The U.S. has more than 3,000 breweries in various styles and sizes, and more and more are opening every day across this land of hops and barley.
A burgeoning brew scene in the Boise area has surely added to that dynamic number. The Treasure Valley now has around 20 breweries (mostly micro and nano in size), and there’s no end in sight for the local beer industry.
With all these breweries popping up here and there, it’s imperative that brewery owners come up with (and in many cases trademark) catchy names for their flagship and seasonal beers — ones that capture local landscapes, indigenous animals or anything else that ties a can or tap handle to a region.
But with all these trademark considerations, are breweries actually running out of names? With all the word combinations that exist in the English language and beyond, one would think not. There appears to be a tipping point when it comes to naming brews, though.
“The poor kids 20 years from now won’t have any names to call their beers,” says Dave Krick, owner of Bittercreek Alehouse and Red Feather Lounge.
“It will be like YYYY Ale and ZZZZ Stout.”
Krick has seen his share of tap handles with clever names emblazoned on them over the years, and he’s acutely aware of the name game playing out in the brew industry.
“Naming beers will definitely be a challenge. It’s already becoming that way,” he says.
Payette Brewing Company founder Mike Francis agrees.
“We’ll have to start making up words soon,” he says.
Payette Brewing recently found itself in the middle of a trademark dispute after Two Brothers Brewing Co., a Chicago-area brewery, sent the Boise brewery a cease-and-desist letter to stop using the Outlaw IPA name.
Evidently, Two Brothers had long ago trademarked Outlaw IPA. But it’s one of Payette Brewing’s flagship beers. Oh, what a quandary.
“Coming up with a new name for the beer — with all this trademark stuff going on — has been hard,” Francis says.
“We started with a list that had 100-plus names on it and started chipping away at it until we settled on one.”
Outlaw IPA will keep its name through the end of the year and then switch to Rustler IPA in 2016.
Other breweries around town are playing it safe by getting really weird with brew names.
Woodland Empire Ale Craft’s Hall & Oatesmeal Stout is a good example. Surely no one has trademarked that name. But lawyers for Hall & Oates, the famous ’80s pop-rock duo, could be calling soon.
CROOKED FENCE CLOSES CHINDEN TAPROOM
Crooked Fence Brewing Company (www.crookedfencebrewing.com) recently closed its brewery and taproom on Chinden Boulevard in Garden City and is in the process of moving the brewing operations to Crooked Flats, the brewery’s facility along Idaho 16 in Eagle. Crooked Fence Barrelhouse is still going strong on Glenwood Street — across from Expo Idaho — in Garden City.
It didn’t take long for the space to fill, though. Meriwether Cider Company (www.meriwethercider.com) recently announced it would be taking over the site at the end of the year, which will allow the business to greatly increase its output of hard ciders. Also expect to find a taproom.
GROWLER UP AT THE NEW BOISE CO-OP IN MERIDIAN
Boise Co-op (www.boise.coop) opened its much-anticipated new store at The Village at Meridian in November.
Like at the Boise store, the Meridian location also has a growler fill station where people can load up on obscure, hard-to-find ales and other brews.
Expect to find a rotating selection of handcrafted beers from all over the country, including the likes of Lagunitas Fusion XXX, Lagunitas Doppel Sticky, Widmer Altbitter, Barley Brown’s Breakfast Stout and Sockeye Sour Puss, a fresh sour ale made with apricots.
SAWTOOTH BREWERY EXPANSION
Sawtooth Brewery (www.sawtoothbrewery.com) in Ketchum recently announced that it will be opening a new brewpub and a brewery facility at different sites around the Wood River Valley in the coming months.
Sawtooth Brewery Public House, at the corner of 6th and Main streets in Ketchum, is expected to open no later than January 2016. The current taproom, also located at 6th and Main streets, will remain open until the brewpub opens.
The new brewery is slated to open on River Street in Hailey in late spring 2016. The 8,100-square-foot facility will have an on-site taproom and plenty of space for the burgeoning brewery to start canning some of its brews.
Sawtooth Brewery’s flagship and seasonal brews, with alpine-inspired names, include Flow Trail Pale Ale, Last Chair Stout, Freeheeler Rye IPA and Dawn Patrol Coffee IPA, to name a few.
GET THE WINTERTIME BREWS
With the thermometer starting to dip, doesn’t a dark winter ale sound good? Check out these local handcrafted brews guaranteed to warm your belly.
▪ Celebrate the season with some Sockeye Brewing Winterfest (available on draft and in cans), a seasonal, strong American-style ale with a beautiful dark caramel hue, pronounced malty notes and just the right amount of spice.
▪ Another good pick this time of year is Highlands Hollow Brewhouse’s Bonnie St. Nan Cherry Smoked Porter (available on draft), a medium-bodied smoky brew that’s surprisingly mellow considering its dark color.
▪ Go really dark with a growler of chewy and robust Slanted Rock Brewing After Midnight Imperial Stout. This big stout, with espresso-like qualities, will have you doing snow angels in the front yard.
James Patrick Kelly, restaurant critic at the Idaho Statesman, is the author of the travel guidebooks “Moon Idaho” and “Spotlight Boise.” He also teaches journalism at Boise State University.