In case you don’t get the chance (or don’t have the interest) the linked story essentially says that “mouthfeel” is loaded with pretense and misuse. He said it makes him sound as if he is in a club to which he doesn’t want to belong. Eventually, he comes down on the side of lightening up. None of that is particularly interesting. But much of it is important.

Talking about craft beer should be an exercise in language. I’ve written before that there is no need to feel trapped by the language of beer, but neither is there a reason to fear it. The point of discussing anything aesthetic, from poetry to flavor, is to make sure your meaning is clear. I get a huge kick out of coining beer terms. I’m not afraid to use “pointy” to describe an IPA where the description fits. “Puckery” does quite nicely in context when talking about sours.
As someone who likes to think of himself as promoting the culture and community, it never feels like a good idea to alienate people by showing off. Also, I know so many people with a humbling breadth of beer knowledge who talk in a way that makes it accessible to everyone.
Context is the difficult part. There is a difference between words I would use to describe a beer to someone who is drinking it with me and what I would use in (say) a tasting column. In the end, it comes down to knowing your audience. I find it very, very difficult to believe that someone who is reading beer taste reviews would find “mouthfeel” a pretentious turnoff. Saying it to a stranger at a neighborhood bar, however, might make you sound like a know-it-all.

Rules about which words to use when always start backwards, which is why they can seem precious in themselves. No jargon should be used among people who aren’t participating in the jargon-making occupation. Whether you’re a public official addicted to acronyms or a loudmouth at a barbecue analyzing how the beer complements the deviled eggs (how could it not?), if you’re trying to show off, don’t. If you’re trying to illuminate, do. That’s the best I have on which words to use when.

Tony Russo
Author: Tony Russo

Tony Russo has worked as a print and digital journalist for the better part of the 21st century, writing for and editing regional weeklies and dailies before joining the team that produces and among other destination websites. In addition to having documented everything from zoning changes to art movements on the Delmarva Peninsula, Tony has written two books on beer for the History Press. Eastern Shore Beer was published in 2014 and Delaware Beer in 2016. He lives in Delmar, Md. with his wife Kelly and the only of his four daughters who hasn't moved out. Together they keep their two dogs comfortable.

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