Beer Word of the Day: Zymurgy

This might seem like a post intended for another blog. After all, what on Earth does grammar and punctuation have to do with beer?

Well, zymurgy, that’s what. If you’re an enthusiast of this fermented elixir–actually, even if you’re not–you’ve probably heard of lager, ale, and stout. But zymurgy? Guessing not.

Originally posted on Merriam-Webster’s blog:

Zymurgy

A man with a notebook standing in front of a tank of fermenting beer
Photo courtesy of Merriam-Webster

Zymurgy is the seventh-to-last entry in our Unabridged dictionary. It is defined as

“a branch of applied chemistry that deals with fermentation processes (as in wine making or brewing),”

and is used as a fancy word for the profession, hobby, or fellowship of brewing beer.

There are zymurgy clubs around America, a brew pub called Zymurgy in Torrance, CA, and even a magazine called Zymurgy. It’s one of those fancy words for something that people didn’t know had a fancy word for it, and is nearly always cited with its definition, meaning that it is used in the sort of in-the-know contexts where specialists and aficionados find each other.

It dates back to the mid-1800s. H.L. Mencken, writing in The New Yorker in 1949, had some fun with plausible but unattested derivatives of zymurgy:

Perhaps the nobbiest of all is zymurgeon, to designate one who serves humanity by working in a brewery.

He then posits some alternative terms for brewer:

My own choice is zymurgeon, though I am still willing to hear argument in favor of zymotechnician, and even zymor, zymologist, zymiast, zymician, and zymurgic engineer.

When a brewmaster, fearing the return of prohibition, takes a header into one of his vats and is not found until next morning, his is obviously a zymocide.

Read the full beer word post here.

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