Finding a perfect name can be one of the most frustrating steps of opening a craft brewery. More often than not, that perfect name, the one you’ve been dreaming of, rolling over your tongue and telling friends and family about ever since tasting your first batch of homebrew, has already been taken by some small outfit in the middle of nowhere. Damn.
How is this possible?
Grab a beer, and let’s talk. A while back, we wrote about what goes into a good craft brewery name — things like availability and ownability — big ideas that were reflective of your biggest differentiators. But in that article, we glossed over how to actually get from an initial concept to a final, trademarkable name itself. So, let’s look at some of the thinking and processes that go into finding an original, ownable name in an era of more than 3,000 craft breweries.
So we’re not so abstract here, let’s make up a fun example: You and your partners are all into old motorcycles and have found a perfect brewery location in an old auto shop. You’re opening a small brewpub that focuses on session beers. Brewing session beers isn’t novel, but your cool location and the start of a deeper theme and culture surrounding motorcycles gives us some fun stuff to work with. Using this hypothetical brewery-in-planning as an example, let’s dig in and look at what “buckets” we can explore to find a great brewery name. In no order of importance, let’s explore the following concepts:
Your town’s history
This in and of itself can be a strong concept, so long as another brewery doesn’t open up down the street with a similar story. Was your town supported by a big industry? Was it a frontier town? Who lived/lives there? Is there a landmark (river, statue, building, battle ground, big ball of twine, etc.)? What’s the story behind your town’s name? Since we don’t know where this town is, let’s instead focus on the brewery location itself. An old auto shop dovetails nicely with the motorcycle theme and can already give us an approachable, blue collar vibe.
Quick words/ideas: shop, service center, pit stop, station, tool box, gear box, wrecker, repair, monkey wrench, wrench money, shade tree mechanic, knuckle buster, OEM
Your beer itself
Sessionable, easy going beers evoke names and words that are calming and non threatening. The ultimate goal is to combine ideas that smartly reflect your core messaging, but you don’t need to worry about that at this phase. For now, you’re trying to get out as many related ideas as possible. But, if you can start making connections between ideas at this point, more power to you!
Quick words/ideas: small, light, easy going (easy rider), quaffable, training wheels, on-ramp, starter, converter, spark, water, crisp, “like making love in a canoe”
Now let’s look at your main differentiator — your group’s love of motorcycles. Let’s start concretely by breaking down the gear and different things that go into the subject. Types of motors. Bike part and components. Type of motorcycles. Historic bikes. Motorcycle clubs (maybe good for creating a brewery culture, but could also be bad due to recent events, or worse, trite — see note at end of article on cultural implications). Tools and mechanic gear.
Maybe we can explore motorcycle lingo and slang? Quick words/ideas: bone shaker, steel horse, colors, rocker, 1 percenter (fun tie in with ABV and session beers), weekend warrior, ape hangers, two-stroke, clutch, OEM, belt drive, big twin, big block, boneyard, brain bucket, bronson rock, canyon carving, chain, valve, cog, chaps (woo hoo!), cut, crash bar, drag bars, flat head, flywheel, gearbox, inline 6, ink, iron butt, iron head, lane splitting, monkey wrench, nomad, organ donor, shovel head
In a real project, we would repeat this exercise several times, gathering thousands of words and concepts. The goal is to get a lot of raw material to work with so we can whittle down to the very best. Skipping ahead, let’s either take some of these words wholesale, or combine them with other concepts to see what we can come up with.
Pull some cool bike words from the batch we came up with above. Trust your gut on these and grab anything that sounds cool and feels right: bone shaker, canyon carver, bronson rock, big block, cHOP shop (eh?), flywheel, clutch, iron head, monkey wrench, nomad
Session + Bikes. Maybe something along the lines of a starter bike: 250 club, 250 CC, 2 banger, 2 stroke, low rocker, easy rider, 1 percenter, glide, Sunday rider, fair weather rider, training wheels, sissy bars, tassels (woo hoo!)
Google these words in conjunction with industry terms. Example: “Bone Shaker” + “brewing” “beer” “alcohol” “food” “wine,” etc. You want so make sure, at this step, that you’re clear from competing names.
Now here’s where the frustrating part happens. “Bone Shaker” immediately shows as a beer name and a bar. Damn. There’s a Carver Brewing Co. And there are several breweries with Canyon as a part of their name (not a complete deal breaker, but it’s not 100 percent differentiated and ownable, either). Surprisingly, there’s a “Bronson Rock” bar. Big Block, Flywheel, Iron Head, Monkey Wrench and Nomad are all either beer or brewery names. “Clutch” is a New Belgium Brewing Co. beer. “2 Banger” might be too similar to Banger Brewing, and 2 Stroke is a beer by Motorworks Brewing (great name!)