Top Menu

Oh, wait, there is a new beer style

Shame on me for being sloppy and hats off to Chad for noticing. I overlooked the addition of the American-Style Brett Ale in the 2011 Brewers Association Style Guidelines. Geez, it was in the press release.

That addition led to changes in the description of American-Style Sour Ale. I’m pulling Chad’s comment from the Bock 2010/2011 post and putting it here, then providing the 2011 descriptions for Brett Ale and American Sour, then the 2010 American Sour.

From Chad:

“All this chatter and no mention of the most ludicrous style possibly ever created . . . American Style Brett ale. Since when does Mr. Brett become a style and how is it an ale? Other then that it can be any color, any taste, any alcohol, pretty much it can be anything but exhibiting oaky, sherry, or bourbon characteristics. That’s not a style, that’s a catch all for a yeast genus. Oh well.”

FROM 2011 GUIDELINES

American-Style Brett Ale
American Brett ales can be very light to black or take on the color of added fruits or other ingredients. Wood- and barrel- aged sour ales are classified elsewhere. Light to moderate and/or fruity and contributed by the Brettanomyces yeast. The evolution of natural acidity develops balanced complexity. Horsey, goaty, leathery, phenolic and light to moderate and/or fruity acidic character evolved from Brettanomyces organisms may be evident, yet in balance with other character. Acidity may also be contributed to by bacteria, but may or may not dominate. Residual flavors that come from liquids previously aged in a barrel such as bourbon or sherry should not be present. Wood vessels may be used during the fermentation and aging process, but wood-derived flavors such as vanillin must not be present. In darker versions, roasted malt, caramel-like and chocolate-like characters should be subtle in both flavor and aroma. American Brett ales may have evident full range of hop aroma and hop bitterness with a full range of body. Estery and fruity-ester characters are evident, sometimes moderate and sometimes intense, yet balanced. Diacetyl and sweet cornlike dimethylsulfide (DMS) should not be perceived. Chill haze, bacteria and yeast-induced haze are allowable at low to medium levels at any temperature. Fruited American-Style Brett Ales will exhibit fruit flavors in harmonious balance with other characters.

American-Style Sour Ale
American sour ales can be very light to black or take on the color of added fruits or other ingredients. There is no Brettanomyces character in this style of beer. Wood- and barrel-aged sour ales are classified elsewhere. If acidity is present it is usually in the form of lactic, acetic and other organic acids naturally developed with acidified malt in the mash or in fermentation by the use of various microorganisms including certain bacteria and yeasts. Acidic character can be a complex balance of several types of acid and characteristics of age. The evolution of natural acidity develops balanced complexity. Residual flavors that come from liquids previously aged in a barrel such as bourbon or sherry should not be present. Wood vessels may be used during the fermentation and aging process, but wood-derived flavors such as vanillin must not be present. In darker versions, roasted malt, caramel-like and chocolate-like characters should be subtle in both flavor and aroma. American sour may have evident full range of hop aroma and hop bitterness with a full range of body. Estery and fruity-ester characters are evident, sometimes moderate and sometimes intense, yet balanced. Diacetyl and sweet corn-like dimethylsulfide (DMS) should not be perceived. Chill haze, bacteria and yeast-induced haze are allowable at low to medium levels at any temperature. Fruited American-Style Sour Ales will exhibit fruit flavors in harmonious balance with other characters.

For both of these original gravity, final gravity, alcohol content, bitterness and color all “vary with style.”

FROM 2010 GUIDELINES

American-Style Sour Ale (Fruit and Unfruited)
American sour ales range from golden to deep copper to brown in color. Wood- and barrel- aged sour ales are classified elsewhere. Acidity from lactic, acetic and other organic acids are naturally developed with acidified malt, in the mash or in fermentation by the use of various microorganisms including certain bacteria and yeasts. Acidic character can be balanced by several types of acid and characteristics of age. The evolution of natural acidity develops balanced complexity. Horsey, goaty, leathery and phenolic character evolved from Brettanomyces organisms and acidity may be present but should be balanced with other flavors Residual flavors that come from liquids previously aged in a barrel such as bourbon or sherry should not be present. Wood vessels may be used during the fermentation and aging process, but wood-derived flavors such as vanillin must not be present. In darker versions, roasted malt, caramel-like and chocolate-like characters should be subtle in both flavor and aroma. American sour ales may have an evident hop aroma, medium hop bitterness, low to medium hop flavor and low to medium body. Estery and fruity-ester characters are evident, sometimes moderate and sometimes intense, yet balanced. Diacetyl and sweet cornlike dimethylsulfide (DMS) should not be perceived. Chill haze, bacteria and yeast-induced haze are allowable at low to medium levels at any temperature. Balanced fruit flavors will be evident in fruit flavored American-Style Sour Ales and be in balance with other characters.

