With a March 12 party at its Vista brewpub, Belching Beaver Brewery celebrated a brand refresh that includes a cleaner redesign of its can and bottle labels; also the punny new slogan, "Dam Good Times."
That sense of wordplay has long been a part of a Belching Beaver brand that has never shied away from innuendo. This is a brewery that brought us bawdy beer names like Me So Honey, Great Lei IPA, and the since-retired Beer Boner. However, that's not what has caused some beer fans to call the brand "gross" or "sexist." That would be due to the company's name, and its newly retired logo.
When a September 2013 San Diego Eater post asked, What Are San Diego's Worst Restaurant Names?, 4 of the 14 commenters who responded named Belching Beaver. Their reactions ranged from "I can’t take Belching Beaver seriously" to "worst name ever" and the suggestion, "they were named by a 12 year-old boy from the suburbs."
Slang reference site Urban Dictionary has an entry for the term Belching Beaver that matches the juvenile interpretation reached by local beer drinkers and social media users dating back to the brewery's inception: that it's a euphemism for vaginal flatulence.
Belching Beaver cofounder and CEO Tom Vogel insists that is not the case. "Not even close," he says. "Never was. It was just a funny name." He does concede a couple of people pointed out the name's off-color potential to him soon after the business launched. But amid rumors the name might be changed, he recalls, "Our customers said, 'Don't you dare! It's funny! It's fun!'"
Vogel contends the Urban Dictionary entry was the work of a disgruntled former employee, and there's reason to believe it. Slang terms and definitions on the site are generated by users, and the Belching Beaver entry didn't exist until 2015 — nearly three years after the brewery opened. Furthermore, a Google search of the term "Belching Beaver" prior to 2012 nets only two results. It's possible "belching beaver" isn't genuinely part of America's inappropriate joke culture, and any lewdness an unfortunate misperception.
Except there's the logo. The new Belching Beaver logo features a charming, goofy cartoon beaver face, bubbles floating from its mouth in the classic illustrator's depiction of a drunken burp. The newly retired logo also features a cartoon beaver, but the way its drawn can be seen to evoke female anatomy.
As one Chowhound user has commented, the logo is "about as subtle as a Georgia O'Keefe painting." A Reddit topic posed in September 2014 was more direct, reading: "Their logo is just a giant vagina."
Perhaps to his credit, Vogel claims he doesn't see it. At least, that it had to be pointed out to him. "You never know what's in somebody's head," he remarks.
Regardless, Vogel maintains the brand refresh has nothing to do with any negative feedback from customers and that none exists from his distributors. Rather, the new logo's designed to help beers stand out better on the shelves. "We just wanted something cleaner."
Other local brands, including Green Flash and Coronado Brewing, have rebranded for the same reason. And certainly not all beer fans took offense at the outgoing artwork. One Twitter user considered it an "Adorable beaver logo." Another called it ""Greatest logo ever!"
Whatever any individuals think, the Belching Beaver brand has proven a success. It recently opened a fifth San Diego location, employs 120 people, and distributes to going on eight states in addition to most of California. A recent IPA collaboration with rock band the Deftones has done so well, the beer will soon be available in canned six-packs, and the band wants to make three more beers. And later this year, the company will add craft spirits to its portfolio, with plans to produce a line of vodka distilled from its popular Peanut Butter Milk Stout.