I’m naked, and I’m holding a beer. This isn’t totally weird, except for the fact that I’m trying to take a shower at the same time.
To be honest, I can’t figure out if I’m enjoying this much. A showerbeer—one word—suggests drinking and showering are so harmonious they should never be separated, but in my dingy painted-steel tub in Brooklyn, the two are at odds. Drinking while showering is throwing off my beer game and my shower game. As garnishes go, warm faucet spray is far from a lime in a Corona, and the actual washing part of the shower is out of the question here. It’s hard to do anything except stand in the dribble—high-water pressure doesn’t exist in New York, mind you—and chug.
Perhaps that’s the point. The showerbeer is all about efficiency (you can save time!) and relaxation (hell, if one beer gets you buzzed, more power to you).
As far as I can tell, the showerbeer is as old as showering itself, a tradition passed on from generation to generation like a folk remedy or a secret recipe. Family legend suggests my grandma enjoyed a brew in the bath (although now I think my dad was just fucking with me—see right).
Today the showerbeer is more popular than ever. It’s transformed from a fratty college tradition into an entire lifestyle, spurred on by the Internet’s love of lifehacks and a vibrant community of online exhibitionists.
The showerbeer inspires fierce devotion. When I asked Twitter if anyone agreed that the showerbeer was overrated, people scoffed. One friend even responded with a “Go to hell” in the form of a showerbeer selfie.
@_Cooper No, it's awesome. The shower beer is definitely one of the best ways to enjoy the beer. Even better than the study beer.— Fidel Martinez (@fidmart85) December 5, 2013
Brandon Wenerd, editor of the college-culture site BroBible, surmises the showerbeer was borne from collegiate pregaming rituals. “If you’re going out Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night,” he tells me, “the showerbeer is the ultimate lifehack for pregame efficiency. You’re killing two birds with one stone: cleaning up while getting your chillax on with a brew.”
And let’s not forget the primal joy of drinking beer in the nude: “It’s as our ancestors would have liked it,” Wenerd explains. “Ben Franklin would certainly approve such prudence.”
Elizabeth Sile at Esquire calls it “a little party in my otherwise boring shower.” It’s like going pantsless to a company videoconference: You get to feel smug about it, but no one will ever know. Unless you find a way to document it, of course.
Photo via Pope_Ziggy/Reddit
A showerbeer photo is certainly one of the most advanced forms of selfies. A little water can ruin your smartphone, and I’ve got no interest in begging Apple to replace my out-of-warranty 4S because I took it in the shower with me. But the wet selfie is the price of admission to Reddit’s premier showerbeer community, r/showerbeer, and thousands have contributed.
“You guys are my drunk naked spirit animals,” writes imdifficult. Her Rolling Rock tallboy is sweating, and from the look of her eyeliner, she’s just stepped in. “Cheers!” says a commenter. Unlike a lot of hubs on Reddit, people are relentlessly positive here. And competitive: r/showerbeers’ loyal members have made a game out of upping the ante on nudity, props, DIY showerbeer crafts, sheer absurdity, and the number of people squeezed into a tub.
There are mini-spats between invaders from the “snobby” r/beer community and the “swill”-drinking denizens of r/showerbeer. Redditors’ first dates sometimes end in showerbeer selfies. Guys get naked (semi-NSFW). Girls get naked (NSFW). Couples bond over their first showerbeer, then get laid and pound another—during (NSFW) or after.
New parents like Massfeller celebrate Father’s Day by “passing on one of the great things” they learned from their dad. Nachotime installed a beer tap next to his tub; mikebyrneyadigg brought in a whole keg. Because it’s Reddit, tha_snizzle wore a horse mask.
Some even use it to mourn.
To Reddit, and the rest of the Internet, the shower is a magical place. A community called r/showerthoughts consistently ranks in the top five subreddits by growth, suggesting that the best drinking and the best thinking are done in the tub. (“When you drink alcohol,” begins one popular thread, “you’re just buying happiness from tomorrow.”) The shower is where the most important parts of life intersect: drinking, peeing, cleansing, thinking, screwing—so naturally, it’s also where some Internet legends were born.
