Monday, May 19, 2008

How often do you try to brew a BJCP classic style?

I don't brew - 2 (1%)

Never - 30 (23%)

Occasionally - 45 (35%)

Usually - 44 (34%)

Always - 6 (4%)

No surprises on this one, not many people who visit the blog are brewing style-guideline-conforming beer all that often. I’d put myself in the “Occasionally” category, I certainly do it, but on considerably less than half of my brews. I seem to go through phases, sometimes brewing a few in a row "to style", and sometime going off the beaten path for six or seven brews.

I think style guidelines serve a purpose, particularly in guiding new brewers towards making drinkable beer and in helping seasoned brewers sharpen their skills. That said, I think people generally do too much brewing to style, and not enough brewing to flavor. Many more commercial breweries are brewing to what they think their customers want to drink, than are brewing for styles/competitions, so why do so many homebrewers seem to be fixated on styles?

After judging at the Spirit of Free Beer competition last week (my first time), I was amazed just how poor most of the entries were. Not only did most have severe off-flavors (medicinal and fusel being the two most popular) but also plain old not to style (a pale/golden Dubbel for example). I took the combined Belgian and French Ale and Sour Beer category with my Berliner Weisse, and scored a 37 with my Alderwood Smoked Porter. The only stinker of the three I entered was my IPA, which I don’t think I am being delusional calling much better than a 26.


Anonymous said...

The IPA category is notoriously hard to compete in because it's a style that a lot of beer enthusiasts are very familiar with, leading to prejudices and comparisons to a personal favorite example.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Certainly a competitive category, especially in this case where an IPA went on to take best of show. I’m not concerned that I didn’t win, I am more concerned with the comments, things like hot/fusel alcohol, inappropriate hop character, no hop aroma etc… It sounds so different from what I taste (and what the ingredients were) that it almost seems like my beer was switched.

Brad said...

I consider myself far from fixated on "sticking to style" but nevertheless my brews have been more traditional and less adventurous of late. There are still styles I've yet to brew, especially since I did just ales for the first several years, so I'll keep general parameters in mind as I'm trying to put together a Märzen, Rauchbier, etc. recipe together. Still, I'm usually not too fixated on keeping the gravity, IBUs, and sometimes even SRM exactly within guidelines.