The other day the magazine All About Beer, published an article titled "Rediscovering Pils". A pretty good piece, until the last page (electronic version) where once again we are served the bollocks of "Imperial Pils" (and even Double Pils is mentioned), a new pseudo style that is actually not that new. As I often do with stuff I find interesting, I linked this article on my Facebook page, making my opinion about this style nonsense very clear.
But there was someone who came out in defense of all this, a micro brewer from Argentina, who said:
"The thing is that if I make a lager with 8-9% ABV and more than 50IBU's, for example, there is no category where I can compete, who can I compare it with? What references do I have? As we, brewers, experiment and try things out, styles are adjusted o new styles are created. This is important only when it comes to competitions..."Even though Ron Pattison and others have shown that style guidelines aren't really necessary for a serious competition, the truth is that, whether we like it or not, the categories of most competitions these days are put together based on such style guidelines, usually from the BJCP. It's a fact and there's little point arguing about it here, but can these competitions really be used as a reference as this brewer claims?
In a competition beers are evaluated in conditions that are far from those the beers are usually consumed and according to certain more or less well defined parameters. It doesn't matter how tasty, interesting, balanced, etc. a beer can be, if the judges consider that it doesn't fit within those parameters, they won't let it compete.
When I wrote him an e-mail to congratulate him for his superb Don Toto Barley Wine, Gerardo Fiorotto, its creator, told me that after tasting it, a judge told him that Don Toto was actually an Old Ale, rather than a Barley Wine (as if there actually was any difference) What would have happened if Gerardo had presented Don Toto in a competition as Barley Wine, just as he understands it? Or what would be the judges' reaction if presented with any of those several less than 4% ABV IPA's that several British brewers are making?
So, and answering the question above, no, I don't believe a competition can be used as a realistic reference for the beers you make.
If you are a brewer and you want to compare your beer with other similar ones, the best you can do is to get a few samples of said beers and drink (not just taste) them one by one, just like any other consumer would do, better still if you can do it with a friend or an associate. A 0.1l sample might be good enough to technically evaluate a beer, but to really know how good a beer is, you have to actually drink it.
As I've said before, I understand very well why brewers like taking part in competitions, but I believe we have a problem when a brewer wants to satisfy a judge rather than the consumer.
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