What's in a beer name?
By Daedalus Howell
For your typical celebrity, it's to be expected that one day someone is going to name a sandwich or some other edible after you. Every deli menu in Hollywood boasts some kind of transubstantiation of stars into grub. In the world of cocktails, oddly, they're usually of the non-alcoholic variety ("Shirley Temple," "Roy Rogers"). On the Isle of Beer, however, it's becoming customary to borrow the names of the well-known—if often deceased—for the sake of branding a brew.
Topping the list is Samuel Adams, the American statesman and founding father who is fourth down the list on his own Google search. Number one, of course, is Boston-based brewing behemoth Samuel Adams. It also numbers two and three, though I think competing for search engine optimization with a dead guy is no real triumph.
A more obscure naming reference is Pliny the Elder, a super-hoppy double IPA that packs a whopping eight percent alcohol. It's named for Gaius Plinius Secundus, which is Latin for "Unpronounceable After a Couple of Beers." Better known as Pliny the Elder, the philospher was quite the gadfly about ancient Rome who penned an encyclopedia of natural history and is the uncle of, yep, Pliny the Younger.
Exacty why Santa Rosa-based Russian River Brewing Co. named their concoction after a dead Roman was probably lost with the brain cells spent during its first taste trials.
Perhaps in an attempt to out-Ruskie the Russian River Brewing Company, Fort Bragg's North Coast Brewing Company poached the name of Siberian-born "Mad Monk" Rasputin, ostensibly to honor the tradition of "18th century brewers who supplied the court of Russia's Catherine the Great." Hmm. Though the story is about as frothy as the tan head of its Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, it certainly extends the cult of personality the creepy mystic has enjoyed since the days of the czars. The brew itself extends one's appreciation for imperial stouts—great beefy beers that top out at nine percent alcohol and handily kick populist stouts (read: Guinness) to the floor.
Then there are the dead musicians. North Coast has a Brother Thelonious, named for Thelonious Monk, and Delaware's Dogfish Head Craft Brewery rolled out an homage to a boundary-breaking jazz legend last year with its Miles Davis' Bitches Brew. (The name had been waiting to grace a beer label since Davis' album of the same name was released in 1970.) Petaluma's own Lagunitas Brewing Company mounted a similar effort with a series of brews named after classic Frank Zappa albums.
Of course, when the Boss croaks, we'll raise some Bruce SpringSteins in his honor.
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