Wednesday, 22 December 2010

New Poll

You may have already noticed it. But in case you haven't I've started an end-of-year poll.

It's been inspired by a classic BeerAdvocate discussion on what the word "Ale" means. The mutual understanding and respect it's generated have been inspiring:

I'm quite neutral on the topic, as you can doubtless tell from answer options I've chosen.


Rod said...

The voice of one crying in the wilderness -

"I'm just not keen to the whole BJCP guidelines thing. I understand its place, and why some people enjoy competing in that, but for me the important thing about a beer is its enjoyability. As far as I can tell the BJCP isn't about enjoyability.

Personal experience (that will probably just make it sound like I am bitter): I submitted a Belgian Citra IPA to a competition under the category Belgian Specialty Ale or whatever its called. Both reviewers said, in so many words, "this is really a beer I would enjoy drinking but it doesn't fit the style guidelines blah blah blah."

I'm over it, but I still think the whole concept is silly. It just makes more sense to me to judge a beer on how enjoyable it is. Am I alone on this?"

from beer advocate. We will draw a veil over this gentleman's decision to create a beer called Belgian Citra IPA.......but perhaps someone might tell him that this is the way all competitions are, in practice, judged in Britain. Upon enjoyability.

Ron Pattinson said...

Rod, I've explained politely several times in response to the argument "you can't have competitions without rigid style definitions" that competitions have been run with only loose groupings of beers for well over a century. Then five minutes later someone else will say "you need style definitions for competitions".

It's depressing but, you know, if people are too pig-headed to listen, there's no way you can force them to learn.

Aaron Bennett said...

You know what I think? Beer competitions are the suck anyhow. They've made 4,156 styles so that Joe's Crappy Brewpub in East Bumlick can boast of their "Medal Winning Beer" after receiving a bronze medal for their "Southern English Brown Ale," which any idiot knows should be between 12-20 IBU's with a OG between 33-42 and an approximate SRM of 19-35.

Baloney. Brewing beer for fun is about making beer you love the best way you can and sharing it with your friends and family. If you find you have to beg your friends to drink it, then you aren't doing a good job of making it. If your friends call you up and say "holy shit when is your next beer going to be ready" then you are onto something. If they knock on your door at odd hours of the night, stein-in-hand, then you are really onto something.

Brewing beer for a living is about selling the stuff. Call it what you want, brew the beer that you think people want to drink and you'll be successful. And shove those medals up your... well anyhow, See You Next Tuesday!

Sid Boggle said...

I just wasted 20 minutes of my life reading the thread. They've got some very angry and stupid people over there...

Ron Pattinson said...

Sid, I can't quite understand what makes some get quite so angry. Or the xenophobia which too often surfaces in such discussions.

Bikeraggie said...

I have found homebrew competitions, with their rigid style guidelines, are an extremly valuable learning oppertunity. They can be a great way to get untainted neurtral feeback about your brewing. Or if you get crappy judges it can be a waste of an entry fee. I do agree that many folks take the styles "out of the competition" into the wider world too much. What I dont understand is the aparent anger some beer writers seem to have for BJCP. There are morons everyhere, and no matter what else you think of him Charlie P certainly has the right attitude about beer, RDWHAHB.

Also, Aaron is right, the big commercial competitions in the US are set up so as many folks as possible can get medals. What can be amusing is when you look at detailed descriptions for a brewerie's medal and see they entered it in a different catagory than what they label the beer as.

Ed said...

When did 'ale' start being used as a general term for any warm fermented beer?

Craig said...

You know what would help us all out? A group of rigidly defined, styles guidelines. Why hasn't anybody thought of that yet? By the way stear clear of East Bumlick, their brewpubs are awful.

Ah, levity.

Korev said...

At the risk of setting off the whole style thing again. My take is that the BJCP style guidelines are not rigid - it is a taxonomy where there are a number of possibilities within each style range. You can argue whether the key determinants of the style are correct - malty, hoppy, estery etc whether the balance/imbalance is the correct range. In my experience the quality of the judging feedback is very variable and simply saying not to style is a cop out without explaining why. Multiple competition entries for a larger sample size of feedback helps. In my view the application of style guidelines provides a framework to judge within and remove an amount of subjectivity from the process. The people that treat the guidelines as absolute fact or are only comparing to a commercial example e.g. Fullers ESB are being too narrow within the range.

Adrian Avgerinos said...

Fantastically amusing. One thing I do find most interesting is that in last couple years these arguments have gotten slightly better. There are actually some good quality comments made for either position.

That said, I'm still baffled at either the high amount of stupidity or extreme laziness by the mouthbreathers at both ends of the spectrum who can't be bothered to think.

It's grating to read that for a lot of ale-lager people the extent of the argument is:

* Ale and Beer were different drinks a long time ago.
* Jump forward 200 years and look at only contemporary references.
* If it's not a lager, it MUST be an ALE.
* This position is weakly supported by arbitrary naming conventions used by yeast suppliers, homebrewing circles, and many American breweries.

