21 Dec 2011

It's obvious, but...

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but...

TRAPPIST IS NOT A STYLE

Dear micro brewer, unless you are a member of the said monastic order, your beer isn't "Trappist", nor it is "Trappist style" because, besides the fact that you can't even call it "Trappist", TRAPPIST IS NOT A STYLE.

"Abbey" is not a style, either. In some cases, it is only a little more than a label, like "craft", but in the case of the so called Erkend Belgisch Abdijbier, it referes to breweries that are subject to certain regulations, which, as with the Trappist, do not concern the quality or kind of beer that is brewed. In other words, and quoting my friend "Thirsty Pilgrim": "Westvleteren could make a farty filtered lager and it would still be Trappist beer."

The reason why Abbey and Trappist breweries don't make a Pils is the same reason why Czech industrial breweries don't make a Tripel.

And since I'm in the realm of the clearly obvious, and in response to some messages and comments that I've received or read here and there:

If you want to understand a beer, you must drink it.

Style guidelines are utterly useless. Books, magazines, blogs, articles, reviews can, at most, be good to have some additional information (something that's always welcome) and to help us know where to spend our money (which is even more welcome). But if you really want to understand a beer, you must drink it. And I mean drink it, not "taste",  sharing a 0.33l bottle with four friends, but to sit down and drink a full portion of that beer (ideally, it should be as close to its source as possible, immersed in the beer's own culture, but that's something most of us can't do that often).

So drink, pay attention, compare with other similar beers you might have drunk, think, drink again (and maybe you'll finally realise how silly it is to call "Abbey" or "Trappist" a beer brewed in Argentina, Chile, Australia or Canada)

Na Zdraví!

Travel to the Czech Republic and stay at the best Prague Hotels

23 comments:

  1. Very True. If I see Something that interests Me, I just Drink it. Lucky for Me, Most Places I Drink, Give me a Taster. Saturday,Blake Hotel, had Good Pint of Grantham Stout 4.3 abv. Then was intrigued with Nektar. Banjalucka Pivara Tradicija Kvaliteta 1873. Bosnia I Believe, Brewed in Hyde, Manchester !. It was OK.

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  2. La Trappe in Holland did in the past brew a Trappist Pils.

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  3. There you have it. Is Pilsner Urquell also brewing a Trappist beer then?

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  4. Oh how much do I agree with this posting.

    By the way will be over for the beer festival in May and will bring you a couple of Welsh Beers for sampling :-)

    David

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  5. David. I hope I can make it next year, looking forward to sharing a few piva with you.

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  6. Lukáš "Elf" Provazník22 December 2011 at 12:00

    "Style guidelines are utterly useless," why so strong words?

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  7. Because unless you are a brewer or a BJCP judge, knowing things like how much Diacetyl this or that style should or should not have is pointless, it won't help you understand and, worse still, I won't help you enjoy it.

    I don't consider myself an expert, but I do know a thing or two about beer and I believe I understand beer quite well, and yet I'm not able to explain to anyone what the hell Diacetyl is, for example, even though I must have read about it a hundred times. All I care really care about is whether I like a beer or not, and then I start thinking why.

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  8. You're a grumpy bugger! I'll be sure to seek you out for a beer when I'm in Prague next.

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  9. Yeah, grumping about over a pint or five. What can be better than that? Looking forward to it.

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  10. More difficult than explaining what it means is how to pronounce Diacetyl (smells like butter). I think that style guidelines have a place in the beer world but we shouldn't be tied to them. Most of the time that breweries use them it is for marketing only. Should you be able to describe why you don't like a beer in detail? I don't mean using the BJCP specific terms but with enough detail to be able to give feedback to the brewer as to off flavours?

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  11. Yes, but wouldn't a well trained brewer know what you mean when you tell him that his/her beer tastes like butter or cardboard or green apples?

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  12. Lukáš "Elf" Provazník31 December 2011 at 17:49

    Knowing of what diacetyl is can help you understand and even enjoy beer, but of course you can enjoy beer without this knowledge. This is not just about diacetyl, there is more aroma and/or flavour defects which people can not recognize and then they drink rotten beers and do not know it.
    And are you serious you are "not able to explain to anyone what the hell Diacetyl is"?

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  13. I'm serious. It's one of those things I can't seem to remember. Anyway, if someone is drinking a beer that's in bad condition or is somehow contaminated, chances are they will not like it, but that's not it. There are beer styles that are sour, many people do not like them, and it won't matter how much you explain them how they are made and how "true to style" they are, and about the brettanomyces and all that, they still won't like it. Same goes, in a lesser extent, with beers high in IBU. So my point is, it doesn't really matter what "style" the label says a beer is, what it matters is whether you enjoy it or not, and you really don't need to know anything about styles to be able to do that.

    I didn't know what an Imperial Stout or an IPA really were when I had my first glass of each, and I still enjoyed them greatly.

