standard Banned Beer Words and Usage


UPDATE: I’ve started to add in suggestions from others and have separated out the words that aren’t banned, but need to be used with caution.

This post draws inspiration from a few separate, but related sources. Several weeks ago, Raphael Brion left his long-held post as the Eater National editor. As well, I’ve been thinking about the post that Stephen Beaumont published a while ago dealing with when it is and is not okay to append the “Belgian” descriptor in front of a beer or beer style.

Brion did a lot of great things for Eater, but many (even most) of the online send-offs for him mentioned The Banned Words List, which he published on his last day as Eater National editor. As far as I can tell, there is not an equivalent no-fly word list for beer writers. Unlike Mr. Brion I’m not in a position to be editing beer writing from others, so this is really intended as a personal adventure. In true blog fashion I hope that others will read it and find it useful, but expect that most of this post’s pageviews will come for my own computer.

  • Brewski It feels awkward to see a writer contort himself to avoid over-using a word central to his topic. Just repeat “beer”.
  • Cold one Beers can be simple and thirst-quenching or serious and complex (or a combination of all four things) – referring to the whole category by overly casual terms robs it of that diversity. Also, some beer should not be served cold.
  • Delicious Do better.
  • Draft CP style be damned, I say “draught” is the clearer, more evocative spelling.
  • Easy-drinking Marketeer-speak.
  • Hoppy Extremely inexact. Do you mean bitter?
  • Imperial Save for Russian Imperial Stout. “Double” is less problematic for appending to other styles like IPAs.
  • Lite A spelling form that smacks of laziness. Best to avoid writing about this type of beer entirely.
  • Notes of… Overused crutch for tasting notes. Puts readers to sleep.
  • Poundable This one came in via suggestion-by-friend. First cousin to easy-drinking and quaffable. Additionally, is crass and encourages irresponsible drinking.
  • Pours (v.) Reads awkwardly and like jargon when used as shorthand for “when poured into a glass, this beer is…” Avoid uses like “Guinness pours dark brown with a coffee colored head.”
  • Quaffable Save for press releases. Reminds me of the non-word “coiffable” and of all of John Travolta’s characters before about 1981.
  • Suds Suds are for soap and they should be kept far away from beer.

Allowed, but with cautions:

  • Craft beer Here there be dragons. Michael Jackson used the term first-frequently, but it has been co-opted by The Marketers for Microbreweries, Which Are Now Quite Macro. It’s a useful phrase because it means something to a lot of people, but dangerous because no one is sure exactly what those things are.
  • Drinkable Controversial among literal-ists who confuse it with “potable”, but useful I think because everyone knows what the hell it means. Preferred over easy-drinking or quaffable.
  • Hectolitres or Barrels Only a handful of people who are’t professional brewers can fathom how much beer this is. Explain further with a more recognisable unit of beer whenever possible.
  • mL Again, a personal divergence from CP style, which prefers “ml”. I think this way is clearer.
  • Prices When writing for a defined audience (local, regional, or national) it is always appropriate to give a representative price for beers reviewed or profiled. If a price is stated, the bottle or draught serving size should also be.
  • Sessionable Not just light-tasting or lower-than-normal ABV, but actually below 4.5% alcohol. (See Lew Bryson.) Also, having characteristics that make three or four pints in one night desirable.

Again, this list might be useful to others, but I only had my own writing in mind when I set it out. Some of it will seem like gibberish to those outside of Canada who won’t know that “CP style” means “according to the Canadian Press style guidelines” or haven’t heard of the metric system. Save only a few examples I have violated all of these rules. I don’t mean to call anyone out except, of course, myself.

Like my post about benchmarking beer prices, I also intend that this one will grow and change with time. To help that happen please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments section.


    1. Hmmm…guess I should clarify that I prefer “mL”. CP says “ml”, but I think the capital “L” makes things clearer and more useful.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *