By Pat Rich
Recently I was contemplating Hegel and the end of history, something I had not done since my university days. This was prompted not by existential angst but by a recent article in The Globe and Mail – and not one of the profound musings of Margaret Wente, but rather a piece in the Living section.
The article described how a small microbrewery in Seaforth, Ontario — Half Hours on Earth Brewery (the name itself evidently taken from the lyrics of a now-defunct New York rock band) — has turned to music lyrics to name its beers.
The reason? As stated by article author Ben Johnson, “The growth of craft beer is great for people who prefer to drink locally made and small-batch brew, but has led to an interesting problem for the people making them: The puns are all taken.”
It made me wonder momentarily if we are truly at the end of history when it comes to this chapter of the microbrewery industry in Canada. Not only has the explosion of locally made beers resulted in a tremendous range of interesting brews for drinkers, but it has also been a boon for wordsmiths and artists. This should hardly be surprising in an industry that deals with hops as one of its primary ingredients: hop varieties have names as evocative as Fuggles, Chinook, Styrian Goldings and Hallertauer Mittelfrüh.
Consider a small sampling of the names created for beers by just four of Ottawa microbreweries and available now:
Release the Hounds
Orange is the New Pink
Go beyond Ottawa and the imagination shown by microbrewers in naming their products can be seen to be limitless (Ransack the Universe, anyone?).
True, the number of ways one can imaginatively use the word “hop” itself in a beer name appears to be reaching its natural conclusion. But the small Seaforth brewery aside, I don’t see the word-well being in any way dry.
This linguistic creativity has been matched by the artistic stylings of those who design beer labels. Some breweries such as Beau’s in the Ottawa region produce gem after gem that are so distinctive that I know one person who has them framed on their walls at home. Outside of Ottawa, Collective Arts Brewing in Hamilton is dedicated to specifically “fusing the craft of brewing with the inspired talents of emerging artists & musicians [and] promoting artists and raising creative consciousness through the sociability of craft beer.”
I hesitate to call their beer cans works of art. To do so puts me in mind of an old Alan Coren column about people who pretentiously collected toasters being marketed as works of art because they had pictures painted on them. However, I think it is fair to say that the craft brewery industry has provided another creative outlet that didn’t previously exist. As such, I for one would be very disappointed if this movement was to have reached its end.