Sometimes it’s not always that easy to walk back into a conversation 10 days later, so let’s clean up a few loose ends from the posts about “world class” and “world classics” and move on to whatever this blog is supposed to be about.
While it is fun, even valid, to guess what beers Jackson might have anointed given time (and we’ll get to that in a moment) I think the seven lists available will remain worth consulting for quite a while.
Consider the case of Augustiner Hell. He did not write about the beer in the 1982 guide, but in 1986 assigned it 4 stars (the top rating, marking it as a classic) and continued to do so until 2000. Then he wrote it “seems to have become markedly thinner in recent years, but still has a soft, sweet, clean maltiness” and he gave it 2 to 3 stars. Gulp.
With that in mind, consider Jeff Alworth’s discourse about the importance time plays in earning “classic” status. He asks a fair question.
Yet I wonder, is it possible for the gears of history to turn enough–however slowly–so that an immigrant brewery, the descendant of a venerable classic, may one day supplant the old country’s hold on the style? Is it possible for a New Jersey pilsner to take the mantle from Pilsner Urquell? (We know how that old-world standard has declined.) This is not a question for judges, of course. These designations are much more anthropological. We commend classic status by slow cultural agreement.
A New Jersey pilsner? How about for a Czech pilsner other than PU? Those who drink the beers regularly will argue that Kout na Šumave 12 has surpassed Pilsner Urquell. Although I particularly enjoyed the ulfiltered version of PU served at the brewery museum in Pilsen, Kout na Šumave 12 was better in Prague and better still in the Czech countryside. Likewise, when we were in Germany a year ago I drank both Jever (Jackson’s 4-star German pilsner) and Schonrämer Pils on enough separate occasions to be certain I prefer the latter.
That was true even before Schonrämer Pils won gold in the European Beer Star Awards. In fact, you know what? I don’t give a diddly about that award. Drinking Kout na Šumave and Schonrämer Pils I wasn’t thinking “How does this compare to ****?” or “Is this the best whatever in the world?” I was thinking, “This is a friggin’ great beer.”
So I see the sense in Ron Pattinson’s post that how you characterize a brewery isn’t nearly as important as the beer in your glass. But there’s also value in establishing a standard and holding the standard bearer accountable. “Four stars? Sorry, two-and-a-half stars in this guide.” That’s why we end up with a discussion about whether Pilsner Urquell is the same beer today as it was
when it was lagered for three months in open, wooden fermenters. Per Ron’s comment (below) that should have read fermented in open wooden vats, then lagered for three months in closed wooden barrels.
Now to the matter of which of today’s beers that might be tomorrow’s classics. Feel free to talk among yourselves. I can offer a few hints because I contributed to Beer (Eyewitness Companions). As “editor in chief” Michael did not micro-manage the content. He provided me with pretty simple marching orders for the U.S. section: write about the “revolution” (his word) and mention both new beers such as Goose Island’s Matilda, Lost Abbey Cuvee de Tomme and Russian River Pliny the Elder as well pioneering beers like Anchor Liberty Ale and Sierra Nevada Bigfoot.
He already rated the last two as classics.
Draw your own conclusions.