Original Gravity (ºPlato) 1.040-1.060 (10-15 ºPlato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato) 1.006-1.012 (1.5-3 ºPlato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 3.3-7% (4-8.7%)
Bitterness (IBU) 20-40
Color SRM (EBC) 6-26 (12-52 EBC)

17 Responses to Oh, wait, there is a new beer style

  1. Pivní Filosof January 17, 2011 at 3:40 am #

    And then they wonder why so many people don’t take them seriously.

  2. Mike January 17, 2011 at 9:04 am #

    I really enjoy drinking beer, especially good beer (that is, beer that meets my tastes). What have styles contributed to this pursuit? Not one iota. In fact, styles, I find, more harmful than helpful. How so? If you like XYZ and that is an example of beer style 494, does that mean that any other beer in style 494 will also appeal to you? Not if you care more about taste than “style guidelines”.

  3. Kristen England January 17, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    The more styles they have the more breweries can enter. The more breweries that enter, the more money they make. Its getting to the point that medals are becoming like participation ribbons. Its crappy b/c the truly great beers get a gold and the American Belgian southwestern spontaneous fermented (as opposed to NE, SE, etc) sour imperial robust tooth peeler with lamb fries gets the same gold. And if someone doesn’t win, “Oh, Im worry you didn’t win. Wait until next year and we make another few categories so you can enter them instead.”

  4. Steve January 17, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    Not that I agree with all of the new additions to the styles list(s), but I do support the definition of beer styles in order to know what you’re getting or what you might be looking for.

    Not to mention that a style tends to tell a story. When I first got into good beer I “drank” up just about every book Michael Jackson had penned at the time. He broke down the myriad of beers from around the world into categories from top to bottom, from continent to continent, and from country to country. They told histories and made them all more desirable to me — I wanted to drink Kölsch in Köln, Porter in London, even Pale Ale in Oregon.

    So I don’t see style designation as a negative (and there aren’t but one or two that I don’t care for), but I sort of wonder if anything new is really being created?

    To your question Mike, odds are that if I like the XYZ beer in the 494 style, I’ll probably also be interested to try the ABC beer made in the 494 style. Will I be disappointed if they aren’t exactly the same? Of course not, that’s half the fun of different beers (see Appellation Beer Rule #4) — same as the bottle of XYZ Pinot Noir not being exactly the same as ABC Pinot Noir — odds are, I’ll still like them. If I’m in the mood for a Pinot Noir that day.

  5. Jeff Alworth January 17, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

    Concealed within this catastrophe is an interesting question, one Ezra at the New School has been asking for months now: do all-brettanomyces beers qualify as “sour?” His argument is that they do not, because the effect of brett can be dusty, funky, barnyardy, and even mildly tart, but never sour.

    I don’t happen to agree with the argument–for me, sour is a broader term and, within the vocabulary of beer, indicates the presence of wild yeast or bacteria. When the new guidelines came out, though, he felt vindicated. If you use Ezra’s logic, this makes more sense. You don’t have to agree with it, but at least it makes sense.

    • Stan Hieronymus January 17, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

      I agree with both Chad and Ezra. Even if that might appear incongruous.

  6. Mike January 17, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    Steve, if you want someone else to choose your next beer for you, I’ve got no problem with that. It’s just that I’d prefer to make that selection myself because I know me better than he or she does.

    Wine, as I understand, is defined by the grapes used in making it. Beer is defined by by people who care more about imaginary taxonomy than they do about actually drinking/enjoying the beer. Not for me. No thanks.

  7. Stan Hieronymus January 17, 2011 at 7:55 pm #

    Mike – When you decide to try a new beer how do you decide what that might be?

