A Good Beer Blog


Have you read The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer - A Rant in Nine Acts by Alan and Max yet? It's out on Kindle as well as Lulu.

Maureen Ogle said this about the book: "... immensely readable, sometimes slightly surreal rumination on beer in general and craft beer in particular. Funny, witty, but most important: Smart. The beer geeks will likely get all cranky about it, but Alan and Max are the masters of cranky..."

Ron Pattinson said: "I'm in a rather odd situation. Because I appear in the book. A fictional version of me. It's a weird feeling."


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Craig -

As far as style, generically, I got into a discussion on, George DePiro's (a local Albany brewer) blog about style, a while back. His post was about beer judging and objectivity and his argument was that without style guidelines, judging beer was simply a hedonistic tasting and therefore only beers within a style can't be judged objectivly against each other. Style is paramount in beer.

I said phooey to that. My argument was that beer has been judged forever prior to the invention of styles. Non-style categorized beer can and has been judged on very simple criteria in competitions like the BIIA. Beer should be judged on taste, not the ability of a brewer to make a beer to style. Beer should be judged on beer and if you want to have a beer making competition then do that. I do think styles are important for teaching and I think it is important for new brewers to able recreate beer to style—just as young artists do figure drawings or young musicians practice scales, but technical precision does not always a good beer make.

The discussion got going pretty good! Both sides put up some compelling arguments. You can give the whole thing a read here on George's blog.

I wrote a post, about how Oktoberfest's—both a American and German—illustrate the rather broad acceptable characteristics in style here.

Alan -

This is also related to the Jacksonian hierarchy of "categories, styles and types".

Craig -

Most definitely! I've said this before, brewing is truly the perfect combination of science and art. When one of those disciplines begins to outweigh the other, the focus seems to get lost. I see styles leaning toward a science like a taxonomy, and when that structure begins to overshadow whether the beer tastes great, or not, a brewer might be treading on thin ice.

Gary Gillman -

It seems to me any classification has value if it responds to what many people are looking for to understand a subject.

E.g., some beer is malty, some beer is hoppy, some beer has an equal balance of the two.

That alone can stand as a classification, but wouldn't likely satisfy many people. They would say, what about dark vs. light beer, strong vs. weak beer, beer with U.S. hops vs. beer with Hallertauer M.F., etc. etc. And so people prepare their schema, some of which end by being incredibly detailed. There may be a category in someone's system for, say, a smoked lager-ale hybrid with West Coast hops above 7% ABV. It isn't valid or invalid but does this description provide utility to enough people? Systems too complex or detailed get blowback sometimes, or should be restricted for specific purposes. E.g. the flavour wheels of brewing labs are probably best employed by lab technicians (not to mention gas chromatographic data), and the detailed beer categories used by homebrewing associations might best be used by them and the judges for competitions, and so forth.

I understand the point about flavour and the need not to let classification overshadow same, but isn't it true that so many tastes are relative, arbitrary, almost? Is heavily smoked beer a good taste, bad taste or just a taste? What about lambic? What about pils-style beer with the juice of fruits added? Some may like them, some may not, and they can all be classified. But to what end? I'd say, to suit the purpose of different user groups.

Getting back to Jackson, many years ago I recall reading a comment that his scoring system (i his pocket guides) was somewhat unclear in its objectives. Did he give 5 stars because he really liked the beer, the beer was a classic of its type, the beer was a rare survival albeit not the best example extant, and one can go on. For most purposes his classifications and ratings worked - he was a fine writer who got across to people his main points and perhaps more important, his enthusiasm - but there was ambiguity in how even he approached the subject, IMO.


Craig -

I think my argument comes down to this: Is beer brewed to be drank and enjoyed or for the the sake of being brewed? I would reckon most brewers would say both, however, I'd guess the rest of the population might say the first. Categorize beer all you want—as long as it's not exclusive. What the beer world does not need is snobs—geeks yes, enthusiasts yes—not snobs. Having a rule book of correctness, even if that rule book was compiled with the best intentions, smacks of pretension, now. Gallett Burgess never said "I don't know anything about art, but thank goodness the Art Judge Certification Program does."

Gary Gillman -

Beer is brewed to be drunk, but as an alcoholic drink. That is the minimum requirement, and once met, a wide variety of beers resulted and are enjoyed around the world. Some of these would not find favour in other quarters given their palate resulted from local geography or other chance or idiosyncratic factors, but still such beers were enjoyed since they delivered what people wanted. One might argue this of lambic, or smoked beers, or very bitter beers, or U.S. malt liquor, and many others.

And given this range, classification followed. Just as in other endeavours, people want to classify and understand, so various schema resulted. They are useful merely as tools to understand history and what is currently available: I agree they should be employed not to impose a discipline on drinkers must less a snobbery of any kind. Snobbery should have no place in the enjoyment of any comestible whether wine, other drink, or food.

One should, IMHO, discuss what is available, whence it came, what one likes, and why.