Are Styles Relevant?

from theweeklybrew

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Last night I was reminded again how much we rely on styles to tell us if we will or wont like a beer. The Salem Beer and Wine group had their get together at Venti’s last night. One of the ladies in the group ordered a pils. It fit the style perfectly. By the time she was ready for the second one though the keg was gone and a new pils from a different brewery was in it’s place. The second pils was cloudy and opaque, over hopped, and had an almost banana/fruity yeast flavor to it. This, according to everyone at the table (myself included) was not a pils. We even talked to the bartender who pointed to the label that sure enough said pilsner.

Now was the second pilsner a bad beer? Absolutely not. Was it a bad pilsner? Heck yes. So the question is where should style come into play?

As a homebrewer I can guarantee that most of my beers are off style. My pale ale was out of the alcohol range it was supposed to be in. My Roggenbier is not even close to what a Roggenbier should be. My herbal saison? You guessed it, off style. This is because I happen to like these beers a different way then the guidelines say they should be. When your homebrewing though it’s not a major deal. Alot of commercial brews though seem to be going the same way. Brew what tastes good and slap it into the category it fits best in. The problem with this though is you get a situation like last nights. Someone orders a pilsner and gets something they didn’t expect, or necessarily want.

So where does that leave styles? For competitions styles are important. They set a benchmark for the beers. For many commercial brewers though styles aren’t benchmarks so much as loose guidelines. This makes it so the average Joe doesn’t know what he’s getting at times. Is it time to phase out style guidlines¬†for commercial brewing? Or should brewers make more of a good faith effort to meet style expectations?

Given the fact that styles have only become truly defined in the last 30ish years I’m not sure how I feel on this issue. All I know is that beer wasn’t a true pils.

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6 Responses to “Are Styles Relevant?”

  1. dirty dan says:

    I look at it this way. If I buy a commercial product called Cola or Root beer, it should have some resemblance to a cola or root beer. If I buy a product that’s called Marvin’s Magic Elixir Soda, I’m throwing caution into the air. No one knows what’s in that can.

    What more marketable may be a better question. A Root beer that tasted like beets or Root Beer that called Big Bob’s Bubbly Soda?

  2. jrbox says:

    Ya’ll shouda read the leaderboard description a little closer. Ya’ll moved from Caldera ‘Pilsner’ to Seven Brides ‘Imperial Pilsner’. 7Brides Rose’s Imperial Pilsner is a hopped up/amp’ed version of their Lil’s Pils Pilsner.

    BeerAdvocator.com/beer/style/164 list 64 Imperial / 2X Pilsners versus
    1078 German-style Pilsners and 600 Czech-style Pilseners.

    Seems to me, 7Brides is being bold, innovative. Instead of offering yet another 2X IPA they brewed an out-of-the-main Imperial Pilsner.

    Based on sample sets of one, I prefer 7Brides’ Imperial Pils over Rogue’s ‘Morimoto Imperial Pilsner’.

  3. jrbox says:

    The correct links to the aforementioned beer style is

    http://beeradvocate.com/beer/style/164
    for Imperial Pilsner

    further
    http://beeradvocate.com/beer/style/40
    for Czech Pilsener
    und
    http://beeradvocate.com/beer/style/41
    for German Pilsner

  4. Jared says:

    My twitter feed does refer to it as imperial, guess I didnt do that on here though. I felt it better emphasized my point. I agreee 7 Brides is being bold by releasing this style. It’s a rare beer to have come up for sure. Because it’s so uncommon though there has never been a clearly difined style with guidlines. Even then though this beer just doesn’t smack of pilsner to me. One of the defining characteristics of a pilsner beer is pilsner malt. I’m not sure about you, but I tasted very little malt. Most of what I got was yeast and hops. I dont even mind the hops though. The major thing that made me frown at them sticking pilsner on the label was that yeast flavor. Both of us noticed a banana flavor that shouldnt be there period. The trademark of lagers, especially pilsners, is not tasting the yeast. Even the older styles that beer advocate describes have a flavor from the yeast byproduct (fusel alcohol, and diacytle), not the actual yeasts flavor.

    Like I said. Good beer, Bad Pilsner

  5. jrbox says:

    Your knowledge of and taste discernment of the various components of beer far exceed mine. One aspect is that my olfactory sense [and, hence, taste] got scorched in a high school chemistry incident with chlorine gas.

    btw: I wrote/published a blog entry on 7Brides Imperial Pilsner.
    Nothing new except a list of 11 names of 2X Pils that I found entertaining.
    My favorite: Panzer Imperial Pilsner by Port Brewing Company, San Marcos, Calif.
    http://blog.ventiscafe.com/?p=621

  6. […] who is involved with and supports Salem’s homebrew community. Hopefully their Strong Ale is more on style then some of their other […]

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