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What’s in a name?: Boont Amber Ale

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It’s Anderson Valley’s flagship beer, a GABF medal winner and a favorite among California imbibers, but despite its fame, one mystery remains: What the hell is a boont?

“Boont is short for Boonville, and a local language called Boontling,” says Mike Riley, a marketing assistant at the brewery. “It’s been around since the late 1800s and was used by people working out in the fields so others didn’t know what was going on.”

Regional dialect is nothing new in the States, but rare is the occasion a completely isolated language emerges. According to Riley, Boontling is often considered a mix between English, German and regional slang, but draws its identity from the people who spoke it.

“When I first moved here, we still had pay phones, and instead of a sign saying ‘pay phone’ it said ‘bucky Walter.’ Apparently, Walter was the first in town to own a phone, and people would go over to his house to use it; ‘bucky’ is Boontling for a nickel.”

Words like “can-kicky” (to be angry) and “higgs” (money) are catchy, and helped Boontling achieve some national notoriety in the last century. Even “The Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson had a Boontling speaker on from time to time. But while Boont Amber Ale (and its sibling, Boont ESB) continues to sell strong, the language isn’t what it once was.

“There are clubs that try to keep it alive, but at one time everyone in the valley spoke it,” says Riley. “It’s still spoken by the old-timers, a few words here and there. Even I use it now and again.” For a list of Boontling words and a history of the language, visit Anderson Valley at avbc.com.

 

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