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Where Do D.C.'s Quirky Beer Names Come From?

Photo: Gerry Suchy/

These days, describing and branding a beer requires more than calling it just a lager or an ale. Just as breweries across the U.S. are getting more creative with their beer styles, they are also getting clever with names, too.

Whether it's a pun, word play, or an obsure pop culture reference, there's always a story behind the name. Here are some of the tales behind some of the Washington area's more interesting beer names.

Lost Rhino Brewing Company
Ashburn, VA

Rhino Chasers Pilsner:
The inspiration here has nothing to do with safaris. The brewery's name, as well as that of its flagship beer, Rhino Chasers Pilsner, came from a passion for surfing.

"A rhino chaser is a big wave surfer who is always looking for next big wave or big adventure," says Chris Drummond, a representative with the brewery.

2200 lbs of Sin:
This name was based off a Grateful Dead lyric. The song "Dire Wolf" references 600 pounds of sin, and Lost Rhino uses 2200 pounds of malt per batch of this barleywine-stye ale.

DC Brau
Washington, DC

On The Wings of Armageddon:
This name is a nod to the Mayan calendar, which predicted the world would end on December 21, 2012. This imperial IPA also uses Falconer's Flight hops, adding to its high-flying name.

El Hefe Speaks!
The beer is brewed in the German hefeweizen-style, and also plays off the Spanish word "jefe," which means "chief."

Right Proper Brewing:
Washington, DC

Nathan Zeender, head brewer at Right Proper Brewing company, doesn't have any hard rules about naming beers, but says the team puts a lot of thought into the process. The names here weave together elements from all obscure corners of culture. "As brewers we put in a lot of time and effort into crafting our beers so I figure a bit of effort in naming a beer only makes sense," Zeender says.

Kodachrome Dream(ing)
This tart wheat beer takes its name from a few sources. For one, it's a salute to the saturated color of old Kodak film stock. The other half is a reference to a Neil Young bootleg, "Chrome Dreams." Zeender also admits an affinity for unnecessary parentheses.

The Invisible City of Bladensburg
This "primitive" beer is named for the town of Bladensburg, Maryland, as well as for a song by musician John Fahey, "Dance Of The Inhabitants Of The Invisible City Of Bladensburg." What's more, Fahey's guitar style is also known as American primitive guitar.

Washington, DC

There have been more than 90 different beers brewed since this Navy-Yard pub opened, and that means coming up with a lot of names. The collaborative process involves staff from across Neighborhood Restaurant Group, which owns Bluejacket. Here's

The brewery begins by first consulting a master list of previously thought up names or brainstorms possibilities based off a description or ingredient in the unnamed beer.

"I'd say we are always going for bold, evocative and mellifluous names, and tend to gravitate toward those that are suggestive and figuratively relevant, rather than those that are more concretely conspicuous, literal, or self-evident," says Greg Engert, beer director for Neighborhood Restaurant Group, which owns the brewery. Fair enough.

Forbidden Planet
This idea behind this name began with an affinity for the Galaxy hops used in the recipe. The name Forbidden Planet is the science-fiction movie referenced in the Rocky Horror Picture Show opening song "Science Fiction/Double Feature." Considerations that didn't make the cut included Moon Shot and Space Invader, Engert says.

The Stroppy
This American pale ale is made with Pacific Jade hops from New Zealand. The creative team played off of the geographic theme in choosing the name Stroppy, which Engert says is slang for a boxer or an otherwise belligerent person.

Mexican Radio
When NRG owner Michael Babin heard about this mole-inspired beer, he immediately thought of the 1982 Wall of Voodoo song of the same name.
—Travis Mitchell
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