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Crafty Names and Perfect Pairings: a look inside Waterloo Region’s Craft Breweries

by Andrew Coppolino

Cup and Saucer ale, Fracture DIPA, Pompous Ass English Ale, Everything Goes Away, Electric Piano, Shinny Pants Session Stout and Donkey Venom sour. “What’s in a name?” Juliet asks in the famous soliloquy in Romeo and Juliet, the rhetorical strategy infused with her passion for Romeo and an eloquent assertion that names are incidental and meaningless.

But soft, what light through yonder mash tun breaks? It is but the fact that when it comes to beer, names are not trivial and bereft of meaning. They provide lots of insights – and fun – when you consider Waterloo Region’s craft beer names and the brewers who named them.

Here are just a few examples, paired with a food that suits their style.

Counterpoint Brewing Co.

“There are thousands of beers out there. You need to be creative,” says Graeme Kobayashi of Kitchener’s Counterpoint Brewing.

The small brewery located at Victoria and Frederick streets in Kitchener draws on names in a “cart/horse” sort of equation: sometimes the name comes before the beer; other times the beer appears and needs a name. “We put names on a list and they may wait to be used. We’re inspired by music like Electric Piano IPA, the seasons such as Hoptoberfest and culture like One Drop which is part of our beer, diversity and inclusion series,” Kobayashi says. “But we always try to be respectful – and honour the beer.”

Even the calendar comes into play as with TBT (Throwback Thursday) West Coast Pale Ale that echoes 2009: it’s designed to “take the original craft beer drinker on a nostalgic trip to their first hoppy beer,” according to Counterpoint’s Instagram. “One of our most interesting and fun beers was just tapped today, and it is one of few beers not named with our musical theme in mind. Accept & Continue is an oatmeal raisin-cookie ale with all the ingredients needed to make a good cookie, like oats, raisins, vanilla and cinnamon,” says Kobayashi.

The name alludes to the repeated reminder from the pop-up window on every website we visit that our personal information is being logged, notes Kobayashi. “Of course, the ale tastes like ‘cookies,’” he puns.

As for a food to pair with Accept & Continue, well that could only be LenJo Bakes’ oatmeal-raisin cookies (at the time of writing). “It’s the obvious pairing,” says Kobayashi. “We have them in our taproom while we have it on tap.” 

Graeme Kobayashi of Counterpoint Brewing (Photo: Andrew Coppolino)

Block Three

Block Three Brewing Co. in St. Jacobs, a 2013 entrant into the craft beer juggernaut that began to really roll fast in the 2000s, has always had a sense of place: “Block 3” is an historic reference to tracts of land in the area in the years after the American Revolutionary War.  According to Block Three co-owner Graham Spence, the beer-naming process undertaken by the brewers usually has some sort of humour – but it doesn’t necessarily come easily.

“It’s difficult,” says Spence who adds that names often come from a brainstorming session or checking out an online linguistic source. “We keep it fun and look for puns. Someone usually makes a joke.”

The names they have come up with include Citra n’Ella, Frankenstout and Noon on a Weekday. The collaborative effort made with radio personality Mike Farwell is called Face for Radio, an IPA with a portion of sales going toward Farwell’s fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis research.

Just across the street is Block Three’s partner restaurant The Village Biergarten: the building that houses the restaurant, according to Block Three, was the home to the St. Jacobs Hollinger family – founders of the iconic Home Hardware. The brewery’s “Hollinger Helles” name doesn’t have a silly, witty or punny derivation, but it does help establish the brewery’s sense of place in Waterloo Region.

Graham Spence’s food pairing for Hollinger Helles: “It’s light and crisp and would go well with some tacos from Village Biergarten.”

 

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TWB Cooperative Brewing

Team input at TWB drives beer names: at a worker-owned company, you’d expect that hoppy egalitarianism.

“We actually have a group chat going where we throw ideas around,” says worker-owner Alex Szaflarska. “Our head brewer Peter Collins lets us know what’s coming down the pipeline and we brainstorm, so definitely the beer comes first.”

It can also spontaneously generate, especially for one-offs. “That could be a quick conversation with whoever’s in the room. Sometimes, especially for big batches, it’s a lot of back and forth,” she says. TWB just crowd-sourced a name for the first time, Szaflarska says alluding to an earlier Internet meme that appeared during a 2016 online poll to name a ship: Boaty McBoatface. “We posted the question to Instagram because we wanted to rename our Milky McMilkface. We already have Oaty McOatface and couldn’t decide internally. So, we asked the people. There were some really great ideas! We may do that again in the future.”

A few examples are TWB’s Westphalia Altbier (replete with label art that includes an image of the iconic Volkswagen Westfalia camper van), Sun Dog Saison and Collision Course Schwarzbier, a fall beer named for a near-miss asteroid that came close to Mother Earth – so the name is only funny in a galactically existential and cosmic-calamity sort of way.

