19 Nov 2010

More style nonsense

Correct me if I'm wrong, but couldn't this be a summarised history of pretty much every beer style ever?

Someone puts on the market a new beer that was brewed using a new method/ingredients, combining known ones in a new way or simply after giving it a new twist to an already known style(*). Such is the commercial success of this new product that other breweries soon start copying it. This starts a local, regional, national or even international expansion. Time and geography eventually result in this style mutating in order to adapt to changes in tastes, fashions, availability of ingredients, technologies, legislations, etc. in such way that a modern sample may have very little to do with those that gave origin to it. Due to this, and other factors, the popularity of the style also fluctuates.

Whatever the details specific to each style might be, all this is an organic process and not the product of the guidelines of any association or institution. To give an example. In 1842 Josef Groll didn't go to Pilsen to create a new style. He went there because he'd been hired by the town's burghers to brew something new. Groll employed the brewing methods he was familiar with, brought with him a strain of yeast from his native Bavaria and used ingredients that were available locally. The Pilsner Lager was a success, it crossed the border to what today is Germany and from there spread to the world to become the most (and perhaps worst) copied style today. But all that wasn't planned, it just happened because, partly, the beer had arrived at the right time in the right place.

All this is very clear, but it seems that some "Brew Masters" don't quite get it. Let me give you an example. Íber Ale. A Spanish "style". How long has it existed? A few years, at best. How many breweries are there that brew an Íber Ale? Only one, Companya Cervecera del Montseny, with its +Lupulus.

In other words, there is only one product in the whole world that calls itself Íber Ale, and we are already talking about a style? What is the argument of its creator for such grandiose classification? According to the web page:
"With this top-fermented beer we rediscover the traditional beers of our Iberian ancestors (Archaeological sites: The village of Geno (Lleida) dates to 1,000 BC Bronze Age; Can Sadurni Begues (Barcelona) dates to 3000 BC Neolithic Age)."
Let's forget for a moment that the only thing that +Lupulus and those ancient brews have in common is water. Because even if that wasn't the case, if Íber Ale was brewed with the same ingredients as those beers, could we really say the product is, at the very least, similar to them?

Lately there's been a bit of talk about the beers of yesteryear that are brewed based on archaeological findings, among which is Zythos, the beer brewed according to those remains found in Sadurní. That's very fine and dandy, but we actually know very little about them, just a list of ingredients a few tools and that's pretty much it. We don't know in what proportions and how those ingredients were mixed or any details about the process, how many steps it had, what temperatures and times were used, etc.

Of course, we could apply here what I mention above, that styles change with time, but here we don't even have a proper recipe!

But we could forget about all that as well, because regardless of what recipe or process are used to brew +Lupulus, the truth is that it is the only Íber Ale in the world. I don't think that even the most dogmatic member of the Brewer's Association or the BJCP would even consider accepting that as a style.

Mind you, I haven't got anything against these "Pseudohistoric Beers", I think they are interesting products. I haven't got anything agains +Lupulus, either. I liked the three or four bottles I've drunk of it. This is not a criticism of these beers. I just think that Pablo Vijande, the brewer in question, should focus more on improving (or maintaining, depending on whom you ask) the quality of his beers instead of going on with all this marketing bollocks, feeding his ego and writing articles of dubious quality (SP).

Na Zdraví!

(*) Applying here what we understand today as "Beer Style", which is a relatively new concept.

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1 comment:

  1. Ahoj. Called in " Sheffield Tap ", today. Bernard Special Black Pilsner Looked Tempting. Settled for Matuska Raptor 6.2 ABV. Good Choice !.

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