Blogging and writing

Beer Writing Clichés: Call for Submissions

Mr Naylor makes a good point, we think, and we thought it might be a good idea to compile a list of beer writing clichés as part of our very occasional series of posts on writing style.

Clichés are units of language that, however clever they seem the first time you hear them, have ceased to seem interesting or even meaningful because of endless repetition. They’re a sort of tic or habit — the opposite of careful writing.

We use clichés all the time, to our shame — The Beer Nut rightly picked us up on ‘wet their whistles‘, for example — but would really like to get out of the habit so this list is a reminder to ourselves as much as anything.

Here are the ones that popped into our heads — feel free to suggest more in the comments below. (But not just words are phrases that might annoy you — ‘real ale’ isn’t a cliché; ‘a foaming pint of ale’ is.)

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Writing Style Guide: Family Brewers

Ward's sign, Sheffield.

We need to compile notes on how brewery names ought to be treated for whoever is lucky enough to get the job of copy editing and proofreading our book, and thought we might as well share them.

If you are a blogger or beer writer who frets over your apostrophes, you might disagree with our judgement: let us know if you think we’re way off the mark, but bear in mind that ‘style’ (as opposed to grammar) is to some extent a matter of taste.

If you are not in the habit of writing about beer, or like to do so in a free-form, convention-defying way which pushes the boundaries of traditional grammar and spelling, you’ll probably find this extremely boring. Sorry.

1. Legal names

Most breweries have formal company names which are rarely used, e.g. Young & Co is almost always referred to as Young’s. The only time most writers will need to use the formal name is if making very precise distinctions between different phases in a company’s history, or when describing the foundation of a new legal entity, e.g. after a takeover.

So, Young’s Bitter is still Young’s Bitter, even though it is now actually Wells & Young’s Ltd’s Bitter.

2. Apostrophes

If the family name is Watney, and if the company and any individual beers are supposed to belong to an unspecified, almost symbolic Mr. or Ms. Watney, then they are Watney’s.

The famous brewing company was Watney’s. The beer was Watney’s Red Barrel. It was sold in Watney’s pubs.

You might just about get away with referring to ‘senior figures at Watney’, but  Watney’s is better. Watney Red Barrel just seems stupid. (The underlying base rule of style guides in action, there.)

3. Brand style

Breweries sometimes insist on alternative styles for the sake of branding: Watney’s was almost always written as ‘Watneys’ on labels and in marketing material, probably because designers thought the apostrophe looked ugly.

You might feel more comfortable writing the name of a brewery and its beers as they appear on labels, and that is also a legitimate approach.

4. Family names ending with S

We were shocked when we realised yesterday that the brewing family is Adnams, and that it is therefore Adnams’ Broadside. Or perhaps Adnamss, depending on taste. Either way, it is not Adnam’s Broadside, because there has never been a Mr Adnam.

There are a handful of other brewing families whose names also end with S, and who ought to be treated the same way:

  • J.W. Lees | Lees’ Bitter
  • Thwaites | Thwaites’ Nutty Black
  • Jennings (not Jenning) | Jennings’ Cumberland Ale

5. Place or family name?

Devenish is a family name, not a village in the West Country as we once thought, so, for consistency, should we ever need to, we will refer to Devenish’s Bosun Brown Ale. We’re not sure if there are others that might cause similar confusion, but it’s worth checking if you have any doubts.

6. Breweries with multiple family names

In the rare instances where a brewery owned/run by several families has not come to be known by one name (Fuller, Smith & Turner is almost always called Fuller’s). This is about the only time you ought to use ‘&’ in prose, and only the final proper name in the list needs an apostrophe to indicate possession. In this instance, you might also do away with the possessive apostrophe altogether, treating the brewery name as an adjective, as in ‘Nike (brand) trainers’ (a matter of taste; be consistent).

  • Company name: Eldridge Pope & Co.
  • In prose: Eldridge Pope’s Crystal Ale; Eldridge Pope Crystal Ale.
  • Not: Eldridge’s and Pope’s Crystal Ale.
  • Company name: Starkey, Knight & Ford Ltd.
  • In prose: Starkey, Knight & Ford’s Tivvy Ale; Starkey, Knight & Ford Tivvy Ale.
  • Not: Starkey’s, Knight’s and Ford’s Tivvy Ale.

If you’ve got any questions (‘What about Brodie’s, founded by two people called Brodie?’) or suggestions, leave a comment below.


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Table from a Institute of Brewing Journal, 1983.

By Bailey

I once wrote the language style guide for a large organisation but I didn’t get chance to come up with advice on writing about hops. Now seems like a good time to put that right. As usual with questions of style (grammar’s wishy-washy, let-it-all-hang-out cousin) this is slightly more complicated than it ought to be.

1. The names of hop varieties should be capitalised. Most older varieties are named after places or people (Goldings, Fuggles) and many newer ones are trademarks, and so ought to be capitalised. For consistency, it makes sense to capitalise all of them, all of the time.

2. Older hop varieties named after people or places tend, historically, to be written as if they were plurals. This might be because they were once possessives which have lost their apostrophes — should it be Golding’s, just as the variety of apple is Laxton’s Superb? Or do we accept that, as with the Nags [sic] Head, it is too late to be correcting typos? My view is that to attempt to overturn this tradition would be churlish. So, Fuggles and Goldings it is.

3. Except, of course, in the case of Whitbread Golding Variety (WGV) which is definitely not Whitbread Goldings Variety.

4. American hops which have been around for a long while cause confusion: should they be given names which echo Goldings and Fuggles? The Journal of the Institute of Brewing referred, in the nineteen-seventies and eighties, to Clusters (with S, an old variety) and Cascade (without, relatively modern). They also suggest Super Styrians, perhaps because they were seen as part of the same family as Styrian Goldings. That seems a good example to follow.

5. New hops varieties are rarely, if ever, pluralised: writing Sorachi Aces, Citras, Mosaics and Danas seems outright barbarous.

6. Hops from non-English speaking countries which are commonly referred to using, e.g., German or Czech names should not be pluralised as if they were English words: ‘Saazs’ seems silly (zeems zilly). Hallertau is a variety in its own right; but sub-varieties from the Hallertau region are, e.g., Hallertauer Magnum.

7. A general rule, then: don’t stick an S on the end of the name of a hop variety unless it is Fuggles, Goldings, Super Styrians or Clusters.

The brewer added generous amounts of Cascade in the first batch. By the time of the second brew, the recipe had been revised, and on that occasion used equally generous amounts of Goldings and Clusters, with a touch of Citra.