A lot goes into crafting the perfect beer name. You want something that’s memorable and creative. Puns, wordplay and pop culture references are always a bonus. And it has to be different from the hundreds of other beers being brewed around town.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been talking to my fellow beer drinkers and digging through Charlotte brewery websites looking for the most creative beer names in the city and the stories behind them.
Below, you’ll find my definitive (and completely subjective) ranking of the most creative beer names in Charlotte.
A couple of ground rules:
(1) I only considered year-round, currently available or regular seasonal beers, so no one-offs that came out several years ago (like Unknown’s masterpiece La Jordana del Escorpion en Fuego Hacia la Casa del Chupacabra Muerto).
(2) I also only considered beers within Charlotte city limits, because I had to draw the line somewhere.
(3) No pumpkin beers. I love a good gourd pun as much as the next person – NoDa’s Gourdgeous and Sycamore’s Gourd Have Mercy, in particular – but there are so many of them and, let’s be honest, it’s low-hanging fruit – pun intended. (Get it? Because pumpkins are fruit.)
(4) I probably missed some. Look, there are a lot of beers in Charlotte. I’m not perfect. So let me know what I missed in the comments, but be nice about it, please.
OK, to the rankings, in reverse order:
(10) Release the Quacken, Barking Duck Brewing
What it is: Imperial chocolate sea salt porter
Reason: On its own, Release the Quacken is a fun play on the memorable line from the movie “Clash of the Titans,” but the brewery also has one of the most creative names in town. The brewery name comes from the yellow labs barking on the porch while founders Josh Carl and Jacob Reynolds made home brews and the fact that they did a lot of “research” at Duckworth’s.
(9) Ain’t No Hop Steppin’, Three Spirits Brewing
What it is: India Pale Ale
Reason: I’m a sucker for song lyric names, and this reference to Big Daddy Kane’s “Ain’t No Half Steppin'” is a great one.
(8) All Knight Long, Birdsong Brewing
What it is: Belgian blonde ale
Reason: I told you I love song lyric names, and I can’t see this Charlotte Knights collaboration beer without immediately getting the Lionel Richie classic stuck in my head. You can find this one at Charlotte Knights games this spring and in the taproom starting in April.
(7) The Dude Imbibes, Triple C Brewing
Reason: I know, another pop culture reference, but what can I say? “The Big Lebowski” is one of my favorite movies. And a rum barrel-aged milk stout is basically the beer version of a White Russian – The Dude’s favorite beverage, man.
If you disagree with this ranking, well …
(6) Call Me F.H., Free Range Brewing
What it is: Brown ale
Reason: This one has a surprisingly non-kid-friendly story for one of the most kid-friendly breweries in town. The “F.H.” stands for “f*** head,” because the owner’s father-in-law once told him, You can call me by my first name, you can call me f*** head, just don’t call me sir. Now you can also get A Big F.H. – an imperial Carolina brown ale with maple syrup.
(5) Bright Ass Tank Tops, Unknown Brewing
What it is: Rum-barreled Key lime gose
Reason: As Unknown Marketing Manager Scotty Kent said, “This one is pretty simple.” But it also evokes the perfect image to go along with the mojito-esque beer, because “it’s the kind of beer you drink when you’re at the beach in a bright ass tank top,” Kent said.
(4) Carolina Sparkle Party, Legion Brewing
What it is: Berliner Weisse
Reason: This sounds less like the name of a beer and more like how a UNC undergrad might spend their Saturday night. (Yes, North Carolina is the real Carolina. Come at me, Gamecock fans.) But, as Legion’s Brittany Smith explains, it’s a pretty dead-on description of the beer: “The ‘Carolina’ come local ingredients: We brew CSP with 100 percent Riverbend malt from Asheville. ‘Sparkle Party’ refers to the bubbly, tart, effervescent style of the beer – like a party in your mouth.”
(3) What He’s Having/What She’s Having, Wooden Robot Brewery
What it is: India Pale Ale (What He’s Having); Double IPA (What She’s Having)
Reason: These names seem simple until you look a little closer at the statement being made. The names are “poking fun at gender stereotypes with She’s being the big, bold, high-gravity Double IPA and He’s being your lower ABV American IPA,” said Wooden Robot Brand Ambassador Kristen Merkl.
Just check out the description for What She’s Having: “Who says a ‘girl’ beer has to be sweet, fruity, or pink? Our bold, DIPA is loaded with Mosaic, Simcoe, and Apollo hops for notes of dank resinous pine. Are you woman enough to handle this?”
(2) Kitten Snuggles, Unknown Brewing
What it is: Farmhouse ale brewed with milk sugar, catnip and fuzzy apricots
Reason: Let me tell you a little story. A few years ago, CharlotteFive did an April Fools’ Day edition, and one story centered around Unknown creating a black and tan using their stout and Natural Light (or some equally crappy beer). That story mentioned another upcoming release, Kitten Snuggles, which would be brewed with catnip. I thought it was part of the joke. It was not.
First released in 2016 and coming back this year, Kitten Snuggles was inspired by a trip owner Brad Shell made to Portland and a business that would rent cats to people who need a snuggle. The name came first, the beer followed, as did these amazing promo shots used in an Unknown calendar.
If this was a body of work ranking, Unknown would win by a landslide. The brewery has so many great beer names – Dirty Commie Heathen, Grammy’s Breakfast, Buzzed City, Scratch ‘n Sniff – that it was hard to keep myself to just two. I guess that’s just a part of Shell’s quest to make Charlotte more weird.
(1) Turtles on Pterodactyls, Birdsong Brewing
What it is: Bourbon barrel-aged MexiCali Stout
Reason: It’s so much fun to say, makes absolutely no sense and I love it. Really, this is a group award for the whole Take Flight series, which includes Puppies on Penguins, Weasels on Woodpeckers and Mongeese on Monkeys. The names are so absurd that when I was telling a friend about this list he thought I was making them up. You can’t make them up.
Fact: Dreary Saturdays can be made better w/ Turtles on Pterodactyls (Buffalo Trace Bourbon Barrel Aged MexiCali Stout). ***Last chance for this year’s version of this yummy limited brew! If that’s not enough, @mysausagebuddy & @thechimispotnc will be on site for lunch/dinner! #Yum #CLTbeer #NCbeer #UnfilteredJoy Thanks @draftmag for the sweet photo.
Here’s the story behind the name(s), from Birdsong owner Chris Goulet: “The original bottle release was actually called Squirrels on Geese. The name was based on an obscure inside joke we came up with during our first visit to Great American Beer Festival. After that we decided to try to one-up our silliness and come up with even more unusual ‘Take Flight Series’ release names.”
But apparently Weasels on Woodpeckers was inspired by an actual sighting of exactly that. Head brewer Conor Robinson said “Google it,” so I did, and sure enough:
ABSOLUTLEY INCREDIBLE photo by Martin Le-May. Green Woodpecker and Weasel. Apparently the Woodpecker escaped. pic.twitter.com/PUt1b2Mbhs
— Jason Ward (@Jayward7) March 2, 2015
Well I’ll be.
Featured photo: Unknown Brewing