  8. Chad January 17, 2011 at 10:32 pm #

    Thanks Stan, although I should clarify my point(s), If the BA is going to create “styles” (which I don’t think this is ready to be called yet) one would expect them to create distinct style guidelines as that’s what it used to always be about…

    Clearly by creating extra categories it means more opportunities for breweries to win awards which means they will enter more beers. While it allows new and emerging beers to be recognized it also means the BA will have more entries which means more money for their organization.

    If a “style” must be created, I agree with this new category given that the use of Brettanomyces does not designate a SOUR beer. To steal a line from the great Ron Pattinson “let me repeat myself” Brettanomyces is NOT a SOURING organism, and therefore should not be grouped in with American style Sours. While the use of Brettanomyces can include some souring (more clearly tartness) and even some developing acidity from a small amount (very small if correctly produced) of acetic acid as well as lactic acid from some lactic acid bacterias this is NOT a SOUR beer.

    So the BA is right in creating a second/new category. It’s just I can’t help but laugh at what is such a broad category that anything with Brettanomyces can be lumped into this category…except oak flavors and sherry barrels. This means both primary fermented and secondary fermented will be be judged together, as well as beers with fruit and without. Young beers and barrel-aged in neutral barrels. The differences will be astounding.

    Maybe this is a good thing, as a brewer I’d prefer not to be stuffed inside a box unless I decide to be put there. This is a category with almost no box…

    Chad – refusing to be put in a box but loving the growing use of Brettanomyces!

  9. Samurai Artist January 17, 2011 at 11:06 pm #

    Referring to my own blog post on the new beer style definitions that Jeff has brought up on The New School: I really like how Brett has its own style now but I also agree they are making way too many sub-styles. I do not think its right to remove brett character from the regular American-Style Sours as that seems to be created just to better the chances of breweries like Cascade who only use Lacto. Some of these great farmhouse beers using brett ended up lumped in with American-Style Sours that they clearly were not or put into another category that clearly the earthiness and funkiness of them excluded them from. I also see more and more of these types of beers being made so it seems like a wise decision.
    Not that there shouldnt be some limit on new categories just to get more entries, I would support lumping more of these sub styles into one more broad category for sure but a saison with some funky brett cannot compare to a unbelievably puckering Cascade or RR sour.

  10. Mike January 18, 2011 at 3:45 am #

    Stan, you asked a perfectly reasonable and very probably interesting question. Here’s your answer: first, some things I do NOT do – research on the Internet, ask the barman what style the beer is, try to determine from its name what style the beer might be.

    What I DO do is consider the brewery and whether I’ve had their beers before (and what sort of experience I’ve had with their beers) and take into consideration my location. On a rare occasion, I might ask the barman/woman whether the beer contains C-hops, as I find them particularly unpleasant, especially when used to excess.

    Although it’s not beer, in my country we have a distilled drink called jenever. Jenever has no styles, but there are basically two types and two sub-types. On a recent trip to a town known as an historical center for jenever (Schiedam), I went to a pub that had more unknown samples than I had ever seen before. I told the barman which jenevers I had drunk and which I had liked and he served me six different ones I had never heard of before. I was quite happy with what he served, and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to taste jenevers I did not know before, but all fell within the parameters I had given the barman.

    In other countries, I have sometimes used the same approach to beer, and it almost always worked out well and, in at least one case, spectacularly well.

  11. Steve January 18, 2011 at 7:53 am #

    Mike, a very interesting process that I’ll have to attempt to get my head around — since it’s completely opposite of what I, and most of my beer loving friends, would do walking into a pub. And regardless of what you think, I’m still the one choosing my drink.

    I’ll walk into a pub, look at the list of beers (almost always titled with a description of the style) and decide what I’m in the mood for that day. To your point, I do tend to make my consideration on my experience with the brewery, but there is often a beer from a brewery I’ve never tried and I’ll take a plunge if it looks like a beer I might like — very similarly to how you sampled the unknown jenevers (a defined beverage you’re obviously familiar with). In fact, at many good beer bars I can get a sampler, as you did, to see if I might like a beer or not.

    But the point being, if I see a beer listed as a “Märzen,” it gives me a guideline as to what to expect, and I know I’ll probably like the beer. If it’s listed as “Gueuze,” I know I probably won’t like it. And if the Märzen isn’t exactly like my favorite of the style, that doesn’t mean I’ll judge it badly, but if it has none of the characteristics I was hoping for, I’ll be a little disappointed.

