Would a beer by any other name taste as sweet? Naming something gives it power, creates an identity, and carries weight. Just as the star-crossed lovers of Romeo & Juliet learned the power of a name, so has the craft beer industry.
We are often asked, “How do you name your beers?” Honestly, naming each beer can be the most difficult part. Over the years, we’ve developed some “rules” or themes that guide us on this journey. Following our company name and our passion for the Maine coast, we use nautical terms for our clean fermented beers, usually a single word that has some connection to boats, the sea, or navigation. Our barrel aged beers remind us of traditional brewing and thus traditional sailing on wooden vessels across vast seas seeking the unknown, guided only by the stars. With that in mind, we name our barrel aged beers after stars, constellations, or other astronomical phenomena.
In 2017, we released our first spontaneously fermented beer, so we needed a new theme — something that would differentiate these special beers from the rest and yet still fit within our brand. This style of beer is fermented using a coolship, which is a thin open aired vessel that allows cooling wort to capture the natural yeast and bacteria from the air. Once cooled, the wort is transferred to barrels where it will slowly age and eventually be rediscovered, much like a shipwreck. And so our spontaneous series beers are named after shipwrecks.
Occasionally we expand upon these themes. This summer, we began a new series of limited release IPAs. We decided to name them after islands in celebration of Maine’s wild coastline and island life.
Each beer we brew has a story, and each name helps tell that story. Here are a few of our beers and the story of how they got their name:
Ishmael [ish-mey-uhl] (n)—narrator and protagonist of the Herman Melville novel Moby Dick.
Ishmael is our copper ale. It was the first beer that we released and appeared in the very first draft of the business plan for Rising Tide in late 2009. Whether you have read the book or not you have likely heard of the famous opening line, “Call me Ishmael,” from Moby Dick, a story of a one-legged sea captain’s obsession with the monstrous white whale that took his leg. This American classic also happens to be Nathan’s favorite novel. He named our very first beer, a copper ale, for the narrator of that story, Ishmael.
Cutter (n)—a single-masted sailing vessel with the mast set about two-fifths of the way aft along the waterline.
Cutter is our seasonal Imperial or Double IPA. When we decided to brew this beer, we knew we needed a name that echoed the aggressive amount of hops and big flavor of the style. During a brainstorming session, someone suggested “Calcutta Cutter.” The playful tie into India in India Pale Ale was intriguing.
Just because you enjoy a name doesn’t mean it sticks. The federal government must approve every beer label and name before the beer can be sold. When “Calcutta Cutter” was submitted for approval, the government required that we add a disclaimer indicating that the beer was not brewed in India to “avoid consumer confusion.” So we added an awkward and lengthy disclaimer to the original label. Once the beer was released, customers began naturally shortening the name to just Cutter, so when we moved our packaging from bottles to cans, we decided to drop the “Calcutta” and just leave the name at Cutter.
Harkness – Sank January 16, 1992. A 70’ Tugboat that foundered on a cold and windy winter night near Matinicus Island, Maine. All three crewmen survived.
This shipwrecked tugboat gave us inspiration for our first spontaneously fermented beer, Harkness. It is a story of bravery, survival, and the unwavering dedication of those who spend their lives on the sea. The full story is one for another time, but the courage shown on that fateful night spoke to the culture of the communities on the coast of Maine.
Basket Island (n) — a small island in Casco Bay, protected as a nature preserve. Easily accessible by kayak or dinghy for picnics on the small sandy beach.
Basket Island IPA is the third release in our Island Series. There are more than three hundred and fifty named islands in Casco Bay alone, giving us a plethora of options for naming beers in this series. To narrow those down, we have started with the islands we hold a connection too. Basket Island was an obvious choice. It is a the small island is just off the coast of Falmouth, Maine, near where Heather and Nathan grew up. “Seeing Basket Island after a long boat trip always meant that we were close to home,” Heather reminisced when discussing stories of Casco Bay. Basket Island is also the name of a local oyster farming company. We have hosted a monthly Beer & Oysters event with O’Oysters for years, so we thought that featuring this local oyster farmer in conjunction with the release of Basket Island IPA would be the perfect pairing.
Basket Island releases Friday, September 28th at 12 pm in the tasting room and our monthly Beer & Oysters event, featuring oysters from Basket Island Oyster Co., runs from 4-7pm.