enormous amounts of "tonic" to get enough quinine to be of any use against malaria, but I salute the British colonists in India for giving the world the G & T.

  38. Philip Taylor said,

    October 18, 2022 @ 9:39 am

    I have no experience of the efficacy (or otherwise) of tonic water for warding off malaria, but I can report from personal experience that the concentration of quinine in (Schweppes) tonic water appears to be sufficiently high to enable it to provide fast-acting relief from muscle cramps.

  39. S. Norman said,

    October 18, 2022 @ 1:03 pm

    As an avid beer drinker this has been irritating me for a long while. It used to be Brand / Style and you could scan the shelves and grab what you wanted instantly, ale, stout, porter… Then the descriptors started piling on. They were helpful at first- chocolatey, creamy, hoppy… Now they all read like a William S. Burroughs' title. If I can't tell what it is in 4 seconds or less I pass(for fear of winding up with one of those sour beers that are, for some reason, acceptable these days).

  40. Robert Coren said,

    October 19, 2022 @ 9:42 am

    @Philip Taylor: Good to know. Unfortunately, most of my muscle cramps occur in the middle of the night, and even if I felt like getting up and going into the kitchen to get a bottle of tonic, by the time I got there the process of walking would probably have relived the cramp.

  41. Philip Taylor said,

    October 19, 2022 @ 10:45 am

    That's why I keep a bottle by the bed, Robert ! Night-time cramps seem to be a natural concomitant of aging, but in my case they are exacerbated by playing bowls. Pre-bowls, they occured in my calf/calves; now they occur in my thighs (and after every game, unfortunately).

  42. Luke said,

    November 2, 2022 @ 4:01 am

    I'll always enjoy a good Lord Hobo Boom Sauce… And of course the Alchemist's Heady Topper, arguably the progenitor of the current craze.

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