As for me. Well, I consider myself a style anarchist, but at the same time, I think knowing your styles well is important for two kinds of people:
- beginner brewers because it can help them know what to do with the ingredients and what the resulting beer should be like (something like a cookery book for those who are just starting)
- judges and organisers of competitions, because style guidelines will help evaluations to be more objective and based on more concrete parameters. (of course, to me, competitions and their result are absolutely irrelevant, but that's another thing)
And since I've mentioned wines...
In his second post, Pete Brown mentions "wine styles" with the purpose of illustrating his point about beer styles. This is something I've seen many times, drawing a parallel between types of wine and beer in order to prove in a straightforward way that our favourite drink also offers a wide range of possibilities.
And yet, the more I think about this comparison, the more flawed I find it. The main problem is that a varietal is not the same as a "style". Let me explain:
Let's say I have a few vines of Malbec in my backyard and that last year I made wine with their grapes. What I have now in my cellar is a Malbec 2009. Quite likely a very shitty Malbec 2009, but nobody, absolutely nobody can argue that this is not a wine made from Malbec grapes picked in 2009. And if I had also made wine from those grapes this year, I would be about to have a Malbec 2010, and so on until I get tired of it.
Now, imagine I have a few sacks of malt (say Pilsen, Munich and Chocolate) a bag with Saaz or Hellertau hops and a flask with a certain kind of lager yeast. Can anyone tell me what sort of beer I will have as a result? No, I still don't know it myself; and I won't until I have put together or chosen a recipe. And even then, I could say that my beer is a Dunkles and someone else, after an analysis, will say it's a Märzen, just like it happened to Gerardo Fiorotto with his wonderful Don Toto Barley Wine, which for a judge was actually an Old Ale.
Wine has it a lot easier, really. Anyone can understand that a Tempranillo 2007 will be different than a Shiraz 2009, they won't even need to drink them. Now, what is the difference between a Pale Ale and an India Pale Ale?
If we want to draw a good parallel between beer and wine (something quite difficult to begin with), then we should not do it by saying that something like Chardonnay is a style. If we keep on doing this we might fall in the same trap as this dude:
But back to beer styles. I know about them a lot more now than I did a couple of years ago, yet I don't think I enjoy my beer more now than I did back then.
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