18 May 2010

Beer Diary #17 - Jim | The Power of Names

Date: 12 May 2010
Location: Brugge Brasserie
Broad Ripple Village
Indianapolis, Indiana

"What's in a name?" asked Shakespeare in Romeo & Juliet. "That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

The message is that names are not important. What matters is not what a thing is called, but what the thing actually is.

But is this notion true? Do names really mean so little?

Think about these examples--

- Had the Spartan king who led 300 of his men against Xerxes' Persian horde at the Battle of Thermopylae been named Bob instead of Leonidas--translated as "leonine"--would he have become the stuff of legend?

- Jacob wrestled with a mysterious being (who some say was an angel, others God) and would not yield to the being. Consequently, he was renamed Israel, "He Who Struggles with God." Israel went on to sire the ancestors of the Jewish people, who were known as the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Would history have been the same if Moses had instead led the Twelve Tribes of Jake out of Egypt?

- Upon his corruption by the Emperor and his turning to the dark side of the Force, Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. If Skywalker had instead been rechristened Jeff Vader (my apologies to Eddie Izzard for stealing his shtick), would he have instilled the same sense of fear and foreboding?

My examples are admittedly a bit facetious. Yet in all seriousness, my point is this: names are important. Names grant a thing or person an identity. A change of name can mark a life-altering experience. Names tell us what to expect. Names hold power. So a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but "smell-good-flower" doesn't quite have the same ring to it as "rose," does it?

On a Wednesday afternoon, the bar at Brugge Brasserie carries a leisurely atmosphere. It's the period between lunch and dinner, that sleepy restaurant netherworld where diners can eat and drink in relative quiet.

Brewer Ted Miller is present, touting his two newest beers. The first he pours is Brugge Dubbel. "Dubbel" is a name well-recognized by craft beer lovers. We know what to expect when we see that name: a brown body; a nose evoking dark fruits and spices; a velvety mouthfeel; and a slightly sugary finish. Ted admits that his dubbel is still a little green, and I can taste that because the beer leaves a little hotness in my throat. Ted opines that in a few days time, the beer will be entering its prime. I know that he's right. I'm also know that Ted's beer is true to style; it fits squarely within the category "dubbel." It is true to its name.

The second beer, in contrast, has no name. It's the Clint Eastwood of beers if the beer were the main protagonist of a Sergio Leone western. Ted pours a sample, which sits cloudy and ruby-red in the glass. This beer is Ted's answer to Lindemans' lambics, but with a true-to-style sourness that Lindemans lambics don't have. What's more, the Beer with No Name is made with a different kind of berry: the boysenberry. The sourness is pleasant. It's a soft tartness rather than an acetic sourness, and it blends well with the berries' sweetness. There is, however, a definite alcohol kick, which you certainly wouldn't find in a true lambic. So in this instance, the fact that the beer is nameless seems to fit the situation because the beer perhaps defies naming; it cannot be easily categorized.

Ted gestures to the chalkboard above the brewhouse entrance. The name at the bottom of the beer list says "Pooka." That name, he says, is the one he's thinking of giving the beer. It's what the servers are currently calling it. But he's undecided; he's not sure that he likes the proposed name.

A discussion about naming the beer ensues. I announce that I like the name Pooka. Ted explains that a pooka is a type of spirit or faerie from folklore that has a relationship with berries. As to what that relationship is precisely--well, I'll let him explain that to you the next time you see him at the bar. Suffice it to say that it is a relationship which might make you second-guess the propriety of that name.

Other names are discussed. "Boysen-the-hood." Kind of funny. "Berry Kitty." No. "Cosmic Kitty" or "Kosmic Kitty." Hmmm. I'm not sure about that one. Perhaps it's appropriate; the beer seems to be the berryish cousin of Bad Kitty. But the name makes me think of catnip because there's a catnip brand called Cosmic Catnip.

It seems as if Pooka might stick. Sometimes, when a name is used for long enough, it remains even if the name might not precisely fit the thing. What is more, the dinner hour has finally arrived, which is my cue to head home.

If this beer is still on at Brugge and you crave one of the few locally-brewed sour beers, ask for Pooka. Or Boysen-the-hood. Or Kosmic Kitty. Or just ask for "that berry thing."


  1. I thought this post was going to be about the Naptown Juice Bar. Oops...

  2. Well Andy, the theme would sort of fit, wouldn't it?