I have a confession. I have little or no interest in beer styles whatsoever. All I care about is that a particular beer tastes good, has interestingly depths, that the layers of depth contain clues to both its ingredients and history, that it is consistently made, is tweekable - and can be compared to others that are like it. Other than that, I care not a whit for beer style classification.
But if you want to get all hot and bothered over style, got check out the argy-bargy that Stonch raised over at the BeerAdvocate (whose September issue of the magazine arrived 3 October...complain, complain) by posting a link to one of Ron Pattinson's posts about Victorian and Edwardian brewing logs and the question of authenticity and IPAs. Being a lawyer with some (limited and practically worthless but easily trotted out) experience with the questions of the quality of evidence and the discourse of upon it, I note the following:
- You will see that Ron has an excellent source of data. Followers of his blog will note that he is obsessive about detail and finding the best records. Go review his archives if there is any doubt. There should be no doubt.
- Garett Oliver's objection is not as solid as the force with which he states it - not because his source of data is not as good but he does not post the raw data, only relying on sources he describes but doesn't provide. He states:
I also have some professional brewing books from the heyday of IPA in the early 1800's and they lay it all out there, including hour-by-hour fermentation charts.Ron's following objection is interesting:
If by professional brewing books you mean old brewery manuals, they provide a snapshot at best. You need to study the actual brewing logs covering a few decades to get a proper picture of what was going on.You can see that both may well have a firm understanding of a what this one beer style is based on years of study and thought - but because they are dealing with different levels of abstraction, they come to different conclusions. If brewing books are an abstraction or summary of brewing logs, I would suggest the logs are the better source. If they are something else that needs describing. We should not take it on faith.
- Further, there may be argument drift afoot throughout the entire discussion. What are people really discussing - style, sort or something else? Ron's original point that he did not himself make at BeerAdvocate (all one word) and therefore did not put out for challenge or fawning is that IPA moved rungs upon the ladder of a brewer's pale ales hierarchy. It also moved in strength within that hierarchy over time. Garrett seems to agree with that in that he indicates, quite interestingly, that shipments of IPA to India were judged and priced on the dock according to their various qualities upon arrival and that the style shifted over time: "Did it decline? Sure it did." Are they really disagreeing that much?
- There is also, somewhat sadly, a note of wrangling over one's place to make statements as well. Statements are called "a load of rubbish" and statement makers are called "this fellow". [Note: there is nothing more pleasant as a lawyer to face a bad witness and referencing another in the third person is a wonderful hint that someone is not being as objective as they might.] Another BAer also joins in, indicating that he would take the word of a sainted source or "the collaborative work of some exhaustive research to put together the BJCP style guidelines" over "some dude's blog." This starts to smack for me and smack of what in the pre-democratic world was called status, something that came well ahead of merit in another sort of hierarchy. There are from time to time fairly embarrassing statements made by beer writers with recognized status about those who do not have it. It reminds me of the very first BeerAdvocate "Beer Smack" starts thusly"
First, we hate blogs as much as this guy: http://mama.indstate.edu/users/bon ... bLogs.html (Actually ... we hate blogs more.) That’s why this is not a blog.Oh dear. I am not fan of Web 2.0 but I did not know that civilization must have reached its pinnacle with 1991 Bulletin Board format that the BeerAdvocate relies on.
For me, standing is useless without substance. Don't get me wrong - Garrett Oliver has substance aplenty and more to swap with you for those spare dining room chairs you've inherited and been wondering what to do with. But so does Ron. His pre-blog beer information pages are cited in Evan Rail's Good Beer Guide to Prague and the Czech Republic as a reliable source and I suspect goes uncited as a source for a good many others. Ron is simply more of a library rat and less publicly celebrated. Those things do not make someone's ideas wrong.
Some "fellow" indeed. Makes you recall what "fellow" in fact means.