Hey, bartender! There’s a pun in my beer
BY MICHAEL AUSTIN December 18, 2012 9:32AM
Updated: January 20, 2013 6:03AM
Great hilarity ensued lately when a friend of mine and I settled in for a night of craft beer drinking and live rock ’n’ roll listening at Goose Island’s brewpub near Wrigley Field. One More was the beer of the night. It was hoppy and citrusy, with medium body and low alcohol, and it was named One More the way other Goose Island beers are named Honker’s Ale, 312, Sofie and Matilda.
I held up a peace sign every time I shouted “two more One Mores” because, I believed, somehow that made my order easier to understand over the din of rock. It was kind of funny every time we ordered — funny in an Abbott and Costello way, and the way old jokes make you laugh no matter how many times you hear them.
One More joins the long tradition of brewers giving their beers punny names. No matter how serious beer makers become about their craft, no matter how precise beer and food pairings become and how much respect beer earns among the elite palates of the world, beer names continue to be whimsical. This is because brewers know that discovering and drinking beer is just plain fun. Ordering it is fun, too.
Who could resist asking for a Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale from Lagunitas, with its beautiful hop presence and warming 7.5 percent alcohol? McGuire’s, a brewery and brewpub in Florida, used to make a barley wine with 12 percent alcohol called I’ll Have What the Gentleman on the Floor is Having. That is a long way to go for a joke, but I respect it.
Some beer-naming methods follow a more circuitous route. Brother Thelonious, a dark Belgian Strong Ale by North Coast Brewing Co. that clocks in at 9.4 percent alcohol, is named for the bebop jazz genius Thelonious Monk. He was neither a monk nor a Belgian — he was an American piano player — but Belgian monks make a lot of beer in their abbeys, so you can see the connection.
When I told my mom recently about my night of One Mores it reminded her of a man in her social group named Eugene. Lots of their friends have taken to calling him Gene lately, so when my mom sees him she says, “Is that you, Gene?”
Imagine if my mom started brewing beer in one of the great craft beer towns of the world: Eugene, Ore. She would have no trouble naming her first beer. She could call it This One’s For You, Gene or simply You, Gene. But Eugene himself would have a beer name that only he could pull off: Me, Gene.
Now that people are making homebrew the way people used to make sandwiches, the naming challenge is ever-more relevant. What would you name your beer? Would you include the type of beer in the name, like Pour Man Lager (or Pour Man Porter … or Pour Man Pourter)? Would you make a pun about the style of beer, like Jet Lag, a lager? Oskar Blues did just that with its Mama’s Little Yella Pils, a pilsner.
I might try to one-up the clever One More by naming my concoction Beer, Please. Imagine the zaniness that would occur if one day Goose Island started carrying my beer. Some night a couple of friends could stop in for a pint, one of them calling for One More and the other ordering a Beer, Please.
Oh, I just thought of another good name, this one for an abbey beer: Abbot and Costello.
See, it is not Abbott and Costello, because that is the comedy team famous for the One More-like “Who’s on First?” routine. This is “Abbot” and Costello because an abbot is the man in charge of an abbey and, as we know, a lot of beer gets made in abbeys or at least in the abbey style. By the way, a woman in charge of an abbey is an abbess, so if you can come up with a pun for that one, it’s all yours.
Imagine if Goose Island started carrying that beer, too — my Abbot and Costello. After a first round I could approach the bar with a smirk on my face and say, “One more Abbot and Costello, one more One More and one more Beer, Please.”
Somebody stop me!
Michael Austin is a Chicago free-lance writer. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.