The Enduring Allure of the Shower Beer

Though its true origins remain unknown, the phenomenon known as the shower beer was likely invented not long after the shower. Jessica Lee on the appeal of this drinking rite, and the online communities and accessories that have grown up around it.

Shower Beer

You can do it in Superman cape. You can do it by yourself while sobbing like a baby. You can do it with your partner while your cat watches. You can even do it while simultaneously smoking a cigarette.

In 2011, a Reddit thread entitled “showerbeer” was created as a place for enthusiasts to talk about and post images of themselves enjoying a beer in the shower. Now with more than 31,000 subscribers, the thread features a seemingly endless stream of “shower beer selfies,” many of which are, understandably, NSFW.

The term has also taken on something of a life of its own on social media; the #showerbeer hashtag currently boasts nearly 20,000 entries and counting on Instagram. “It was only a matter of time until someone posted a picture of themselves partaking in this glorious pastime, and next thing you know a community of shower beer enthusiasts became united,” says Brian Tighe, founder of the BevBench, a shelf to place your beer on in restrooms.

What it is about the shower beer, specifically—and not the bath beer or shower wine or any other imaginable combination of alcohol and bathing—that has become something of a pop cultural drinking rite? How did this particular act, somewhat illicit and reckless, and inherently collegiate, become something worth reveling in as adults?

Theories of where and when the shower beer originated vary. Scott Kerkmans, the Brewing Program Director for the Metropolitan State University of Denver, believes that the first lucky person to crack open a beer in the shower was also one of the first to utilize the beauty of indoor plumbing. “I have to imagine it has been around a lot longer than anyone would guess,” he says. “Beer is older than the concept of showering, so I guess I would say a couple days after the first shower was installed.”

Tighe has a more romantic theory: “I like to think George Washington himself invented the shower beer,” he says. “Shortly after signing The Declaration of Independence, the boys hit the showers, and George tossed a couple beers to his teammates to celebrate.”

Enjoyed in the last room in a house that still feels off-limits to drinking, and coupled with the pure pleasure that is taking a shower, the context amplifies that feeling of breaking the rules. And it’s what puts shower beers squarely in the canon of slightly misguided drinking rituals—shotgunning, beer-bonging, Jell-O shots—that, performed any time after graduation day, can still free you momentarily from the grind of adulthood.

Despite its likely long history, the term “shower beer” didn’t appear on Urban Dictionary until 2004, when user “Mel” contributed it as “an alcoholic beverage one consumes while cleansing himself/herself.” The definition has since evolved into a beer that one consumes when rushing to go out, relaxing after a long day or self-medicating a hangover.

Scan the showerbeer Reddit thread, and you’ll find that it is not just beers that are being taken into the shower. One gentleman brought along a mini bottle of Prosecco, another woman opted for a tumbler of white wine (and full makeup) and a man who was out of beer multitasked with a detachable showerhead and a mug full of bourbon. But beer, unsurprisingly, dominates.

In the last several years, the shower beer has become popular enough that it’s spawned a number of accessories, such as The Shower Beer Buddy, a beer holder shaped, somewhat inexplicably, like a woman’s bikini-clad torso, which attaches to the side of the shower with a suction cup. Presumably realizing that such a product probably doesn’t appeal to grown-ups, the site declares: “Just because you have a job and are no longer in college doesn’t mean the fun needs to stop. Join workaholics everywhere in enjoying life, by grabbing a shower beer today!”

A slightly classier upgrade, the SipCaddy, functions as both a beer can and wine glass holder and has sought to introduce a new competing hashtag: #bathwine. (With only 181 entries for the hashtag on Instagram, it’s got a ways to go.)

Tighe’s BevBench, meanwhile, was originally created after he noticed that there was no hygienic place to place his drink next to the urinal. The discovery that the BevBench made for great beer shelves within the confines of the shower has led many consumers to purchase Bev Benches for the sole purpose of keeping a shower beer safely out of the range of suds. And still another product, The Shakoolie—a waterproof koozie emblazoned with slogans like “’Muricans For Shower Beers” and “It’s My Shower, I’ll Booze If I Want To ”—has explicitly marketed itself as the ultimate way to keep showering from getting in the way of drinking.

That is, after all, what the shower beer really embodies: a devil-may-care attitude. Enjoyed in the last room in a house that still feels off-limits to drinking, and coupled with the pure pleasure that is taking a shower, the context amplifies that feeling of breaking the rules. And it’s what puts shower beers squarely in the canon of slightly misguided drinking rituals—shotgunning, beer-bonging, Jell-O shots—that, performed any time after graduation day, can still free you momentarily from the grind of adulthood.

“A shower beer means freedom to me,” says Tighe. “Freedom to do whatever you want.”

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Jessica Lee is a New York-based food and drink writer with a master's degree in magazine journalism from New York University. She stays true to her Texas roots by listening to Willie Nelson regularly and drinking a Lone Star on occasion.

FROM AROUND THE WEB
  • jordaninbk

    The first time I ever heard of a shower beer was right after the NYC blackout of 2003. Seems a lot of us were looking for any way to beat the heat and, hey, might as well drink that beer that’s about to get hot. Then a few summers later, parts of NYC were experiencing frequent brownouts. By that summer, the concept of a shower beer was a widely known way to cool down and destress…at least among my friends.

  • Douglas Pocius

    I thought I invented this about 30 years ago after a long hot day of trench-digging for a foundation on a 90 degree summer day. Taking a can of beer into the shower with me seemed like the civilized way to wind down for the evening. But remember: always a can, never a bottle! Falling glass, tile floors and bare feet don’t play well together.