10 Words NOT to Use When Writing or Talking About Beer, Pt. II

6. “Lovingly”: As a youthful scribe, I once wrote that a beer’s foam “clings lovingly to the side of the glass.” I still cringe when I think of it. (And as an aside, this applies equally to label and press release copy. I’ve seen bottling lines of all shapes and sizes in action and I am quite certain that no bottle of ale or lager ever released has truly been “lovingly” bottled.)

7. “Suds”: Is it soap? No, it’s beer. There is therefore nothing sudsy about it.

8. “Hoppy” (without further qualification): Forget that a generous proportion of the beer drinking public still doesn’t understand what “hoppy” means, to use it without adding a sense of what is meant delivers no information to the recipient. I had a “hoppy” beer on the weekend that was spicy and nutty bitterness wrapped in a comforting blanket of caramelly and mildly fruity malt, and another that was a citrusy, piney assault. Both were “hoppy,” but they could scarcely have been more different.

9. “Pretty Good for a…” (with further qualification): Good beer is good beer, period. If it’s only “pretty good for a big brewery beer/brewpub beer/beer from X country,” then maybe it’s not really all that good. (And yes, I know that technically this entry means that I have listed 13 words not to use, rather than 10. Call it creative licence.)

10. “Quad”: Where to begin? That it’s a diminutive referring to a beer that is presumed to be big, malty and alcoholic? That it derives from an ale first brewed in the 1990’s and is now used retroactively to describe beers developed decades before? Or that it’s simply a lazy shorthand with no real meaning? Okay, I’ll take all three!

23 Replies to “10 Words NOT to Use When Writing or Talking About Beer, Pt. II”

  1. Gee, Stephen, I was expecting something a little more hard-hitting for Part II. Or did you post Part I in hopes of getting some good ideas to use for a Part II, and just didn’t get anything useful? 🙂

    6. Lovingly. I’d agree that it’s a word not to use, but I can’t say that I really see it used very much. On the other hand, I try to avoid reading too many beeradvocate reviews, but it would not surprise me to see “lovingly” abused there (along with lots of other material you could have harvested for this blog post) so maybe I’ve just missed this one..

    7. Suds. Agreed. Unless, of course, it has a soapy character, and then you should just say “soapy.”

    8. Hoppy. Sure, I’ll agree that “hoppy” on its own can refer to a wide range of different sensations, but in your example, you missed the opportunity to say that it was “LOVINGLY wrapped in a comforting blanket…” A!Ha! I think I detected more words not to use in beer writing 🙂

  2. That’s great that antidisestablishmentarianism isn’t on there. I’m planning on using it at some point in the near future. Also, I plan on stealing “black as midnight on a moonless night” from Twin Peaks.

    1. [Better that that a phrase of a friend’s uncle: “it was blacker than the insides of a cow.” By which I understand the gentleman should have been credited for housing himself inside a bovine so as to have sufficient evidence for his claim.]

      Quad, Mr. B? What you got against “quad”? Why not “IPA” as a short form? You know what is really vaguer than “quad”? Bitter. Or mild. Or lager. And you know why “lovingly” is really wrong? Yeast undertake asexual reproduction, that’s why. And we drink the pee that results. Think about it.

      1. What took you so long, Alan?

        I had to round out the quad entry, but what irks the most is the application of the term to beers that existed years before the La Trappe beer was even considered, much less named.

        And I think about yeast pee almost every day.

      2. Fair enough. I don’t love quads as so many seem to be too strong for the benefit in return. So maybe the pre-quad quads, say Abt 12, are just needing a better name while those post-quads deserve the claim of lazy boozy malt bombs. LBMBs.

      3. Correct me if I am wrong, but weren’t many beer style descriptors and names applied retroactively after Michael Jackson differentiated them? If so, why is quad different from any other term?

        I see the imprecision of the term, and perhaps we do need to differentiate Westy/Bernardus/Rochefort 10 from Abyss/maybe even La Trappe, but the term ‘tripel’ came later as well no? I have at least heard as much and there is less resistance to that term and many others that assuredly were applied retroactively to beers that pre-existed their naming.

        1. The difference between quadruppel and tripel, Malty, is that the latter term was never applied — to my knowledge — to beers that pre-existed it. As for the rest of the beer styles Michael wrote about in his 1977 opus that first established in print an international range of styles, all were historically based.

  3. I try and differentiate between hoppy and bitter. Hoppy to me is a generic flavor descriptor. For example, mango, pine or grapefruit notes make up a beer’s “hoppiness.” I try and write things like: “XXX IPA has a great pine and orange hoppiness, with an aggressive bitterness.” On the other hand, bitter is just bitter, it doesn’t taste like anything. In my opinion, beers can bitter without being overtly hoppy, like with the bitterness that comes from roasted barley or black malt.

  4. I believe this post says more about its author than the words he references–not that that’s a bad thing. We all have our linguistic pet peeves. Only one of these offends me, though I’ve never really heard that use of “lovingly.” (If we get into the crimes we put to paper when we were younger–or, say, last week–we’ll never stop using the scourge. To write is to commit grave errors of judgment.)

    But on the matter of “pretty good for a…” I am in complete agreement. I sometimes check in with the ratings sites to see what the general chatter is about a beer. When someone uses this phrase, it’s the admission that the beer is being judged not on its merits, but against the preferences of the rater. Why on earth do they bother? I don’t recall seeing this in print before, but it would be even a worse crime. Unless it was something along the lines of, “this is pretty good for a random glass of hoppy suds.” Then I’m cool with it.,

    1. In truth, although I have witnessed “lovingly” used in other than my own tortured prose, it most often appears to me in promotional copy and thus maybe doesn’t really rate inclusion here.

      But gee, Jeff, you offend easily if “lovingly” does it!

  5. On Suds: this may be an accidental borrowing from the German: der Sud (the brew) or das Sudhaus (the brewery or mashhouse).

    Quad: a marketing term meant to convey to self-described “beer geeks” that the beer contains prodigious amounts of alcohol.

    Craft: a marketing term meant to suggest that all self-appointed members (or members in good standing of the Brewers Association) of this group produce beer with great skill.

    However, my all-time favourite is: Westy. Is that Westvelteren or Westmalle? What’s so hard about saying the full name (especially since there are two that begin with the same four letters)? Why not Rochie? Rochefort has the same number of letters as Westmalle and only two less that Westvleteren.

    IAC, a very good list, Stephen.

  6. I tend to agree with this list although it is true too that much depends on how you use the words “around” a term as a comment noted above.

    As to “pretty good for a big brewery”, I think it is often used (or at least I’ve used it) in a relative sense. One tends to assume a big brewery can’t really make a great beer (cases like Pilsner Urquell apart), so when you run into one that is pretty good, you are relating it to the general output of the place.

    The word I find annoying is passion. He brews with passion, she is passionate about the quality of her wine, etc. etc. It’s just overused, IMO.


  7. Nice list, Stephen, My favorite term has more to do with brewers than beer drinkers. Ever met a brewer who didn’t say they were pursuing balance in their beer? Malt forward, hop forward, sour to the max; doesn’t make a difference. Their brewers will all say they are balanced. I think we should request further edification.
    Daniel Bradford

  8. I don’t mind hoppy as a headline or shortcut from most writers, especially if more detail is given later. I do object to it as it is often applied on beer packaging. Seen recently: “TASTE — malty and hoppy”. Useless.

    We wouldn’t use quad ourselves but can live with others using it — we know what they mean by it (I think).

    Westy, though… that does grate a little. Nicknames and abbreviations are fine on Twitter where the 140 limit is everything, but in a blog post or article? Odd.

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