On the other end of the spectrum you have the same type of arguments saying that the beverage in question must be classified by the way the locals refer to it. While I appreciate and agree with that point of view, and I do honestly think that’s a very important aspect of better understanding the beverage itself, it’s an argument made in a vacuum.

We don’t speak the same English as they do in Britain. It’s also relevant to point out that the American brewing scene is a melting pot for all different styles of beer. In a way it’s a reflection of our culture. Best I can tell no other country in the world brews the vast variety of beers in such large proportions.

And because of this melting pot mentality recipes no longer follow any sort of rigid definition. American brewers no longer follow the exact recipes and procedures that defined the original brews.

For example, it’s very simple to take a run-of-the mill Pale Ale and turn it into a Porter using a few handfuls of deeply roasted malt. Or switch out some grains, mash the same, use the same clean American “ale” yeast, ferment colder, and cold store for a few weeks. Congrats, you’ve made a beverage that most tasters would classify as an Altbier. With this kind of approach it’s easy to see why many American brewers find satisfaction in calling all three part of the “ale” family.

That’s what works for the brewing scene here in the US. To me, it’s a situation distinct from other countries and this needs to be kept in mind when making the argument of, “Well, here in Britain, we invented Ale and therefore we are the keepers of said definition. Harrumph harrumph.” ;)

As long as moderation is applied in using these terms, I don’t see a problem. It’s the hard-liners at both ends of the spectrum who I find fault with.

You may think I’m part of the ale-lager crowd. On the contrary, I prefer to use the names as they are defined by their country of origin. It paints a more complete picture and if nothing else it’s more fun that way. In kegs right now I’ve got a pale ale, mild ale, porter, and cider. All were made using the same strain of top/warm fermenting yeast. I’m not calling them pale ale, mild ale, porter ale, and cider ale.

What would be amusing (in a Being John Malkovich kind of way), would be if the term Porter caught on as the universal American term for warm fermenting yeast.

“Hi, I see your tap selection indicates you have Bitter Porter, Mild Porter, Pale Porter, and Barleywine Porter currently available. Does your bottle selection include Lambic Porter and Hefeweizen Porter?”

Lucien Sanchez said...

"We don’t speak the same English as they do in Britain."
Sorry, but this has fuck-all to do with the debate. This isn't an issue of removing a 'u' from certain words two centuries ago. It's about a certain nomenclature being introduced a couple of decades ago within a proportionally very very small segment of the American people. I live in America, I drink in America, and 99% of the people I encounter don't distinguish all beers as 'ales' or 'lagers', they refer to all of them as 'beer'. So-called 'Craft Beer', as I recall, hovers at about 1% of the market share in the USA. So, of those who drink beer, which certainly not everyone, around 1% drink 'Craft Beer'. Now, we can probably all agree that not everyone who drinks 'Craft Beer' feels the need to categorize everything they drink as either 'ale' or 'lager'. So it's a bit disingenuous to say, "well, this is what we call them in America, different dialects and all", when we're talking about a certain tiny subset of the populace who have been regurgitating the information that's been wrongly fed to them for a few years.
Apologies for the perhaps hostile tone of this post. I've had a long day.

Flagon of Ale said...

ImperialStout Advocate is quite a pit of insularity and ignorance. It makes me sad. They really do a disservice to beer drinkers.

However, I do have to say that the modern nomenclature makes more sense than one which has ale, porter, stout, and hefeweizen as completely separate constructs IMO. This reminds me of the "is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?" question. It doesn't matter what it tastes like, or what people call it. There is a biological definition that supercedes both. Beers brewed with Saccharomyces pastorianus are lagers, those brewed with Saccharomyces cerevisiae are ales. "Ale" is not the ideal name for the latter, probably, but until a better one is suggested (perhaps it has, I don't know for sure) "ale" will probably be the common name for beers brewed with Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Naming them by their treatment (warm/cool fermented or top/bottom fermented) seems inherently non-specific and unreliable.

Hope I'm not just rehashing shit here. Cheers

Barm said...

There's absolutely no reason why Porter or Alt shouldn't be the universal term for top-fermenting beer with just as much justification as Ale. American Altbiers could include IPA, Double IPA and Amber Ale. Kölsch is a kind of Porter because they're made with the same species of yeast. It boggles the mind.

Martyn Cornell said...

I thought about ploughing down through the 300+ comments on that BA debate, and then I decided: no, life really IS too short.

Barm said...

It gets even better. You though "Farmhouse Ale" was dumb? Now gueuze and Berliner Weiße are "Sour Ales":

Eventually every kind of beer will be redefined as some sort of Ale, irrespective of what it's called in its region of origin, for the benefit of people too lazy to learn a couple of foreign words.

Ron Pattinson said...

Martyn, you get mentioned a couple of times.

Vaughn said...

"What I dont understand is the aparent anger some beer writers seem to have for BJCP. There are morons everyhere, and no matter what else you think of him Charlie P certainly has the right attitude about beer, RDWHAHB."

Part of it might be due to the laziness that being part of the BJCP seems to bring. For one thing, Papazian has nothing to do with the BJCP as it currently exists.