Ever wondered why we have a beer called Two Hoots? Or what inspired the names Bishop's Finger, Proper Job or Old Speckled Hen? Find out more about the stories behind some of Britain's best loved brews with our handy guide. 



Oasis Noel and Liam credit Will.Fresch

Supernova, JW Lees

First clue: "Slowly walking down the hall/Faster than a cannonball/Where were you while we were getting high?/Someday you will find me/Caught beneath the landslide/In a Champagne supernova in the sky."
Second clue: This ale is from Manchester-based brewery JW Lees.
Name the song and the band for two points...


Saxifraga x urbium


London Pride, Fuller's
Saxifraga x urbium is an evergreen perennial which flowers in late spring, producing a mass of small, pale pink flowers.
It is famed for colonising bomb sites following the Blitz in the early 1940s and came to symbolise London's resilience in the war. Noel Coward even wrote a very popular song about it.
The plant is also known as London Pride, which is why London brewer Fuller's thought it would be the perfect name for its flagship ale.



Proper Job, St Austell Brewery
St Austell's head brewer, Roger Ryman (pictured), was inspired to make this ale back in 2006 having tasted the powerful IPAs from the West Coast of America.
He was pleased with the result of his first attempt, so much so that he wrote "proper job" on the -fermentation tank - a term used commonly in the South West of England to mean "a most satisfactory outcome."
He wasn't far wrong, either. The multi award-winning ale is now the brewery's second best seller behind Tribute.



Old Speckled Hen, Greene King

At the MG car factory, back in its heyday, an old MG was used as the factory run-around. It was habitually parked outside the paint shop, where it got spattered and became known as the "owled speckled 'un."
When Suffolk brewer Greene King came to brew a beer to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the classic British car it took the name, changing it to Old Speckled Hen when the beer was unveiled. If you look closely at the pump clip you can see that, even today, it takes its shape from the MG badge.


barrel copy

6X, Wadworth
Back in ye olden days of yore when the great unwashed couldn't read, barrels of ale were marked with an "X" to denote strength (the more X's the stronger the brew).
Some 92 years ago when Wadworth decided to brew a strong, malty, fruity little number they kept the tradition, marking the barrels "XXXXXX," which someone in the brewery, that history has forgotten, shortened to 6X and lo, a classic British ale was born.



Bishops Finger, Shepherd Neame
It is with great regret that I report this brew's name has nothing to do with a man of the cloth giving someone "the finger." Instead the name has its roots in the old practice of making a pilgrimage to Canterbury to see the shrine of Thomas A Beckett.
The Bishops Finger was the Kentish nickname for a local finger-shaped signpost that pointed pilgrims towards their destination. A name co-opted by the Shepherd Neame brewery for this Kentish Strong Ale, which holds EU PGI status that means it can't be made anywhere else in the world.



Old Peculier, Theakston
At some point during the Medieval period the then Archbishop of York became fed up with having his representatives attacked in the woods between York and Masham when they were on their way to sit in the local court of the day. As a result he awarded the town the "Peculier" right to manage its own legal affairs, which in turn inspired the name of this ale from the local brewery Theakstons.
But, perhaps even more interestingly, the brew was more commonly known as "Yorkshire's favourite lunatic broth," up until the 1970s.


bombardier 1912 Billy Wells

Bombardier, Charles Wells
Inapub inadvertently sparked dissent in the Wells family with an innocent enquiry to the Charles Wells Brewery about the origins of this name.
On the one side, there were those who believe this is a reference to a long standing family association with the Royal Artillery.
The rival faction, however, would have it that the beer is named after the famous pre-war boxer Bombardier Billy Wells (a colourful character who married the daughter of a publican and who also starred as the "gong man" at the start of J Arthur Rank films).
Let's hope it's resolved by Christmas or our card might get lost in the post.



Wizard, Robinsons Brewery
Once upon a time in a land "ooop North" called Alderley Edge, a farmer was approached by an old man who wished to purchase his white mare.
The farmer initially declined but later accepted, at which the old man, now identified as a Wizard, opened the rock face to reveal an army of sleeping Knights; all waiting to serve England in its hour of greatest need - but one horse short.
A great many years later a local brewery, Frederic Robinson, decided to use the tale as inspiration for a tasty ale.
The end.



Pedigree, Marstons
Little did Marjorie Newbold from the typing pool at what was then the Marston, Thompson and Evershed brewery in 1952, know how she would leave her mark on the world when she entered a competition to name a beer.
She emerged triumphant from the company-wide contest and history will remember her kindly for it.
At the time the then chairman, Sydney Evershed, announced: "We are now marketing our best pale ale under the name Pedigree Pale Ale, because it is descended from a long line of famous brews and is really a thoroughbred."
Three cheers for Marjorie!


carlsberg yeast

Carlsberg, Carlsberg
Saccharomyces pastorianus used to be known as Saccharomyces carlsbergensis.
It is the yeast used industrially to produce lager and was developed by the Carlsberg brewery in 1883.
It revolutionised the brewing industry, which thus far had been plagued by varying quality in every brew, so rather than patent the process Carlsberg shared the knowledge and sent samples to breweries around the world in order for it to be propagated.
That means, to this very day, every single pint of lager you drink, probably has a little bit of Carlsberg in it.



Boltmaker, Timothy Taylor
Until 2012 this brew was known as Timothy Taylor's Best Bitter but as part of a rebrand the brewery launched a competition to find a new name.
The winner was one Phil Booth, the landlord of the Boltmaker's Arms, who declared he wanted to "spread the name Boltmaker far and wide."
There are, it is thought, just two UK pubs with Boltmaker in the name, and yes, in case you were wondering, it does appear to refer to people who make bolts.



Doom Bar, Sharp's Brewery
The Doom Bar in Cornwall was previously known as Dunbar Sands or Dune-bar and is a sandbar at the mouth of the estuary of the River Camel, where the river meets the Celtic Sea.
Many ships have been wrecked there and folklore suggests that a mermaid created the bar as a dying curse on the harbour after she was shot by a local man.
More happily, it has also given us the moniker for what is now the UK's top selling ale, Sharp's Doom Bar.



Two Hoots, Joseph Jolt
Many breweries have a brewery cat, or even a dog, but only Joseph Holt (to my knowledge) can claim a brewery owl.
The gently hooting owl took up residence in the brewery's arches and beers were made under its watchful eyes for many years, until eventually it inspired the name for a new golden ale the brewers were developing.
It also goes to show, according to the brewery, that the business does indeed give "two hoots" about great beer.


(image credits: Will Fresch, Hugo Arg and Ian Knight)