One of the biggest reasons microbrews have become so popular over the last 20 years is the wide variety of styles microbrewing has brought to the American palette. Whether you’re an avid beer drinker and subscribe to our beer of the month club, or just a weekend warrior, Americans are drawn to the creative, free-wheeling spirit of the microbrewing industry. Unlike the well-known American “macrobrews” put out by Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Coors, microbreweries are known for taking risks, innovating, and giving beer lovers the chance to try something new.
Many microbrews are also known for their quirky names. Let’s take a look at some prominent, oddly-named beers at the stories behind them.
“Fat Tire” – New Belgium (Fort Collins, Colorado)
Like many microbreweries, New Belgium Brewing is the outgrowth of a passionate homebrewer, Jeff Lebesch. To develop his homebrewing repertoire, Lebesch embarked on a cycling tour through Europe, where he acquired classical European ingredients and recipes. Back home in Colorado, Lebesch developed an amber ale he called Fat Tire – a nod to the tires on the mountain bike that carried him through Europe. Along with his wife Kim, Lebesch started New Belgium Brewing in the early 1990s; today, New Belgium is one of the most successful and well-known microbreweries in the country, and Fat Tire is its flagship brew.
“Boont Amber Ale” – Anderson Valley Brewing Company (Boonville, California)
Since we’re on the subject of amber ales with quirky names, we’d be remiss if we failed to mention Boont Amber Ale. Anderson Valley Brewing Company (AVBC) produces a wide variety of delicious brews, and is steeped in the heritage of its surroundings. Nestled in the Anderson Valley of Northern California’s Mendocino County, AVBC uses a historical local dialect known as “Boontling” in the naming of several of its beers. “Boont” Amber Ale simply means that the award-winning brew comes from Boonville.
Boonville, even today a sleepy town off the beaten path, historically has been a rural community based on agriculture and logging. Due to its isolated location, the locals were able to craft their own local dialect with over a thousand unique words. To honor that heritage, AVBC describes each of it’s beers as “bahl hornin’”– good drinking.
“Pliny the Elder” – Russian River Brewing Company (Santa Rosa, California)
Another California brew with a unique name, Pliny the Elder is a massively hoppy double IPA. Of course, Pliny the Elder was also a Roman naturalist and military commander you may remember from school. While probably not the most prominent Roman you can think of, Pliny the Elder is noteworthy for creating the first botanical name for hops, a key ingredient in all beers. Given the level of hops in this brew (100 out of a possible 100 IBUs – International Bitterness Units), the name is certainly well-deserved.
We could write an encyclopedia on microbrews with a quirky history, so check back soon for more!