What do cowboys call beer?

Answered by Phillip Nicastro

Cowboys had a variety of colorful names for beer, reflecting their appreciation for the beverage and their creative use of language. These monikers were often used in Western saloons, where beer became increasingly popular after the Civil War.

One common term for beer among cowboys was “John Barleycorn.” This name likely originated from the traditional folk song of the same name, which personifies barley and its transformation into beer. The term “purge” was also used, referring to the act of drinking large quantities of beer and subsequently purging oneself. This highlights the sometimes excessive drinking habits of cowboys.

Another popular name for beer was “hop juice,” which emphasizes the main ingredient in beer, hops. The term “calobogus” was also used, though its origins and meaning are less clear. It is possible that it was a slang term specific to certain regions or groups of cowboys.

Cowboys also had a penchant for using playful and humorous names for beer. For example, they referred to it as “wobbly pop,” highlighting the effects of alcohol on one’s balance and coordination. The term “mancation” was used to describe a male bonding experience, often involving beer-drinking. This term reflects the social aspect of beer consumption among cowboys.

Other names for beer included “let’s mosey,” which conveys a laid-back and casual attitude towards drinking, and “laughing water,” which suggests the joyful and lighthearted atmosphere that often accompanied beer-drinking in saloons.

Not all the names for beer were positive or lighthearted, however. Some cowboys referred to beer as “mad dog” or “Jesus juice,” perhaps alluding to the potential negative consequences of excessive drinking. The term “pig’s ear” was another less flattering name for beer, possibly suggesting that it was a cheap or inferior beverage.

Interestingly, cowboys also used terms that reflected the physical properties of beer. For instance, they called it “strike-me-dead” to emphasize its ability to knock someone out or impair their judgment. The term “heavy wet” was used to describe the weighty and filling nature of beer, especially when compared to other alcoholic beverages.

Cowboys had a wide range of names for beer, reflecting their fondness for the beverage and their penchant for colorful language. These names often emphasized the social aspect of drinking, the effects of alcohol, or the physical properties of beer. Whether it was John Barleycorn or heavy wet, beer played a significant role in the lives of cowboys in the Wild West.