"Doesn't it bother you that craft microbreweries call their beers pale, red o black without mentioning the true styles? Why don't they educate the consumers?What really interests me about this rather tricky double question isn't the answers but what it implies, that brewers are somehow required to brew "styles".
A while ago I was complaining that there were brewers whose focus seemed to be satisfying competition judges rather than the consumer. It turns out the problem goes beyond that, there is a loud minority who believe they are international beer judges every time they sip a pint and therefore, need all beers to fit within their specific mental pigeonholes. This made me remember a comment I read a long time ago in response to a review in, I think, Logia Cervecera, where someone said that the beer in question wasn't a Scottish Ale, but an IPA that didn't come out well, or something like that, even though the label of said beer didn't mention either of the styles! In other words, this person was slamming a brewer for doing wrong something that he never had the intention of doing. Amazing.
But it doesn't end there. The first question says "the true styles". What are true styles? What does Argentine Beers mean with this? The BJCP and their narrow (and sometimes not quite correct) interpretation of some styles and the exaggerated subdivision of others?
There was a time when I thought that the style guidelines were stupid. I was wrong. Its main purpose is to serve as a reference for beer judges and brewers who want to take part in the competitions judged by those judges. In other words, if I was a brewer and I made a beer with Xº Plato, that colour, this many IBU and these or those characteristics, I would know that I'd be able to present it in a given category, say, Belgian-Style Tripel, even if the label said that the style is "Imperial Wit" or "Temistocles Bumhole". So, it's not the document that is stupid, but the idea that some have that it is something like a Talmudic law.
But going to the second question. Does mentioning a style on a label help to educate the consumer?
When I say that I'm a style anarchist I mean that I evaluate a beer based on what I drink and not on what I read. An example of this is Výškov's new IPA, that despite (to me) not being very IPA, is very good and I hope they'll keep on making it like this.
That aside, the truth is that seeing a style on a label does help me have an idea of what the beer could be like. But this, as I've said many times, is a result of my experience as a drinker, experience that has also shown me that some styles can have a wide range of characteristics and that some brewers can interpret them differently.
So, mentioning a style on a label can serve as a guide for the experienced drinker and as a reference point to the novice one. And what about those brewers whose beers don't fit into any style? Duh! They won't put anything. But, what about those whose beers are "inspired" by some style o those whose interpretation of a style differs from the "institutionally" accepted? If they mentioned a style they'd be risking the ire of the BJCPist or even being accused of ripping-off the consumer (I wish I was making that up). For these brewers, then, is better to leave things at "pale", "red" or "black" and let the drinker reach their own conclusions (which it's a lot more fun, actually).
But this has got too long already, there'll be a second part soon.
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