Easily one of the most stressful parts of starting our brewery was choosing our name. I’m not going to explain how you should name your brewery or business–it’s going to be a different process for everyone. I’m also not professing to be an expert at this; after all, I’ve only been part of naming one brewery. I’m pretty sure this is not something unique to breweries, but it may be more difficult to choose a unique name than if you were starting, say, a sock company. The sheer number of breweries that are open or opening makes finding something unique and interesting difficult, especially for a couple of guys who have always been a bit more technical than creative.
Early on, Dan and I brainstormed a lot of names and we registered the domain for all of them. It seemed like every day we chose a new name we really liked and I registered the domain. My Godaddy account saw a lot of action. We eventually decided to be strategic about choosing a name and focused on certain themes:
- Local landmarks (Port Moody Brewing, Newport Brewing, Vancity Brewing, Tri-City Brewing, Barnet Brewing, Terminal City Brewing, Common Thread Brewing).
- IT, programming, and computers (8-Bit Brewing, 1024, 404, Constant, Exception).
- Words that had something to do with starting over, taking a big risk, or that aligned with our values (Curiosity, Penchant, New Co, New Line, Constant, Cloud).
- Something that would pay homage to where we had both worked for the last few years (Collaboration Brewing, New Portal, Red Portal, Blue Portal, Sustainment, Thrive).
And we had a few leftovers: New House, Local, Red Barrel, Haze, Round Tuit (some real winners).
With each name we considered, we made sure to do some basic research to see if there were other companies with the same or similar names, or any trademarks that seemed to conflict (see the links at the end of this post for relevant resources). If you search for most of the names above in a trademark database and Google, you’ll find something close enough. Each time we searched and other breweries or trademarks showed up, we would scratch that name off the list. One name kept seeming right, and wasn’t showing up in our searches. We liked it, others liked it, it came to us easily. Rocky Point Brewing Company. Done. That was easy!
But at that stage we still hadn’t fully convinced ourselves that we should quit our jobs. We had not reserved our name with the province or incorporated a company. We had commitment issues. A few months later, we had prepared a good business plan, the bank was nearly on board, and investors were lined up. We sent a note to our lawyer asking him to incorporate our company, but it turns out someone else had incorporated a company with a very similar name and our name request was denied by the BC name registry. Cue the end of the world.
After a quick education in the difference between trademarks, trade names, and corporate names we went through the five classic stages of grief. We assumed it was a mistake (denial). We wondered: “who would do this to us!?” (anger). We called our lawyer and tried to find ways around it (bargaining). We felt like giving up and ignored it for a while (depression). Finally, we decided it may be a good thing, and we started looking for a new name (acceptance).
We spent the next few weeks working on finding a new name. We enlisted the help of our amazing branding agency and the help of our friends, family and colleagues. We used dictionaries and thesauruses looking for definitions, synonyms, and antonyms. We made lists of words. Lots of lists. So many words. Every time we found something, we checked the trademark databases in Canada and the US and every time it was inevitably taken. I’d wake up in the middle of the night with the perfect name… taken. When you have thousands of breweries in the US and Canada, and thousands more in planning, finding unique names that mean something to you, reflect your brand, and help tell your story becomes difficult and frustrating. At this time we were lucky enough to spend time with one of our advisors who has a background in beer and alcohol branding as well as Don and Tak at Free Agency Creative. Don and Tak worked with us to get clear on what type of company, brewery and brand we were trying to be. With them, we figured out what we did and didn’t want:
- We didn’t want to use classic BC wilderness and coastal imagery, or have a name that evoked that type of imagery.
- We wanted something that reflected us. We are a couple of normal guys. Names like ‘Penchant’ were out.
- We wanted a name that gave a nod to where we were located, without being all about where we were located. It had to mean something to people who don’t live where we live.
Dan and I are detailed planners and when needing to make a decision in an area where we don’t have experience or expertise, like this one, we generally look for evidence to make decisions. So we started surveying. This helped us a lot. We were still holding on to Rocky Point Brewing as an option – it wouldn’t be easy, but we figured it could be done. What we learned through the surveys was that when people heard Rocky Point Brewing, they saw west coast beach scenes, BC forests, and lighthouses. So many people saw lighthouses. If there is a brewery in your market called ‘Lighthouse Brewing’ that makes great beer, you better make sure the name of your brewery doesn’t make most people think of lighthouses!
After a lot more brainstorming, surveying, consulting with our advisors and many sleepless nights, we decided on a name, and we love it. This name means something to us and the people who are part of our community and at the same time it has built in branding opportunities and will evoke an emotional response from people who don’t know about Port Moody at all. More than that, we are happy that we didn’t go with our original name–it didn’t reflect who we are and what we are trying to do. It wasn’t easy, but nothing good ever comes easy.
Name Search Resources