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Swiss brewery names – or does every city need its own brew factory and garage brewing?

We have already dealt with the topic of “names of breweries” before and also found out there that the right name is worth its weight in gold. However, there are some breweries which have (almost) the same name despite that creativity is the way to success. Therefore we have taken a closer look at the Swiss craft brewery names. Here are our findings and tips to find the right brewery name.

The phenomenon of breweries having similar or the same names is not only found in Switzerland. Here, the word “garage” seems to do it particularly well for the founders. There are several breweries here with factory or garage in their names: There is a Biergarage brewery in St.Gallen, a BrauGarage in Reinach, the BGB Bluemlis Garagen Bräu is at home in Finstersee, the Garage B40 AG brewery in Bern, La Voie de Garage in Epagny, Marco’s Garage Brewery in Boussens and the Brauage du Garage à la Plage brews in Schaffhausen.

An international phenomenon

Internationally, there is Garage Brewing in Temecula California, Garage Beer Company in Barcelona and Garage Project in New Zealand. Breweries with “factory” in their name exist, for example, in Rapperswil and Baden.

That’s amazing. The name of a brewery has a very strong impact on the first impression. And if the name of a brewery is the same or similar to another brewery, it makes it much more difficult to stand out or be remembered.

Reasons for the brewery name

Science has also looked at the issue of brewery names: Researchers Mathews and Patton have attempted to produce a categorization by means of which the frequency distribution of each reason for a name can be determined. They found that many breweries use the same or corresponding terms in their own names and in the names of their beers: Rivers, hills, or generally local, geographic names. At some point, however, Matthews and Patton abandoned their project of categorization because there was too much overlap (e.g., a mountain but named after a mythical person at the same time).

One third of Swiss brewery names have a local or regional connection

As part of our own research (see end for more information), we asked Swiss breweries what their brewery name was based on – with multiple answers possible. The following picture emerged:

Of all brewery names, one third (32.3%) have a regional connection – i.e. a town, region or zip code. For breweries that do not call themselves craft beer breweries, the figure is as high as 37.7%. In addition, a locally significant person was important in the naming of 2%.

While not necessarily so, it is reasonable to assume that a brewery would only use a “mystical figure” (3%), “legend” (5%), or “historical event” (3%) for its own name if it had a particular, and possibly local, relevance – which would attribute even more breweries to something from the region. Another important reason for the name was a person or family close to the brewery: for 14.9% of craft beer breweries and for over a quarter (26.3%) of non-craft beer breweries. Also exciting: an animal was involved in one-fifth (21.1%) of non-craft beer breweries.

Phenomenon neolocalism

Not surprisingly, a great many breweries draw inspiration from something regional. Local is the second most common term survey respondents mentioned to describe their breweries. 

By connecting itself to the “local,” a brewery shows that it is from here and thus exudes authenticity. This is both an expression of “neolocalims” and a result of it. But what does it mean? Neolocalism is defined as the conscious demand by local residents for regional lore, local ties, and a local identity. As a phenomenon, neolocalism has emerged in response to the destruction of traditional ties to community and family, and is people’s search for roots. For companies, this in turn means that they can benefit from establishing a sense of belonging by drawing on characteristics of the local. Local products are also considered to be of higher quality locally. 

However, this local affiliation is only important as long as the product remains in the region. Outside of one’s own region, foreign neolocalism means nothing.

And in fact, there are scientists who believe that it is precisely this link to the local that is responsible for the success of craft beer. In our survey, we asked what associations the term craft beer triggers or what terms should be used to define craft beer. In both questions, “local” was given a great deal of importance.

Local is not everything or maybe even nothing when it comes to the name

“Beer is home” and home is a promising identity feature for a brewery, which it can express with the name. “Beer is home” also means a very strong identification of the customers with the local beer. But if there is no critical mass of customers within the region who buy enough beer, the brewery will have to rely on customers outside its immediate geographic vicinity. As soon as the product is transported, however, the effect of local identity characteristics is lost with every kilometer.

Stephen Hart, founder of Bierfactory Rapperswil, said in our interview that the name of the locality had no immediate benefit. Stephen said that people wouldn’t fuss over their beer just because it came from the area. “The fact that it tastes different outweighs the fact that it’s from here,” he said. And Jeff Bagby of Bagby Brewery in the U.S. was also critical in our interview, mentioning that he was advised against naming his brewery after the place of production – it would make the brewery interchangeable because it would not express his own personal identity.

And Thunbier has also created a new brand with Barter. since, as Bruno Stoller of Thunbier wrote to us, having a place name in the brand is rather a hindrance if one wants to expand the sales radius. “We already run into trouble in Bern with the Thunbier product line. A Young Boys Bern fan never buys a Thunbier!” explains Bruno.

Tips for a great brewery name

There are now over 1,000 breweries in Switzerland, and many, many more worldwide. So how do you find the right name? Here are a few tips:

  • Name should be unique: It’s enough, the world has enough beer garages and factories.
  • Names that can be abbreviated are good: BFM is much easier than whatever BFM stands for. And a large part will not be able to name the full name. But BFM flows off the tongue well.
  • If the abbreviation can be easily broken down, it is of course better than if 3 or 4 letters hide long names, like BFM or FMR (Federation of Malted Republics). ATT works because À Tue-Tête is already short and crisp.
  • Simplicity of pronunciation: A person who says the name should feel comfortable doing so and not be afraid of being laughed at because he doesn’t know the correct pronunciation (tip taken from Beer by Design by Pete Brown).
  • Tonality: “K” tones are very popular because they have something crisp about them. “Melody” or “tonality” is very critical to how much you like to say a name. And the more you like to say a name, the more often you will say it.
  • Do not use first names and surnames, but also place names or local features clumsily as such, such as Martin’s Brauerei or Seeländer Bräu, but instead process them creatively, such as Dr. Brauwolf, Bear’n’Stein or 7Peaks.
  • Language: In Switzerland, multilingualism is an additional challenge, which a large number of breweries solve with an English name – WhiteFrontier, Magic Hop or Kitchenbrew come to mind. But if the name is part of the identity and conveys that identity, what does it mean if the name is not in a national language? But how can you tell a brewery is special when it could work anywhere in the world?
  • There are enough easily pronounceable and easily remembered German, French, Italian and Romansh names (such as Chien Bleu, NordSud, la Nébuleuse) and such a name reflects the identity much more strongly.

About the Swiss craftbeer survey
As part of a MAS (Master of Advanced Studies), Christian did a paper on the topic of “identity” and “craft beer”. Over several blogposts we will highlight and discuss one aspect of the survey.
200 Swiss and one brewery from the Principality of Lichtenstein participated in the survey. The breweries were able to indicate whether they feel and describe themselves as craft beer breweries. 121 feel and describe themselves as craft beer breweries, 61 feel but do not describe themselves as craft beer breweries, and 19 breweries do not feel they are craft beer breweries.
Special thanks to Philippe Bov Corbat for providing us with his address list.

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