Thursday, 6 August 2009

Official beer styles?

Whilst trawling through the internet for something of interest (funny how being in work can be so like being out of work) I noticed a call for beer styles across Europe to be defined.

The Publican reports that the European Beer Consumers Union (EBCU - an international organisation CAMRA belongs to) has called for clearly defined beer styles to be used in judging beer competitions. Their chairman said: “Wine drinkers would not be tricked into believing that a Riesling was a Chablis, or a Burgundy a Rioja, so why should beer drinkers have the wool pulled over their eyes by clever marketing? What we are calling for is consistency and clarity for the beer drinker.”

Now as a beer drinker I do find it helpful if I have some idea what a beer will be like before I buy it but I can't say I'm taken with this idea. I know different categories are needed for competitions but trying to pin down something as continuously variable as beer just doesn't work.

Over in the US the Beer Judge Certification Program lays down a range of strict style parameters for a wide range of beers. But even a cursory look by a beer nerd like myself shows it's riddled with errors (my particular favourite is their claim that Goose Island IPA is an English style IPA).

If the EBCU are worried about beer drinkers being mislead about the beer they're drinking why don't they campaign for the ridiculous exemption alcoholic beverages have from listing ingredients to be removed? If I could see what makes up the beer I'm drinking along with the ABV I'd have a much better idea of what I'm drinking. And as CAMRA already certify some beers as 'real ale in a bottle' why don't they make a start by insisting more information is provided on the beer lable apart from the fact it contains yeast. If they went even further and asked for the types of malt and hops used to be listed (as Mikkeller do already) it would be even better.


  1. Oh no... The BJCP thing was designed for home brewing competitions (as far as I am aware), and that's about all it's useful for. Once it gets into the realm of commercial beers, will we all be expected to become style nazis? I don't give a shit if something is "not to style". No thanks!

  2. I enjoy style guidelines. The last time I entered a BJCP competition, they threw my Bitter(3.5% abv.) in with everything in the Pale Ale, IPA category. I thought my beer would be judged with other 3.5% beers. It wasn't. As far as their stupid program, sorry, don't need it. I've done my share of drinking around the world. I don't need some dork telling me what I should be tasting.

  3. I think that educating people in general about different styles of beer is something that needs doing, but what will inevitably emerge from this plan is a bunch of misdefined, ahistorical categories based on the same recycled summary of all Michael Jackson's mistakes that CAMRA copy and paste into the GBG every year.

  4. If they got brewers to do this, rather than just boozers, they might make more sense.