On Nomenclature

Here at the St. Cecilia Brewery, we take delight in contriving unique names for each of our brews.  The scheme, of course, remains fairly constant, taking its cue from our slogan, “Celebrating Good Composers and Good Beer.”  Each brew is paired with a composer (or, more rarely, a style of music or even a specific composition).  At times the devising of the name comes more readily than others, as the brewmaster loves him a good pun — the Silvius Leopold WEISS, for example, could really only ever have that name. Likewise, if ever we produce a Cream Ale, it’s fairly self-evident that the Clapton fans among us will be pleased.  For other brews, the names take their cue from the character of the beer (the Mozart Jupiter Symphony Ale, for example — mighty, strong, and a beautiful synthesis of all things “C”), or some sort of geographical connexion (Cesar Franck’s Belgian Ale;  Ralph Vaughan Williams English Porter).

What’s important is that I have fun with it, and that the name imparts a bit of distinctiveness to the product.  With all this in mind, I thought it fitting to describe our two most recent brews and how I arrived at their nomenclature.

I. Cristobal de Morales Cerveza pro Defunctis

The inspiration for this beer came from the wonderful Dead Guy Ale brewed by Rogue. Dead Guy, with its distinctive skeletal label art, pays homage to the Mexican Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. This immediately got me thinking about a tie-in with all of the wonderful musical settings of the Requiem Mass.  The Spaniard Morales, one of the greatest lights of sixteenth-century polyphony, not only produced a drop-dead gorgeous Requiem Mass (the “Missa pro Defunctis”), but also has ties to the New World. Music manuscripts in the Cathedrals of Mexico City and other colonial centers contain a number of his choral works, including the Requiem.


II. La Cascade Cascadian Dark Ale

Cascadia, taking its name from the Cascade Mountains, refers to the region of the Pacific Northwest encompassing British Columbia, Oregon, Washington, and bits of Northern California and western Idaho. And it’s home to some of the best beer in the Western Hemisphere.  One of the very newest recognized beer styles, Cascadian Dark Ale (also sometimes called Black IPA or India Black Ale) takes its name from the region.  Closely related is the hops variety named Cascade, which originate in the shadow of the mountain range. My own particular take on the style makes exclusive use of Cascade hops — in fact, my own homegrown crop.

So what to name this batch of brew?  Thinking about Vermont, the original home of the beer, I didn’t feel compelled to name it  Justin Morgan Ale, and looking to the Pacific Northwest, Morten Lauridsen was just about all I got.  So, I ditched geography and went for the name itself — and would you know, one of my favorite pieces of music is entitled La Cascade (which of course means “waterfall” in French).  It’s the title of a chaconne for lute by the elusive genius Ennemond Gaultier.  The  simple harmonic bass pattern provides a delicious space for contemplation and introspection — much in the way that I hope this beer will, as well.   Here’s a wonderful performance of the piece by the peerless Hopkinson Smith:

La Cascade: A Cascadian Dark Ale with Cascade hops. What better name for the beer could there be?


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