Editor’s Note: These opinions are solely those of our editor and do not reflect those of the Brewers Association or the American Homebrewers Association.
As language evolves, some words and phrases get worn out. It’s nobody’s fault, just a consequence of usage—normal linguistic wear and tear, if you will.
Clichés are ubiquitous in the lexicon of business. Thinking outside the box, picking low-hanging fruit, taking things offline, pivoting, and doing anything involving “bandwidth” are oldies but goodies. Professional sports are famously clichéd, with such locker room gems as “We knew what we had to do and we went out and did it” and “We’ve gotta put this loss behind us and come back prepared to win.”
And then there’s the all-purpose “It is what it is.” Is it? You don’t say…
Clichés offer convenient shortcuts and we readily understood them (most of the time), but that convenience comes at the expense of precision and creativity. The language of beer is no different. Here are five beer clichés I wouldn’t miss were they never to be uttered again.
- Brewmaster: I’m not against the word “brewmaster” per se, just its liberal use. All brewmasters are brewers, but not all brewers are brewmasters, just as not all cooks are Michelin-starred chefs. The mere act of upgrading from 5-gallon homebrew batches in a garage to 5-barrel commercial batches in a larger garage does not automatically a brewmaster make. Head brewer? Sure. But let’s use the title “brewmaster” more sparingly.
- Farmhouse: Do you brew on a farm? Yes? Then you have a legitimate claim to this word. The rest of us need to work on our creativity. “Farmhouse” is vague and could mean anything from “fermented with Wyeast 3711” to “this beer tastes the way feet smell.” Check out Randy Mosher’s excellent Zymurgy Live presentation on tasting beer for great tips on expanding one’s beer vocabulary.
- Epic: The Odyssey and Beowulf are epic. So are the Burj Khalifa and One World Trade Center. Epic things cultivate an enduring sense of wonder and amazement. So, sorry, an evening of drinking only barrel-aged imperial stout doesn’t count. Fun? Yes. Memorable? Absolutely. Epic? Nope. Notable exception: If you work for Epic Brewing Company, you get a pass.
- Balanced: OK, I’m not suggesting we expunge this word from our vocabulary altogether, only that we think about what we mean before we say it. “Balanced” implies that opposing forces enjoy parity. So, when we say a beer is “balanced,” what do we mean? Bitterness vs. sweetness? Hoppy brightness vs. malty depth? Carbon dioxide prickliness vs. weighty mouthfeel? Keep saying “balanced,” by all means, but offer some specificity.
- Crushable: The only thing that gets crushed when I hear a beer called “crushable” is my soul. No good reason—I just think it sounds silly.
Dave Carpenter is editor-in-chief of Zymurgy.