The inaugural Drunkspin Daily, a review of Stone Arrogant Bastard, addressed the problem of bad beer names. Too many of them rely on awful puns, weed references, or inside jokes that make it difficult for the consumer to remember which beer's which. Is the unfiltered wheat ale the one named after the brewmaster's ex-wife, or is that the pilsner? Which iteration of the imperial stout referenced the marketing guy's fantasy football team: the good one, or the one they killed with too much coffee?
I sympathize to a certain extent, because there are now more than 3,000 American breweries producing who knows how many distinct beers a year. I'd say a conservative estimate might be five new beers from each company annually, so every year the industry needs to come up with at least 15,000 names that haven't already been claimed by one of the hundreds of thousands of beers already gone by.
That's still no reason why Aeronaut, a Somerville, Mass., brewery I like, has to call their farmhouse ale Saison of the Western Ghats, but I get that they can't just call it Aeronaut Saison, because that's boring, and also because they'll have another saison out soon enough, and then what? They could always go the George Foreman route, but that might come across as lazy. Plus there are so many inside jokes to tell each other, so why limit it?
So I'm cool with silly and obscure names, but my patience runs out when we cross the very thick line dividing "dumb" and "offensive." The brewing game is a notorious boys' club, and you don't have to dive too deep into your emergency outrage reservoir to roll your eyes at things like Clown Shoes Tramp Stamp or Middle Ages Wailing Wench. No, they're not blatantly misogynistic, but they're nothing nice, either. (This is where the brave White Men's Rights Activists stop reading and start calling me a "butthurt beta male" in the comments. Now that they're gone, the rest of us can proceed with peace and dignity.)
Flying Dog, a very reputable brewery in Frederick, Md., is notorious for their stupid, offensive beer names. Or their envelope-pushing playfulness, if you prefer. They mostly go in for dog-and-sex-themed double-entendres. And you can say "Come on, man, there's nothing misogynistic about calling beers Doggie Style, Pearl Necklace, and Raging Bitch," but then imagine a woman ordering one and having the bar doof snicker at her. No hate crimes have been committed, but is the awkwardness (to put it mildly) really worth your precious pun?
Let's get into Raging Bitch, their 8.3-percent-ABV year-round Belgian IPA. This one offends my delicate sensibilities as follows:
1. The label copy tries to pass off the "bitch" factor as a dual reference to dogs and also some Hunter S. Thompson/Ralph Steadman thing. This means we're dealing with grown human makers of intoxicants and decisions who still haven't gotten over their Fear and Loathing phase. Ominous.
2. And they think we're dumb enough to fall for this explanation. Oh, is "raging bitch" sometimes used as a reference to the type of broad who drives a fella to drink 8.3-percent beer when all he really wants to do is kick back in the man cave to whittle some shit or maybe write tough poems during sports commercials? Huh, funny coincidence. The kids and their ever-evolving slang, who can keep up?
3. The beer doesn't make any damn sense. And I say this as a big fan of Belgian-style IPAs. Allagash Hugh Malone, Stone Cali-Belgique, Green Flash Le Freak—that's my stuff. But Flying Dog Raging Bitch lacks the balance of its superiors.
It pours a deep copper, with a nice, big head. This is a fine-looking beer. It smells nice, too, with subtle but distinct Belgian yeast esters and phenols contributing the expected fruit and spice notes, predominantly cloves and black pepper, with some light apple, along with caramel malt and a sharp orange-tinted citrus hop aroma. Unfortunately, the flavor doesn't follow through. The Belgian character gets almost wholly subsumed by the strong grapefruit and pine hops; the pepper gets totally lost, too, though the caramel/toffee malt does manage to fight through as the beer warms up.
This beer isn't bad by any means, but it's overly ambitious: Too many flavors are crammed into the bottle, and some of them don't make it back out intact. I mean Flying Dog no harm, and we'll get to one of their other beers in due time, but today's conclusion is that there are better American-made Belgian-style IPAs out there, with less troublesome names.
This is Drunkspin Daily, the Concourse's adequate source for booze news, reviews, and bullshit. We'll be highlighting a beer a day in this space; please leave suggestions below.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and has visited all of the other New England states, including, come to think of it, Vermont. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain. Image by Jim Cooke.
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