The US Brewers Association has released the 2013 Beer Style Guidelines. Beer styles and guidelines are funny things, and few more heated debates break out on the beer internet than the “does style matter” debates. No doubt you will see it spin up again today with the release of the new style guidelines. More than anything, expect to see experimentation with Adambier and Grätzer styles in the coming year.
Follow the debate, but don’t come down on any side. In the style debate, all are right and all are wrong. It’s one of those parallel universe things. Personally, I am hard-pressed picking the beers listed as stouts from the porters these days, so what’s a robust porter again? The line between APA and IPA shifts from brewer to brewer and there are some very golden ale-y Kolsches and Kolsch seems to be evolving into a way to sell more beer, while still being seen as crafty by not brewing a pale lager. The incremental differences in pale lager classes just does my head in.
Style guidelines are great if you’re a brewer working out which category to enter your beer in a beer competition and provide some guidance to consumers on what’s in the bottle they are buying. Still, brewing a beer perfectly to style doesn’t guarantee a beer finds favour in the marketplace, and – as Stone & Wood’s Pacific Ale shows – not quite fitting a defined style doesn’t hurt it in the marketplace either. Even if you don’t brew to a given style, if you shop around for a style to enter it under, you can even pick up some bling.
Style guidelines don’t necessarily see you capturing history in a bottle. Reading Ron Pattinson shows how fluid the evolution of beer is driven by economics, taste, climate, politics, war and environment and all of other things that keep life from getting boring, not style guidelines. Guidelines can educate and clarify but they can calcify beer styles and, just like the caricaturist’s pencil, can end up exaggerating features and distorting what they hoped to capture – all at the same time.
Brewers Association Announces 2013 Beer Style Guidelines
Boulder, CO • March 4, 2013—The Brewers Association (BA), the not-for-profit trade group dedicated to promoting and protecting America’s small and independent craft brewers, released its 2013 Beer Style Guidelines. Updated annually, this year’s version defines 142 styles of beer, up from 140 in 2012.
Compiling the guidelines annually is a collaborative effort, and the 2013 version incorporates more than 100 suggestions from U.S. and international beer judges and experts, brewers and beer lovers. This year, Adambier and Grätzer styles were added for the first time. Both are historic pre-Reinheitsgebot styles that are making a slow revival among U.S. and international brewers. Adambier and Grätzer are historically smoky ales, with the former thriving in and around Dortmund, Germany, and the latter brewed primarily in Poland.
Changes were also made to the guidelines for American wheat ale, reflecting a growing trend in the craft brewing and homebrewing communities by which all-wheat grists are used in the brewing process.
As consumers and beer judges generally use their senses of sight and smell before they taste a beer, the descriptive text for virtually every listed beer style has been updated and reorganized to reflect the order of the beer sensory experience. The guidelines now focus first on appearance, aroma, flavor and finish, in that order. They also include vital statistics on each of the 142 styles including ranges for: original gravity/plato; apparent extract/final gravity; alcohol by weight/volume; bitterness and color.
“These guidelines are first and foremost an educational tool, but they also help to illustrate the United States’ role as a leading beer nation,” said Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewers Association. “The Brewers Association toasts America’s small and independent brewers, including homebrewing enthusiasts, who continue to push the evolution of style guidelines with their innovative brewing and ingredients.”
Since 1979, the BA has provided beer style descriptions as a reference for brewers and beer competition organizers. The beer style guidelines developed by the BA use sources from the commercial brewing industry, beer analyses and consultations with beer industry experts and knowledgeable beer enthusiasts as resources for information. Much of the early work was based on the assistance and contributions of beer journalist Michael Jackson and Fred Eckhardt. The guidelines are used in some of the world’s most prestigious beer competitions, including the Great American Beer Festival® and the World Beer Cup®.
The 2013 beer style guidelines are available for download at BrewersAssociation.org.