    And remember this "styles as know them today began as something educational and descriptive--a way to explain what is--rather than something normative--what ought to be" Thirsty Pilgrim...

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  14. Lukáš "Elf" Provazník2 January 2012 at 00:22

    But there are some differencies between "I don't like this beer" and "I drink rotten beer and I don't know it". And of course there are Sour beers like Lambic, Berliner Weisse etc., bud I'm talking about other beers. I have many experiences from pub, where people drink beers (lagers) in bad condition a they can't recognize it. Or many people can't recognize real Hefeweizen.
    Beer styles is surely not something like law, but we need them, because it will be very hard, almost impossilble, to talk about beer with others without conception of beer styles. Beer style itself is not something unchangeable, but it lays boundaries. And these boundaries can change in time, but they are helpful for nowadays.

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  15. From the point of view of the consumer, actually, there isn't much difference. Beer you like = Good Beer, Beer you don't like = Not good beer. From the point of view of the brewer, if a beer reflects his/her intentions it is well made, period.

    Styles is just something the label says, of course, they can help me have a rough idea of what a beer can be like, but, at least in my case, that's something based on personal experience, rather than literature. And moreover, if the beer turned out to be something different than what the style mentioned on the label might have made me expect, I would not care, I would still "judge" the beer for its own merits.

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  16. So that means Coors Light or domestic American/Canadian Lager is fantastic beer?

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  17. Well, there are quite a few people who seem to think so.... unfortunately.

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  18. Lukáš "Elf" Provazník7 January 2012 at 13:43

    Why unfortunately? If they say "I like that beer" it means this beer is good (at least for them). Period.

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  19. Lukáš "Elf" Provazník9 January 2012 at 21:30

    Ok, but there is a problem. You don't like style guidelines and therefore you don't like concept of styles itself. But you need the styles in many particular ways. So it is little bit schizophrenic situation. It is something like: I don't believe in styles, but sometimes I use them". Of course, styles wouldn't be fetish or hoodoo, but they are helpful.
    Many people don't like sour beer or overly bitter beer, but for example Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio or Kissmeyer No. 1 Stockholm Syndrome are "objectively" very goods beers. But subjectively many beer drinkers may not like these beers and that is alright.
    And believe me, styles are not useful only for beginner brewers, judges and organisers of competitions.

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  20. Once again, my relationship with styles is purely based on experience. I know what to expect from, say, a Barley Wine because I've had other Barley Wines and if brewer A, B and C called their beer "Barley Wine" and those beers shared things in common I think is reasonable to expect that if brewer D has also decided to label his/her beer as "Barley Wine", it will have characteristics in common with the previous three, but not because some guidelines say it has to, but because my experience say that it's probable. However, if that beer turns out to be completely different to the other three I will not give a flying fuck as long as I like what I have in my glass. And that is why I say that for a consumer style guidelines are absolutely pointless when it comes to enjoying a beer.

    Let me put you this hypothetical scenario. Someone gives you an amber beer, not too strong, malty, not much of a hop character, fruity, with a slight caramel edge. You don't get to know what it is, who has made it, where it is from, you are drinking it "double blind". After finishing the glass, you declare it excellent, and then they show you the bottle and the label says is a Stout. Would you think any less of that beer?

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  21. Lukáš "Elf" Provazník11 January 2012 at 02:24

    But style guidelines are made by people who drink beers too. It is mixture of personal experience of many beer enthusiasts and knowledge of the past. It is not perfect and also it is almost everytime american-centric, but just like i said before it is helpful.
    Many brewers don't know beer styles and they labeled their beer wrongly. Or they know, but they take advantage of popularity of IPAs for example and make Double/Tripel/Imperial/Black nonsenses.
    And that hypothetical amber beer is wrong labeled, it is probably not Stout, but it could be very good sort of Amber Ale. You know, Burning Fish from microbrewery U Rybiček was not IPA and it was even horrible beer. Märzen from Velký Rybník was not Märzen, but it was lovely Pale Lager. In the other hand, yes, label on beer causes expectations, so it is up to brewer to think about what they put on the label. It wouldn't be their interest to confuse customers.

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  22. And that is exactly why I say they are pointless. Once you've had enough beers of a given style, if you have paid attention to them, you will not need to read any guidelines because you will have the experience those beers have given you and you will know what kind of things they have in common, and you will know what to expect from another beer that is labeled with the same style (which does NOT mean that this beer MUST have any of those things, after all styles are something that have changed throughout history, sometimes a lot).

    And I would go even further. I believe that even brewers should throw those guidelines to the dustbin. The only true purpose of the guidelines is to categorise beers in competitions organised by the BJCP (which by the way, means Beer Judge Certification Program). Brewers shouldn't brew styles to make judges happy and they should brew beer to make consumers happy.

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  23. Lukáš "Elf" Provazník11 January 2012 at 22:39

    Ok, our attitude is quite similar. There is only one big difference. You say: "I don't need no beer style guidelines." And I say: "They are sometimes useful."

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