Montana has good beer, but maybe even better beer names. Moose Drool. Cold Smoke. And that aptly Montanan name, Trout Slayer.
Trout Slayer Ale has long been one of Bayern Brewery’s most popular beers, though Bayern recently discontinued it. While Bayern is in Missoula, the “Trout Slayer” name comes from Kalispell. It is one of many brand names that Kalispell businessman Brian Beck has trademarked and marketed.
The names for Black Tail Ale, Flathead Lake Monster soda and Glacier National Park’s “Red Jammer” tour buses are just a few of Beck’s trademarks.
“I’m always working on something new,” Beck said. “The sky’s the limit.”
Beck, who owns four companies in Kalispell, says Trout Slayer Ale is only the beginning of a long Trout Slayer marketing line that includes lip balm, insect repellant and bottled water. Possible future plans include fly rods and flies.
One of Beck’s businesses, Company B Inc., owns the trademark to the Trout Slayer name. Beck co-owns Company B with Bret Lindsay, who designed the original Trout Slayer logo. Beck is the sole owner of his other three businesses: Bex Activewear, Montana Hardwear and Flathead Lake Monster Inc.
Within the next year or so, he plans to make substantial additions to his long list of trademarks. So how many does he already have?
“I couldn’t even count them right now,” he said.
Solid brand names are always floating around, Beck said, and it just takes someone with creative initiative to adopt and market them. People have long talked about the Flathead Lake Monster. He saw a business opportunity, he said, and jumped on it. As for Trout Slayer, fishermen carrying on the sacred oral tradition of barroom fish fibs have always discussed their ability to “slay trout.”
“It’s a fishing term I heard around,” Beck said. “You hear a name that you like and that has market viability. Then you need creative ideas.”
When he comes across a name that excites him, Beck said, he writes it down, goes away from it for a couple of months and then re-visits it to see if the excitement is still there. If so, he sticks with it.
Baseball caps, water bottles emblazoned with local business names, folders full of papers and a barrage of other miscellaneous items are scattered everywhere in Beck’s Main Street office in Kalispell. Some items are current products and others are in the testing stages. Some, like his large Batman figurine, are just for fun.
Beck’s busy marketing lifestyle began almost on a whim in the early 1990s. He was reading a book about a clothing company that made fictitious beer shirts when he thought maybe he’d give that a shot.
So he made Flathead Lake Monster Brewing shirts before such a thing existed. Within a couple of years Lang Creek Brewery in Marion adopted the name and brewed Flathead Lake Monster Ale. Then Beck started Company B Inc.
Because of the connection between “Trout Slayer” and fly fishing, fly shops and outdoor sporting good stores are main marketing targets for Beck, he said. Lakestream Flyfishing Shop in Whitefish carries Trout Slayer lip balm, insect repellant, shirts and hats.
Lakestream Owner Steve Thompson said he doesn’t understand how someone can think up a name, market it and make it stick so well.
“I’ve never run into a person like (Beck),” he said. “It’s kind of an amazing thing.”
“That’s his gift,” he added.
Beck sells his products in shops throughout the Flathead Valley and via his Web sites. Flathead Lake Monster soda is produced and distributed in several states. Montana Hardwear specializes in “Montana” clothing and Bex Activewear is primarily an advertising and promotional business that produces, markets and distributes products for local businesses.
As for Company B and Trout Slayer, the focus is liquid. Look for bottled water, liquors and wines in the future.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to compete with the big boys (in liquid merchandising),” Beck said
As for now, Trout Slayer Ale fans don’t need to worry about Beck and Bayern’s business agreement to discontinue the beer, Beck said. He is re-licensing the name to another brewery, which he should have done by August.
“The legend goes on,” he said.
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