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Thursday, September 15, 2016

I HAVE A MINOR COMPLAINT: Stop Using the Word "Innovative"

Jargon infects all human enterprise. It's probably a habit of mind that allowed speech to develop--which is a good thing. It also leads to the development of jargon when a group of people in a related field talk to each other long enough. And eventually, it leads to meaningless jargon where words are mere name checks that signal, apparently, in-group solidarity. And so it has come to pass that the word "innovative" (and it's variant "innovation") are now used to describe every brewery in America. From actual press releases:
  • "a widely acclaimed brewery and restaurant, now serves fans of fully flavored beers in 30 states with innovative beers melding European ingredients and technology with American creativity."
  • "The pioneering spirit that launched [Brewery X] spans more than three decades, with innovation emerging from both the brewhouse and sustainability initiatives."
  • "[Brewery Y] also recently introduced its new series, which features a selection of small, limited releases from mostly craft brewers that rotate frequently keeping the selection both innovative and fresh." 
There may be a few innovations left to discover out there, but we've made a lot of beer in the 8,000 years of human history. If you put your beer in a barrel of some kind or add fruit to it or brew a beer with another brewery or, God help me, are introducing new label designs, you are not innovating. Truly innovative techniques and beers are exceedingly rare. The mere act of starting a new brewery is not innovative. Quit saying it.

Look at all the innovation!

Innovation has become so meaningless that, particularly when used by larger breweries, it often signals the opposite. I get things like this all the time "Our continued efforts at innovation have led our brewers to create a new grapefruit-infused IPA" (not an actual quote, but typical). In fact, this sentence should read, "Having seen how much money other breweries are making on this type of beer, we have decided to follow the trend and make an imitative knock-off."

Now, don't get me started on the word, "passion" ...


  1. Jeff, you're quite passionate about this 😎. That's why I sign in every day to get an Alworth dose.

  2. Jeff, you're quite passionate about this 😎. That's why I sign in every day to get an Alworth dose.

  3. "Look at how innovative this can is!"

  4. Most brewers in Britain used to market their beer almost solely on the product itself mentioning its quality, consistency, 'drinkability' etc. The company itself might be mentioned in order to reinforce the idea of tradition and competency.

    In the last few years there has been an unwelcome outbreak of narcissism and PR-speak. Every brewer has 'a story' They are 'innovative', they have 'values' and, above all, they are 'passionate'.

    Reliance on these meaningless cliches and stock phrases shows a deep level of personal mediocrity on the part of the people using them.

    This is all made worse by the infection of the beer world with the pretension and horseshit that used to be the preserve of appalling wine-buffs. Beer now has 'terroir', beer is no longer poured by a barman or barmaid, rather it must be carefully tended by a certified 'beer sommelier'. Pubs don't pick a few beers for next week, they carefully 'curate' their beer.

    Hopefully this unpleasant, self-regarding and utterly vacuous roadshow of bullshit will move on to the next big thing in a few years time. Then those people who actually like beer can get back to necking a few pints and food matching can go back to a bag of fish and chips on the way home after a gallon or two.

  5. I find your innovative and passionate essay to be quite revolutionary.

  6. On Facebook, some wit pointed out that this complaint has been made before and is therefore anything but an "innovative" one.

    Damnable petards!