Yes, You Should Have a Shower Beer Today
We examine the recent popularity of the shower beer and offer advice for novices on how to pull it off.
My first time was in Kentucky, about 30 years ago. It was a hot, sticky Saturday in July, and I’d been out running errands in my air conditioner-less car. Recycling, hardware store, groceries… It was time for a cold beer.
I stopped at the border liquor store before returning home to the dry county of Hardin. The cashier weighed my empty milk jug, I filled it with draft Schlitz, and she weighed it again—the store sold beer by the pound.
When I got home, I opened the jug and started drinking. I put away the groceries, and decided I needed a shower. On a whim, I took the beer along. It wasn’t long till I was soaped up, hot water rinsing off the day. I grabbed the jug, and tilted it back. Hot water pounding on my back, cold beer running down my throat. Wow! I’d found a whole new experience. The shower beer!
Was it a new thing? Well, probably not all that new, but, to be honest, I have had a hard time finding citations dating back more than 15 years. I did turn up this interesting reference in Nora Roberts’s 2011 Chasing Fire, her book about randy smokejumpers: “I want a beer. I want a giant, ice-cold bottle of beer and shower sex.” There’s a not unexpected angle, but, anybody who has had a shower beer, knows a bottle isn’t really ideal.
Google does show an interesting spike in use of the term “shower beer” in 2006, and it’s been steady or growing ever since. Starting around 2012, there are a fair number of stories on the web about the phenomenon. Then there’s a subreddit, r/showerbeer, that’s just selfies of people and their shower beers (some NSFW, but most just joyful drinking shots) with more than 100,000 subscribers.
Which reminds me: Before we delve into this much further, you need to know that if you start looking at “shower beer” on the web, you’re going to see things that you just can’t, well, unsee. Like a big naked guy in a shower, clutching a keg to his belly, blasting the tap right into his manically smiling face. Like the sad-eyed (and dripping wet) woman mourning her dead friend with a shower boilermaker of beer and Jack Daniel’s. Like the couple who are clearly… um… yeah. Them. Ready? Onward!
It’s 2019, so there are lists of “best shower beers” that give zero reasons why these beers are good for the bathroom. There are, God help me, pieces on beer-shower “pairings,” as if some beers are better for certain kinds of showers or shampoos. If shower beers weren’t so simple and primal, they’d have jumped the shark long ago, but they’re, thankfully, immune to it.
There are beers that are certainly trying to cash in on the trend, calling themselves simply “Shower Beer” or some bathing-related variation. Oddly, the one brand that got the most press by far is a Swedish beer that is actually all wrong for this scenario. Strike one: It’s 10 percent ABV. Way too strong for shower drinking (though I did once shower-pound a 9.5 percent imperial stout after an hour of shoveling snow). Strike two: It’s in a tiny 180-ml bottle. Even at 10 percent, that’s just not enough beer. Who wants to worry about rationing the beer so you don’t run out before you get to washing your hair? And strike three: It comes in a damn glass bottle. As bartender and writer Xania V. Woodman once put it: “Never bottles. Glass and naked don’t mix.”
As I polled more colleagues like Xania—writers, brewers, bartenders, musicians—I learned more things. For instance, a fair number of brewers rejected the idea of shower beer altogether. Why? “That’s a waste of water,” said one. “Get in, wash up, get out.” Water is precious to brewers, and I respect that.
Fortunately, there is a solution. “I drink slow but shower fast,” says Teri Fahrendorf, long-time brewer and founder of the Pink Boots Society, an association of women brewers. So, “I’d rather drink in the bathtub.” Or as Lee Lord, who brews at Cambridge Brewing in Massachusetts, prefers: “bubble baths and Adnams Tally-Ho” barley wine.
But what shocked me most when I reported out this story was that almost half the people I talked to either had no idea that shower beer was actually something people did, or flat out found it disgusting. “Ewwww!” was a common reaction. When I dug into this opinion, I found three general dissenting arguments and I can crush all of them like an empty can of Narragansett on a shark boat.
“I don’t want water/soapy water in my beer!” Well, who does? You can easily avoid this problem by sticking your head out of the stream and tilting it back before you drink. Water flows away from the beer: problem solved. If the water’s coming from all directions because you have a rain shower… you probably don’t even need a shower beer, you lucky sucker.
“The beer will get warm!” The ideal scenario is an ice-cold beer in a shower as hot as you can stand. Shower beer is reckless and wild, and should be enjoyed with gulping abandon. So, you don’t want to nurse your drink here.
“The bottle will break!” So many different kinds of beers come in cans these days, you can have pretty much anything you want, from pale lager to pastry stout to cucumber gose. Just skip the bottle.
All of these issues, by the way, are neatly addressed by a ridiculously simple little invention called the Shakoolie, invented by Zach Walsh and Phil Novara. It’s a can-sized cooler with a suction cup on the side, so you can safely put it on the wall while you wash. “It’s pretty hard not to feel good about that,” said Walsh.
However, there is a darker side of shower beer that I must address. One long-time brewer was quite firm about it: “The ‘shower beer’ strikes me as the purest representation of alcoholism I can imagine.” He wasn’t the only one to make that connection. And given the way popping a Schlitz at the bathroom sink was used to portray Chief Hopper’s descent into dissolution in season one of Stranger Things, there’s apparently something very bad about drinking in the bathroom.
When enjoyed responsibly, I don’t think a shower beer is necessarily a call for help. A morning shower beer before work is not a great idea. But if you’re showering in the evening before going out, or after a long shift at work, surely it’s okay to have a beer before you hop in the rain closet and no one can fault you for having one after you’ve scrubbed up. So, what’s so dangerous about the 10 to 15 minutes in between?
There may not be a way to convince people of the wonder of a cold beer in a hot shower. But there’s a special place in my steamy, beer-cooled heart for enablers like the Shakoolie boys, and the folks at BrewDog, the Scotland-based brewery. They recently opened a BrewDog hotel, called the DogHouse, in Columbus, Ohio, (where they opened their U.S. brewery). Not only does each guest room have a tap that features the guest’s choice of beers, there is a wall-mount refrigerator of BrewDog beers—in cans, naturally—beside each shower. A toss of the soapy locks to you, BrewDog!
The shower beer isn’t going away—especially with a 100,000 devoted Reddit fans. I enjoy one nearly every time I shower past noon. It’s just too much fun. As a friend in the beer biz put it, after joyfully describing how much he enjoyed shower beers: “I think it’s also a chance to get naked and drink without being judged.”
Well put, fella. Cheers.