Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Question of Style

I've gotten myself into an interesting discussion on style guidelines over at Beer Nut, George de Piro's blog on the Albany Times Union's website. George is the phenomenally talented brewmaster at Albany's at C.H. Evans Brewing Company at the Albany Pump Station. We, however, have a difference of opinion. A difference that stems from his post on objectivity—specifically objectivity when judging beer on a competitive level; and even more specifically how style guidelines help to achieve that objectivity. I am not a big fan of style guidelines—at least not those style guidelines used as beer judging criteria—like those developed by the BJCP. I think guidelines are great as brewhouse benchmarks, used for quality control, just not as judging criteria. I prefer the BIIA's method of a few, broad categories based on characteristics like color and strength. I think that's a more level way to judge the beer itself, rather than rating the beer on a brewer's technical expertise. In my opinion beer should be judged on how it tastes, not on how it's made. There needs to be an equal balance of malt, hops, science and art.

Whichever side of the fence your on check out George's post on objectivity, and you can read the whole argument—his side and mine. Please feel free to comment here as well. I'd be more than happy to either argue or high five depending on which way you lean. 


  1. As the Thirsty Pilgrim once said "that styles as we know them today began as something educational and descriptive--a way to explain what is--rather than something normative--what ought to be." And I couldn't agree more.

    On the other hand, and as I said a few days ago, some brewers seem to focus more on making styles than making beer.

  2. Your last line sums this whole thing up. As I commented to George, with brewing being such a blend of science and art, sometimes the chemistry and formulas overpower the art. Not to be a melodramatic, but sometimes I think beer making has lost it's soul.

  3. @Craig:
    Just as Pivni's last line hit the mark, so too has the last line in your post.

    There is a microbrewer in NJ that even boasts in his promotional material that his beers adhere to guidelines and are "100 percent representations of the style".
    While his beers are decent enough, most good beer lovers that I know generally respond to the promotional claim with a hearty laugh and a rousing "who cares!"
    It really doesn't matter in the end as long as the product is good. If anything, reading ad hype that a beer conforms "100% to style" is more likely to steer me away from that beer rather than towards it. :-)