Back in 1999, Brian Benson, a film producer in San Francisco, launched a viral shower-photo series as a way to get back at coworkers who said he was only pretending to be gay to pick up girls. He invited women to take a nude but totally nonsexual shower with him, took polaroids of each one, scanned them into his Compaq, and launched theshowerproject.com. (The site is down—possibly infested with malware—but the whole series can be found on Facebook.) It took off, and Benson quickly found 100 women to cover their naughty parts with suds, mug for the camera, and—yep—drink a couple showerbeers. “Don’t hate,” Benson says. “It’s art!”
The Shower Project got picked up on prehistoric websites like goofball.com’s “Cool Links” and Gorsky’s Comedy in 2000, and kept popping up until about 2008. One Gorsky’s commenter proposed a “power hour shower,” which is pretty brilliant. In 2010, Benson tried again, this time inviting straight men to shower with him. This attempt apparently never got off the ground.
“There’s nothing like stepping out of the shower scrubbed and clean, save the feeling of stepping out of the shower scrubbed and clean and stone drunk.” This is the prose of prole, a commenter on the anything-goes writing forum Everything2 in 2000. Another user, stitchley, had stumbled upon a portal to nirvana when he turned up the water temperature to scalding and grabbed an ice-cold beer. “After careful examination,” he wrote, “I think I have elevated [the showerbeer] to an art.”
He boasted he was going to set aside a “super relaxation day, just to try drinking a bunch of liquor and beer in the shower. I hope I don’t drown.” He did not. It was his first post on Everything2, and he stayed an active user for four years.
Defining the showerbeer is easy: cold beer, hot shower, done. But it took Urban Dictionary until 2004 to put it in writing.
And then there’s the showerbeer-inspired music. The song “Showerbeers!” by ska-punk band Bomb the Music Industry is a classic. It inspired Esquire’s Elizabeth Sile to pen her ode. The lyrics:
I just got paid, lost my job so it's a heavy night of drinking
You can smoke in the bar so when I come home I'm stinking
The smell on my clothes is offending to the nose
But that's not the reason that I'm stepping in
The only reason I take a shower is so I can drink a showerbeer.
Another song, “Beer in the Shower,” by the bagpipe-loving, Dropkick Murphys–esque group ToxicNarcotic, didn't catch on as well.
According to Google, the showerbeer didn’t spike in Web searches until about 2006. It’s hard to tell if something specific launched it—a Metafilter thread about smoking in the bath, possibly, or a since-deleted post on thebachelorguy.com.
The year 2006 was when companies started to cash in on the trend. In April, a product called the Shower Beer Buddy popped up on Amazon—the first of many showerbeer-themed novelty gifts. This one, the Shakoolie, is pretty popular: It’s a beer koozie with a suction cup to stick it to a shower wall. Simple and effective.
A similar product, the Tub Mug, was developed by a marathon runner to regain his lost love of showerbeers.
Where does it go from here? Can the showerbeer be turbocharged, leveled up, fine-tuned to perfection? Maybe the showerbeer doesn’t need any of that. The true purists shun toys—all they want is a can of Coors or a strong craft brew like a Rogue Dead Guy. And maybe a song or two to get the vibe right. Pop punk is preferred.
Other people like ska. I put on Operation Ivy’s Energy, a little bit of both.
Five years out of college, my first thought when I crack open beer No. 2 isn’t how to get this in a GIF, but whether I’m going to lose my footing, crack my head open, and die of a brain hemorrhage long before my girlfriend comes home. The mix of hot and cold sensations is pleasant, but I feel like I’m a mental-illness patient in a 19th-century psych ward, not a lucky kid with a great excuse to be drinking at work. It’s very possible I just don’t have the fortitude for the showerbeer, and it’s true I’ve got nothing to pregame for, but I’m just not feeling it.
It’s also because I’ve got something better: Laphroaig. A little water might make it even better. Showerscotch is a thing, right?
This is going to be a long day.
Photo via tha_snazzle/Reddit