Things Beer Geeks Like

Unnecessary Adjectives

James Thurbers cartoon sums things up nicely

James Thurbers cartoon sums things up nicely

It’s pretty much a guarantee when you walk into a tap room or swing by beeradvocate that there will be beer geeks fighting over the proper adjectives necessary to describe a beer. To the average person an argument over whether the hops are “catty” or whether the beer being “dark dank and smelling like boot black” is good seem silly. Yet to beer geeks proper use of unnecessary adjectives is a second language that one is required to learn as part of initiation.

The trend of wordy beer descriptions has it’s origins in the wine world. It used to be a sign of class for wine snobs to find creative ways of describing a wine. The more abstract the description, the classier the person. Sadly beer geeks picked up on this trend.

In the early days of craft beer wine was the beverage of choice for refined palates. Beer geeks rightfully felt though that just because they drank a blue collar drink didn’t mean their palates were less refined. In an attempt to market their beverage beer geeks turned to a “like wine” strategy. They showed the world that their beverage went just as well (if not better) with food, offered complex flavors, and lent itself to lengthier prose then it’s grape counterpart.

Beer geeks though had to take their prose to the next level. Both beer and wine have had a set language due to a specific set of characters. Beer geeks though drew from all corners of Websters to reinvent the wheel. Rather then just stating how thick the mouth feel of a beverage was they described it in verse. They began using terms like “catty” and taste descriptions like “boot leather” (good?) and “hop kiss”. To the average Joe reading a beer review it may almost seem like these geeks are just trying to out review each other rather then describe a beer. To us geeks though we are simply speaking the language.

Bill has a great beer review generator here if you want to learn some prose.


13 Responses to “Things Beer Geeks Like”

  1. Dr Wort says:

    I think I agree with your post.

    I would say, CATTY is Bad and Boot Leather could be good. Depends on the beer being tasted. I’ve reviewed some beers as having a Feline Excrement factor, just a nice way of saying it has a taste of CAT PISS.

    Beer Aficionados do have their own language for describing the nuances of any given beer. Most descriptors have been long used within the beer community (even Michael Jackson was not the first to use such terms) and are common descriptions that are flavor profiles given off by certain grain, hops and yeast or in combo. They can be simple descriptors or can be very elaborate. I always think the best descriptors are ones other beer people can relate too. Like you said, beer snobs understand the language while beer poser do not. It does separate the masses from the… dare I say the word everybody here hates?…. beer elite. That’s nothing to be embarrassed about! It takes years of honing ones palate and nose to pick out these beer nuances and descriptors. Being a Brewer helps with the understanding of the flavors of beer ingredients, but not essential.

    I prefer “Beer Aficionado” over Geek just by definition of the words.

    Aficionado – an ardent devotee; fan, enthusiast.

    Geek – a peculiar or otherwise dislikable person, esp. one who is perceived to be overly intellectual.

    Geek implies more to the braggart poser (phony, wanna be) vs. one who is truly in the know. Beer posers like to use the word Geek to downplay the true knowledge of the beer aficionados.

    I find it funny to read or hear beer posers talk about complex beer descriptions. They can’t relate to the knowledge they don’t posses. I hear some say, we should make it simpler…. Maybe describe a Stout as “Black, rich, & Roasty” and call it good. Sounds like burnt toast to me! ;-}

  2. OK, I’m going to be the grammar geek here and tell you that you meant to write “unnecessary adjectives” in the first paragraph. It’s also verbiage, not verbage.

  3. Jared says:

    Awww I liked the term verbiage. Sadly your right. It is changed

    Oi! I’m one of those people who advocate for more common and less prose like beer reviews. I have no problem with terms like boot leather, but “Hop kiss”? How long till we have a review that calls a stout “black like the soul of the undead, with hints of exotic spices a pillowy foam that teases the edges of the glass and legs that go forever.”

    How many people would really understand that.

  4. Dr Wort says:

    I’m with you on the stupid flowery descriptions. “Black like the soul of the undead…..” That’s a bunch of crap! Usually written by a person who has a good vocabulary, but can’t describe a beer. Black, opaque work for me.

    We’re on the same page, dude!

    There is a set language of descriptors. Some people add they’re own twists and turns to the vocab and some add some new descriptors, but there is a language. I once got crap for saying a beer was Mahogany in color. Yet, I’ve heard that description many times by others. Ignorance is not an excuse for some people.

    Black, roasty and rich is a bullshit descriptor for a Stout. It could be any stout or hot roofing tar…… ;-} I just oppose dumbing it down.

    Is that “Oi” or “Oy!”

    I did a write up on Dr Wort on this subject. You were the inspiration.

  5. What, no hat tip when swiping an image off my blog? From a post that is relevant to yours?

    [Thanks for the link, Dr Wort.]

  6. Jared says:

    Of course it was taken from yours 🙂 Although they are relevent, and along the same lines, I didn’t feel they were close enough to need any hat tipping. After all it was the image I used (which you don’t own?), not content. Try as I might your image was the one that fit best though.

    I’m a big fan of your BS beer review generator by the way.

    If you want a hat tip, then a hat tip there shall be. 🙂

  7. Dr Wort says:

    Did I miss a chance to link, Bill? I haven’t read your blog in quite awhile….. I guess I’ll have to see what you’re up to. Have ya learned anything yet? ;-}

  8. Thanks, Jared!

    Doc, I still know everything, just like you. I’m sorry you haven’t been learning from my blog lately ;-}

  9. Dr Wort says:


    Just checked out your blog after a long absence. Yea, I’ve been missing a lot! I’ve been missing the vast sadness of or poor beer descriptions by an uneducated or trained palate. …..and I quote….

    “Santiam Hop Harvest from Three Creeks was nicely done — a light ale that let the freshness shine through. Astoria’s Hoptimus Prime 2.0 was a nice hop bomb, one of those like Double Mountain’s Killer Green that is an awesome beer that clobbers the fresh-hop flavor. Pelican’s Elemental Ale was bitter and tasty….”

    Holy Shit! I bet Michael Jackson is turning over in his grave. Are you describing beer to a group elementary school kids or adults?

    I think I’ll go back to reading Beervana….. at least Jeff can describe a beer fairly well. :-O

  10. Dr Wort says:

    Jared…. remember what I told you about acquiring reader who just don’t get it???

  11. Jared says:


    Was that comment directed at Bill? I refuse to review beers other then giving a simple I liked or not. That’s not what this blog is for 🙂 Also I feel Bill and Jeff both have quite a bit of knowledge. While I don’t agree with their views on the beer side of things they do have knowledge.


    No problem

  12. Dr Wort says:

    Sure Jared…. 😉

  13. Dr Wort says:

    Hey Jared! On those beer reviews…. Is that one grunt for GOOD and two GRUNTS for bad???

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