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Sep 01, 2014

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What do you call a beer lover?

By Gregg Smith

The toughest task in beer writing is figuring out what to call the legions who enjoy beer. Specifically, how does one address that broad category sometimes called, for lack of a better name, beer lover. After all, doesn't that term seem rather simplistic? The title "Beer Lover" belies the sophistication of our drink.

So what should we call ourselves? The first thing that comes to mind are the titles other hobbyists use. There's the "trekie", but it doesn't seem to convert easily. Imagine throwing it out at a social gathering "Well, actually I'm a beerie." Slowly the crowd backs away from you until you're all alone. Nope, it simply doesn't work; at best it makes you sound like a small edible fruit. Not exactly the image we want to convey.

Another over used hobbyist title is "Enthusiast" This won't do either. It's too common. Besides your editor has a book out called "The Beer Enthusiast's Guide" and pushing to use that moniker would be self-serving. One shameless plug per issue is more than enough.

There's also the term used to describe those who have become so totally immersed in their passion for a subject that they've left the rest of us behind; the erstwhile "Buffs". Several compelling arguments urge us to drop this line. First, we don't get as embroiled over the subject as many "buffs" do in theirs. Most of us are happy enough to simply drink and chat about great beers. That aside it remains a dubious title. Apart from the rather pointless alliteration of "Beer Buff" it sounds a little to yuppie-ish, as in "buffy". Surely that would make a beer drinker quake in disgust.

We could take a lead from those absorbed in the sports world. At first blush "fan" doesn't seem like such a bad idea. We don't collect trading cards, although we've been known to swipe an occasional cool coaster. And we do wear shirts of our favorite teams; uh, breweries. But the mental picture of a fan includes boisterous cheering and in-your-face confrontations. That really doesn't reflect the more docile condition of beer people.

On occasion we do see some other terms used. There's the parallel to the computer world..."Beer Geek". But beer is a social beverage and beer drinkers are the most affable of people; so the image of a reclusive "geek" hardly seems appropriate. There's also Beer Weenie. But why would we stoop to adopting such a slanderous and demeaning sobriquet.

All this brings us to the use of the venerable suffix. In this category we have the "ics" a more formal declaration of a persons interest. Some of the groups using this suffix include coin and stamp collectors as in numismatics and philatelics respectively. Of course there's also the "ists" as in phillumenists (matchbook collectors). The closest we have to beer is an organization that promotes the term "Zymurgist". However, that's a little too broad, it refers to all type and manner of fermentation from brewing. Mead and Sake are fine in their own right, but we're more interested in beer.

All that reviewed, it does seem that the idea with the most merit is the suffix. The wine folks use the term oenophile which means lover of wine. Maybe they're on to something. But what to use as the root word in our term? We could borrow from our yeast - saccharomyces, but then people might confuse us with terminal sweet tooth's.

Beer-a-phile and Brew-a-phile don't quite get there either. Surely there's a way to phrase this avocation to bestow a proper amount of dignity. Thus we are faced with turning to old reliable Latin. In this instance let's use the root word for beer - Cerevisia. With a little prodding and twisting we get Cerevisaphile.

What better word to put in the lexicon (or argot) of beer. Can't you just see it in the dictionary? Cerevisaphile (Cer-a-vehs-a-file) 1.an aficionado of beers and ales, 2.a devotee to the decoction of barley infused with hops and fermented, 3.an imbiber of beer on the highest order, bordering on devotion, 4.one who pursues the very finest in malted beverages.

Now that's more like it, dignified, impressive, and worthy of an inquiry from the uninitiated. Yeah, Cerevisaphile.

Gregg Smith

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