Dining With Denise Neil

How Wichita brewers come up with names for their craft beer

Nobody puts Baby in the corner.

Movie fans recognize those six words as a memorably corny line from the 1987 movie “Dirty Dancing.”

But in Wichita, that’s also the name of a blackberry/ginger Saison beer released earlier this month by Nortons Brewing Company.

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Nobody puts Baby, or this beer from Nortons Brewing Company, in the corner. Courtesy photo

In a town where nearly a dozen breweries are cooking up and serving new beers every year, appropriately naming the new concoctions can be a challenge, local brewers say.

Not only do they have to come up with something memorable and descriptive, but they also must find a name that no one in the country has used. And that’s not an easy task considering that there are more than 7,000 craft breweries in the United States, all looking for unique names, too.

“The name game is constant, 365-days-a-year, seven-days-a-week,” said Central Standard Brewing co-owner Ian Crane, who keeps a long list of possible beer names stored in his phone. “You always need to be thinking.”

When it’s time to name a new beer, Wichita brewers say, they draw inspiration from all sorts of places. Some choose simple, descriptive names. Others reference meaningful song lyrics or movie lines. Some name beers in honor of their wives, kids or pets. Some go with a humorous play on words or a pun.

But just like musicians naming a band or parents naming a kid, they agonize over their choices. A beer name is something a brewer has to live with for a long time.

Some of Wichita’s most memorably — and hilariously — named beers come from the new Nortons Brewing Company, whose owners, Dan and Becky Norton, are heavily influenced by their love of music and movies.

“Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner” is a good example, as is a beer called “Aloha Mr. Hand,” flavored with toasted coconut and pineapple and named for a line from the 1982 movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”

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“Aloha Mr. Hand.” This beer at Nortons Brewing Company pays homage to a famous line in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” Courtesy photo

A tart gose called “Sex, Money, Murder” was named after lyrics to a hip-hop song Dan loves. And last year’s beer “Becky With the Good Hair” was a gose named after a line in Beyonce’s song “Sorry” and chosen as a tribute to Dan’s wife, Becky.

“Probably our biggest inspiration is music,” Dan Norton said. “We’ll be brewing and playing some jams, and a certain song will come on and it kind of fits the mood of the beer we’re making.”

Crane said that naming a beer is sometimes fun and easy, sometimes stressful and difficult.

Occasionally, Central Standard’s brewers comes up with a name they love and brew a beer to match it. Most of the time, they brew the beer then search for a name that feels right.

The list Crane keeps in his phone, which he’s always updating, includes more than 150 name possibilities.

“Coming up with a label or name can sometimes be the hardest part,” Crane said. “You wouldn’t think that with the laborious process of brewing and waiting, but sometimes the name can be the trickiest thing.”

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Wichita’s Central Standard Brewing has found inspiration to name its beers from songs, friends, even movie lines. Courtesy photo

Central Standard is known for creative names like Dank Lloyd Bright — a play on Frank Lloyd Wright’s name that incorporates the word “dank,” which is used to describe a hoppy beer. One of their flagship beers, Wizard of Hops, was named before it was even brewed — a suggestion by some out-of-town friends who insisted a Kansas brewery needed a beer named for “The Wizard of Oz.”

At Wichita Brewing Company, co-founder Jeremy Horn said naming beers is a collaborative effort. Sometimes, it’s hard work. Sometimes, it’s all fun — like when the crew decided to call its new peach-infused IPA Resting Peach Face.

“Sometimes it just involves us drinking beer and amusing ourselves,” he said.

Naming beers gets harder every year, though, Horn said. After the crew comes up with a name for a beer, it searches online beer sites to make sure no one else in the country has used the name. It’s considered bad beer manners to use an already claimed name, no matter how far away the brewery is. Horn said he’s always surprised by what’s already taken.

One year, WBC brewed a beer using Hatch green chilies and decided to call it “Down the Hatch.” They quickly learned that at least a dozen breweries across the country had already had the same idea.

“It’s actually pretty challenging,” Horn said. “With 7,000 craft breweries in the country now, we’re all kind of running out of nouns.”

Name that beer

Here are the stories behind how some of Wichita’s craft beers got their names.

5:02 Amber, Wichita Brewing Company: When the west-side WBC was under construction, a nurse from a nearby clinic stopped by and asked when the business would open. “She said, ‘I can’t wait until you guys open. I get off work at 5, so this is going to be my 5:02,’” said co-owner Jeremy Horn. Sadly, they never saw her again.

Denise Neil has covered restaurants and entertainment since 1997. Her Dining with Denise Facebook page is the go-to place for diners to get information about local restaurants. She’s a regular judge at local food competitions and speaks to groups all over Wichita about dining.
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