  12. Mike January 18, 2011 at 11:14 am #

    Steve, despite what you think, aside from style, how we approach beer is not that different. And I think your last paragraph sums up very nicely the problem with styles.

    Here is basically how the list of beers looks in my local: http://www.indewildeman.nl/tap_workarround.html

    What’s on the list, but not on the site are the prices and the serving amount. This is pretty typical in my part of the world. In the other countries where I often drink beer, the information is often the name of the beer and the price.

    Now, how are styles a problem: you say you like Märzen. (Fair enough – so do I.) Which style guide do you use? Between Ratebeer, BeerAdvocate, the BJCP and the Brewers Association you’ve got four slightly to sharply different descriptions. Example? OK. The BJCP: “No hop aroma.” The BA: “Noble-type hop flavor and aroma should be low but perceptible.”

    Secondly, you know what a Märzen “should” taste like according to your style guides. Well, what about a German brewer who hasn’t read the same style guides you have? This is not exactly a far-fetched notion – there is no country I know which is as obsessed with beer styles as the US.

    So, by saying you don’t like this or that “style”, you may well be missing out on some sensational beers! And that is a sad loss.

  13. Steve January 18, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    Mike — considering the one “style” I mentioned is about the only style I dislike — I’m not really missing out on too much! 😉

    As to the decision of which style guideline to follow, I nearly always harken back to what I learned from Jackson and my own experience over 20 years of enjoying good beer.

    Again — my use of style knowledge is a starting base to my choices. I enjoy Märzen (among others) and know that I’m going to get different qualities from every one — even those all brewed in Munich.

    As a counterpoint to your local’s menu, here’s one from one of mine (thanks to friend Lew Bryson):
    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_qu-NsGz9y5E/SajWx6I2j0I/AAAAAAAABPM/Rb5dPXn7z54/s1600-h/IMG_0345.JPG
    (hope the link works)

    You can see that the majority of the available beers tell you their style (even if a few are oddly named due to brewery marketing). Many I tend to know by name, others I’d definitely need a taster.

  14. Mike January 18, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    Steve, yes, the link worked, but I don’t see very many styles there. Chimay,for example, doesn’t even say which beer it is. Magic Hat No. 9, Beamish, Southern Tier, Burning River and several others list no style.

    And, in what you also wrote, I still don’t have a good idea of how you use styles in selecting a beer. You noted “my own experience over 20 years of enjoying good beer” and I’d agree that that plays a part for me as well, however, what does that have to do with style?

    As I said, and you seem to agree, using styles to make choices can effectively cut you off from what might be some very good beers.

  15. Steve January 18, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    Mike — I mentioned that many of those beers I already know the style (you’ve heard of Beamish, I imagine?), and as to choosing via style:

    Walk into pub, look at list, “Hmm, I’m in the mood for a good IPA today, how about a fresh Burning River?”

    “Say bar tender, what the heck is a Hairy Eyeball? An “American Strong Ale? No thanks, they’re usually pretty high in alcohol and I’d rather have a couple tipples tonight than just one.”

    Simple, eh?

  16. Mike January 19, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    Steve – When you wrote “list of beers (almost always titled with a description of the style)” and then posted a picture of a list which was almost without any style, it was a bit confusing. But, I imagine the list you posted was not typical.

    (Is it just me or has American IPA become the pils of the non-industrial/micro brewery movement?)

    I think the big difference between your approach and mine is that you prefer the broad strokes, while I prefer the specific. So, according to you, if the style is geuze, you won’t drink it, but if it’s IPA you will (assuming you’re in the mood).

    My approach is to some extent based on where I am (Belgium, German, UK or my home country usually). In Belgium, there is virtually no beer I won’t try (unless it comes from de Struise, Fantôme or a few others), in Bavaria there are basically two types of beer (helles and dunkeles) and I’ll happily drink either, in the UK, I’ll drink almost anything out of a cask and here I know my way around well enough that I can look at the list and know pretty quickly which one I’ll want based on the criteria I listed above.

    My method has worked out very well for me, and, I’ll assume the same can be said for yours. IOW, whatever works for you.

Powered by WordPress