If verbs are the workhorses of the grammatical world, nouns are the plows being pulled through all that fertile syntactic dirt. Nouns give us solid descriptors of people and places beyond “she” and “there”, rocky outcroppings for our minds to grab a hold of and say “hey, I know that thing!”
Even cooler than singular nouns are collective nouns; containers that hold the place for a bunch of smaller nouns, like a corny keg cradling several dozen beers. Some are so simple you don’t even recognize them: a group of people. Some are so exotic you can’t help but wonder what sinister allusion inspired its original use: a murder of crows.
There are thousands of other collective nouns bouncing around our eccentric language, most of them related to animals: a pride of lions, a school of fish, a parliament of owls, an ostentation of peacocks. The animal naming thing comes from the ~500 year old game of venery (related to “the hunt”, not human sexuality, perv), in which hunters would challenge each other to come up with the best word to capture the spirit of the animals they were hunting. T.H. White had Merlin playing the game with Arthur as part of his lessons in The Once and Future King. James Lipton’s 1968 book, An Exaltation of Larks, expanded upon the game and moved it beyond animals, and the version re-released in 1993 included lovely twists of phrase like a shrivel of critics and a blur of Impressionists.
I’d like to take it a step further. The craft beer culture is full of so many wonderful nouns – hops and malts and yeasts and kettles – but lacks the poetic collective nouns to do a lot of these beautiful people, places, and things linguistic justice. Sure, people reference our beloved beer accouterments with general collectives, but a bunch of hops is hardly elegant enough to properly represent our favorite Cannabaceae.
Here are my first 10 official additions to the world of collective beer nouns. The fun of the game is to debate and offer alternative collective nouns that better describe the singular noun, so all suggestions, rejections, and additions very welcome!
1. A tumble of pint glasses
2. An aroma of hops
3. A backbone of malts
4. A shine of brew kettles
5. A cacophony of brew pubs
6. A flocculation of yeasts
7. An infection of off-flavors
8. An oasis of kegs
9. A steep of mashtuns
10. A crown of bottle caps
If you had to add one, what would it be?