In which Stu from SOBA promises great things for Beer O'Clock every fortnight over 2008.
Allow me to take you on a fun and informative journey of style in 2008. It's a journey on which New Zealanders are long overdue (especially people like the smart and savvy individuals that read 'Not PC'). It will be a journey through beer styles.
In this day and age we all know that wine styles are far more complicated than 'red' and 'white'. but how many know that beer styles are just as complex, if not more so? Almost every wine drinker I know could pick a sauvignon blanc from a chardonnay but, when it comes to beer drinkers, how many could pick a porter from a schwarzbier? This year I'd like to work through some of the beer styles that we might commonly, or not so commonly, come across on the shelves and in the fridges of licensed premises in New Zealand.
Beer styles are a contentious issue. Some beer lovers complain they take the fun out of beer, while the odd brewer will insist that their beer is beyond any stylistic boundary. Both statements can be true and in many ways, and for the majority of drinkers beer styles really are are completely unnecessary. We generally drink by brand rather than style. We ask for a Heineken, a Becks or a Stella rather than a Premium American Lager. If we're lucky enough to be faced with the choice: we might ask for an Emerson's APA, an Epic or a Founder's Fair Maiden rather than an American Pale Ale. However if you like beer, and are interested in playing the field a little, the smallest amount of beer style knowledge - coupled with some appropriate packaging from our breweries - can help you out a long way.
We shouldn't be bound by style but we can be enlightened by them.
The style guidelines I'll base my beer journey on has been developed by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) in USA (and, before you scoff with a jokes about equine-filtered American beers, the USA is the current world power and most innovative country in regards to craft brewing). The BJCP style guidelines were originally developed by home-brewers, beer lovers and judges, resulting in a slightly smaller, broader and more all-inclusive set than most commercial guidelines. Commercial competitions such as the World Beer Cup tend to develop and use guidelines based more around some of the marketing fluff; they tend to define styles more tightly resulting in slightly more categories overall,allowing more medals to be awarded, which encourages more entries and results in greater income opportunities from entries and sponsorship. "Low-carbohydrate light lager" for example (a commercial style which in every sensory aspect would fit into one of the Light Lager styles) is more a marketing gimmick than it is a true beer style.
Beer drinkers have been duped by mass marketing into the belief that it makes sense to drink only one brand of beer. In truth, brand loyalty in beer makes no more sense than ‘vegetable loyalty’ in food.
Can you imagine it? "No thanks, I’ll pass on the mashed potatoes, carrots, bread and roast beef. I’m strictly a broccoli man myself."
And for your information, tonight I’m drinking (and definitely recommending) Pilsner Urquell.
In a fortnight: 'When is your Pale Lager my Pilsner?'
Slainte mhath, Stu