Lil’ Beaver’s brewer has no plans to alienate customers with “dirty names” for his beer
What’s in a name? Lots, says Chad Bevers.
Yes, his last name lends itself to a wave of jokes that middle school boys might come up with.
And, he admits, when he was homebrewing for friends, he went along with some of those “dirty names” as he looked to name his beers. He even relied on it in the marketing behind the Kickstarter campaign he launched to help generate funds to open his Bloomington brewery. Take his 2015 stout, “Big Hairy Beaver.” Or his “Muff Diver.” (Cue the Beavis & Butthead laugh.)
Then there were the chants at beer festivals, as he opened a new keg and was implored to “Tap That Beaver.” His beer was “For Beaver Lovers” and was so good, it was clear “Everyone Wants A Little Beaver.”
But as Bevers got more serious about opening a brewery – and before Lil’ Beaver Brewery opened last month – he knew it was time to grow up. He wasn’t going to do anything to alienate potential customers. “I just couldn’t see a family at a restaurant and someone asking for a ‘Muff Diver’,” he said with a laugh. “And they’re probably not going to put that on the menu anyway.”
As we compared our list of favorite beers of 2016, I included Lil’ Beaver Liquid Mounds Bar on our list. The home-brewed imperial stout made with chocolate and coconut was incredible, glistening with coconut flakes and clocking in at 13% ABV. After tasting it at an event at Hammond’s 18th Street Brewery, it was an easy choice for one of my favorites of the year.
But, as we said back then, it came with a hope for an “adjustment in marketing strategy once they realize that women might want to feel invited to buy their beer too.”
We didn’t expect him to agree. Most breweries (in our experience) tend to double and triple down on their mistakes when confronted with negative feedback about the names of their beers. Many claim ignorance, others demand their accusers lighten up, it’s just a joke. Some keep the names and insist that they’re right. Others begrudgingly change the name and offer up a half-hearted “we’re sorry if people were offended” apology. Very rarely do we see breweries actually get why customers call them out on these things — and even more rarely, that they act on it.
Instead, Bevers couldn’t have agreed more.
“It was a very conscientious decision,” Bevers said. “We talked about it in the early planning stages. At first, I talked about getting rid of the name of the brewery. But I talked to people and they said – ‘No! That’s you! It’s perfect!’ – so then we decided ‘OK, well, we’re not doing dirty names. It would just be a bad decision to go with that.”
Instead, his taps now have names like “Puh Puh Porter,” “I Got Forgot” and “Wainbows.”
“My kids are 4 and 5 and my partner’s [Dale Thomas] are a year or two older and we talked about, as they were growing up, the funny stuff they’d say, so we started writing them down,” he said. “My daughter was in Pre-K and talked about how much she loved being ‘Line Leader.’ I thought – we have our first IPA, it’s the first beer we’ve produced, the first label, first name…looked it up, nobody was using it, and said ‘OK, there it is – Line Leader!’”
The naming strategy ensures that the “little Bevers” will have a hand in naming “Lil’ Beaver” beers, while also “almost guaranteeing no other brewery has come up with it yet.” And they’re great conversation starters. “People in the taproom will try to say ‘Now I Know My, Know My’ and as they do, I’ll say ‘ABC’s’ because that’s how my daughter sang it – she said it twice,” he said. “Then they get it. And they chuckle. It’s so cool.”
So when his daughter was recently eating a pack of Skittles candy and declared one color to be “A Little Bit Of Wonderful,” but another color to be “A Whole Lotta Wonderful,” Bevers knew he had the names for both his chocolate-coconut milk stout and the imperial version. The beer once known as “Liquid Mounds Bar” became “A Whole Lotta Wonderful” — and was poured under that name at this year’s FoBAB.
As Bevers strategically made those name changes, the proliferation of sophomoric names appealing to 20-something dudebros was driving industry discussion. That led the Brewers Association last year to issue a policy discouraging “sexually exploitive, lewd or demeaning brand names,” along with “derogatory or demeaning text or images.”
Elsewhere in the country, Ohio’s Paradigm Shift initially held firm on not changing the name of their “Panty Dropper” cream ale. But two weeks of social media criticism, including plummeting ratings on Yelp and Untappd later, “Island Juice” was born. Indiana’s Route 2 Brewing was chided nationally for their creepy drawings of women and names like “Leg Spreader” and “Stacked.” Then they closed their doors this month.
As more craft breweries look to open across the country – and as its creativity gets fueled by both alcohol and testosterone – Bevers offers some advice. “Find a more grown-up route,” he said. “Realistically, think of where you want your product to be served. It’s an easy decision. Almost too easy. A commercial brewery just can’t do that stuff.”
Lil’ Beaver will be among those breweries pouring at both the Forbidden Root anniversary party on March 8 and the Goose Island Stout Fest in April.
Want to know more? We spoke further with Chad for this Q&A posted yesterday about the brewery.