For food, Szaflarska suggests that Wobbly Wheel IPA pairs well with fish and chips. “Wobblies were Industrial Workers of the World, a union formed in 1905 which continues to be a huge advocate for workers’ rights. As a worker-owned co-operative workspace, we like throwing references like this into many of our beer names to get people thinking about labour rights and history.”

 

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Shortfinger Brewing

Tucked away in the Mill-Courtland neighbourhood near the site of the now-razed  Schneider’s plant, Short Finger Brewing Co’s Rob Hern sees a “differentiation-factor” that’s needed in a busy beer landscape; however, he says there is more to it than just that: it’s more organic to craft beer itself.

Naming is tied into making unique and different beers. In my opinion, when you give it a really good name, it amplifies and makes the beer better,” says Hern.

Apropos of names, I should note that Hern’s official role at Short Finger itself is quite the handle: “Galactic Fermentation Specialist.” Clearly then, names carry both weightiness and good-natured fun: with monikers like Master Roshi, Babee Yoda, Close Your Eyes and Count to Funk and Lemonade Brigade, Short  Finger must make great beer, if the logic holds. Hern says he often conjures up a name and then sets about to make the beer. “Whenever I come up with a name, I put a note in my phone.”

He adds that currently, a lot of names he’s come up, especially lately, with have been inspired by music. True Believer, an American pale ale, is one of Hern’s favourites. “It’s named for a Bouncing Souls song called True Believer. It’s a throwback for me.”

With the True Believer, Hern imagines a spicy fish taco with cilantro. “Something with a bit of heat on it.”

 

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Foundry Brewing Co.

Geoff Wiseman, Foundry Brewing Co. brewmaster, says he relies on his strict scientific background for his role at the new Cambridge brewery: words, verbal play and paronomasia don’t necessarily come as second nature.

“When it comes to beer names, I pitch to everyone. We sit down and come up with a name. We don’t have a lot of witty names right now, but we’re working on it,” he says. “Coming up with the witty name is the hardest part, but the names can help on a shelf. A witty pun can get the beer in a customer’s hand and get it in their cart at the store.”

Foundry has a Chill Pilz – a pun but also an arrangement of syllables with a nice musical lilt – for their grapefruity, hoppy pilsner. Their stout, labelled “Stay the F*ck Home” needs no glossing in the year that was 2020. The sobriquet Devils’ Creek Pale refers to a small Cambridge Creek, running near Langdon Hall, while several other beers are inspired by the brewery’s location in the old Goldie & McCulloch foundry. Their line of “hardwater” beverages picks up on pop culture memes: The Beach Will Get Whatever Body I Decide To Give It and a dad joke thrown in for good measure – Orange You Glad It’s Keto.

There is a moment for a father’s pride too: Wiseman has named their hefeweizen Beautiful Aurelia for his daughter. Yet the beer is named with more than sentiment, however, having won gold in the German Style Wheat Beer category at the 2020 Canadian Brewing Awards. Perhaps not witty, but there was something auspicious in the victory: the name Aurelia has at its root the Latin word for golden, “aureus.” “We were expecting a child, and I wanted to brew something and name it after her,” Wiseman says.

He suggests pairing Beautiful Aurelia with quiche featuring sautéed mushrooms, an ingredient he says he’s been cooking a lot recently. “The hefeweizen in the cooking itself adds some nice banana, clove and fruitiness to the dish.”

Innocente Brewing Company

You might find Innocent Bystanders and Guilty Consciences when you visit this brewery located in north Waterloo: that’s the beer and not the patrons, although who knows about the latter? You’ll also find InnO’Slainte, The Way it GoseEvil Conscience and Until Proven Guilty, a Russian imperial stout.

Dave Innocente says the naming process is not overly complicated, but it is targetted to keeping on brand with playful ideas of innocent and guilty and angel versus devil.

“We’ve got the Pils’Sinner and the Two Night Stand. We brewed a double-IPA and needed a name. I reached out to a couple of friends and we got a response, ‘How about a two-night stand? Better than a one-night stand’ and that worked. It’s a bit cheeky and hopefully it doesn’t upset anyone,” Innocente says.

For an Innocente food pairing with the Two Night Stand Double IPA, Innocent notes that, “there’s a bigger flavour with an IPA and a bit of bitter, so I’d say an Indian curry or some Mexican food. Something with some spice to it, or grilled red meat with a nice caramelized crust. Maybe some sharp cheese.”

 

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Andrew Coppolino is a writer-broadcaster, and is a food columnist with CBC Radio in Waterloo Region. Following a stint as a cook at a restaurant in Kitchener, Andrew chose to work with food from the other side of the kitchen pass. As a food writer, he is dedicated to promoting and nurturing culinary businesses and advocating for local chefs and restaurants. Andrew’s work has been published in newspapers and magazines across Canada, the United States and England. 

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