Last week, Swedish brewery PangPang teamed with creative agency Snask to formalize the social practice of drinking beer in a shower and create an official shower beer. It’s called—wait for it—Shower Beer, and it’s a 10% ABV pale ale brewed in Hökarängen, Sweden.
If you're unfamiliar, a primer: Though it's by no means unique to the States, the tradition of the shower beer is a kind of collegiate behavior that creeps into the post-college sphere of adulthood, allowing one to obtain a gentle buzz while being doused in water. Two birds, one stone.
Somehow, the news of this Shower Beer has proven to be wildly divisive.Most of the coverage has been delightfully uncritical, as you may believe that there are few avenues for outrage in this bit of news.
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But check out this strongly-worded screed against the Shower Beer penned by GQ Digital Deputy Editor Kevin Nguyen, who argues that the Shower Beer is “stupid as hell." It’s a trenchant critique, given weight because Nguyen contends that the bottles are made of glass. Glass, as a material, is conducive to slippage and shattering, neither of which is especially wonderful in the milieu of a shower. PangPang and Snask even seem to acknowledge this: In the pristine aesthetic collateral that accompanies the beer’s release, there’s a particularly alarming image of shattered glass.
At six ounces, these bottles are also fun-size—Lunchables for the social drinker. To its makers, the size of the bottle is a deliberate way to encourage ease of consumption (it’s meant to be gulped in three to four sips), but Nguyen sees this as a sort of pandering gesture. Why not trust people with regular-sized bottles? Further, he argues that the ideal shower beer is “light and cheap,” far from possessing the dark, sweet notes that PangPang’s beer has. In all, Nguyen chalks the genesis of PangPang and Snask’s shower beer up to some dastardly creatives trying to “disrupt” the shower beer "space” that doesn't really exist.
Is this critique unfair, though? And what did this disruption-prone creators have to say, anyway? I reached out to Snask to understand what, exactly, made up an ideal shower beer. “Our ideal components differ. In this first version we wanted an exclusive beer that felt amazing and had an image that people would want to take a shower with,” Frederik Öst, Snask’s Creative Director, wrote me.
We wanted an exclusive beer that felt amazing and had an image that people would want to take a shower with.
Frederik Öst, Creative Director at Snask
I’d like to pause for a second, because there’s a lot to unpack here. What is an image that people would want to take shower with? A rubber duck? I’m just not sure. It seems that Öst is working off the assumption that the ideal shower companion is a svelte, petite bottle.
“Our inspiration sprung from perfume bottles,” Öst said of the bottle’s appearance. “We wanted to give a kick in the butt to anyone going out, thus the small size and the strong brew. Having said that, who knows? We might make one in a small can in the future!”
A small can! Incredible. It seems he’s listened to the criticisms. Iterate enough on your prototype, as they say in Silicon Valley, and it looks like you may chance upon a potentially wonderful innovation after many different designs. Öst told me that PangPang and Snask, who've released the beers in two limited edition batches in Sweden, are currently working on distribution and exporting solutions to the United States, though there’s no ETA. But don’t worry. Calm down. You can have your own shower beer right at home. Just open a beer, get your shower rumbling, and don’t let it slip from your hands.
So, what's the verdict? Can or bottle? Let us know in the comments.
On Black & Highly Flavored, co-hosts Derek Kirk and Tamara Celeste shine a light on the need-to-know movers and shakers of our food & beverage industry.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.
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