Continuing from BJCP Update Part 1 – History of Beer Styles, we delve into the 2014 proposed changes to the BJCP Style Guide.
A small revision in 2008 caused a small hurricane of grumbling – one would never have guessed it was a minor update from the uproar, but that’s what happens with passionate people.
Now, the BJCP has announced the next long-awaited update (through a presentation by Gordon Strong) – and whoo BOY, it’s a DOOZIE! Huge changes proposed throughout, even different information to be specified by the entrant for some beers. I will step through it all with you here, as now is our time to review and comment. In general, there was some effort put into simplifying the descriptions and names to reduce confusion and redundancy.
- For one thing, all of the comments such as: “No diacetyl.” are being eliminated – as judges, we should primarily be looking for what IS supposed to be there. Unless the style states it is acceptable, assume that it isn’t.
- Many descriptions are being rewritten to focus on the experience of the taster and less on the ingredients and/or process – we judges can guess all we want about what was done, but our job is to evaluate the final product.
- Many descriptions are just being simplified but removing unneeded information.
- Likewise, many style names are being simplified. The original idea was that Jackson’s special bitter, best bitter, and premium bitter were similar enough to consider one style (although there were subtle differences originally) – common practice has led to people actually referring to the style out loud, saying: “special-best-premium bitter,” which was not the intent. To make things easier on everyone, this style is now simply best bitter.
- Many styles being updated or added have suffered from years being interpreted from an American view and are being corrected to properly reflect how they are viewed in their countries of origin.
- Some beer styles have been moved around to avoid beer judges facing a category that has low- and high-ABV beers in the same grouping.
- Some categories have been split or added to allow more-similar flavour profiles to be isolated together (such as smoke beers being separated from wood-aged beers).
- A few styles currently require Descriptors. Fruit and specialty beers need to name their base style, meads have to list sweetness, strength, and carbonation, etc. This concept is being HUGELY expanded. Styles that now have required Descriptors include IPAs, lambics, and pretty much every kind of specialty beer – many with several different required Descriptors.
- For conventions of this post, I will be colouring the text for the beer styles. Red text will signify a 2008 style or category name, while green text will signify the 2014 names. If something is being called out as a specific required Descriptor, you will see it in orange text. If a name remains black, it is just being used for descriptive purposes. I hope this helps to keep things clear.
Okay, so why don’t we step through the changes, shall we?
Light Lager Category
- Lite American Lager renamed to American Light Lager (for consistent naming conventions).
- Standard American Lager renamed to American Lager, which now includes the lower-ABV range from Premium American Lager.
- the former high-ABV range of Premium American Lager renamed to International Pale Lager.
- Munich Helles remains the same.
- Dortmunter Export renamed to German Exportbier.
- German Pilsner has been renamed German Pils and moved to the Light Lager category.
- German Leichtbier added (like an American Light Lager with German character).
- Kellerbier added (both Munich and Franconian variants). This may be listed as two separate styles, or it may be one style with the variant (Munich/Franconian) needing to be listed as a Descriptor (how I have shown it in my tables).
- It is possible that Munich Helles, German Exportbier, German Pils, and German Leichtbier may be grouped as some sort of German Pale Lager style as all be listed as Descriptors.
Category 2 – Pilsner / Czech Lager
- Pilsner is dead as a category – it is now replaced with Czech Lagers. A new catchall category for all flavours Czech, it includes the new styles of Czech Light Lager, Czech Amber Lager, and Czech Dark Lager.
- As mentioned above, German Pilsner has been moved into the Light Lager category.
- Bohemian Pilsner remains as the anchor for the category, although it is now being called Czech Pilsner.
European Amber Lager
- A new catchall style, International Amber Lager, heads the category, including all of the amber lagers that are not distinctly Czech – sort of the lager equivalent of American Amber Ale.
- Vienna Lager remains the same.
- Oktoberfest/Marzen is being split up. The traditional copper malty Oktoberfest ale shall hence be known exclusively as Marzen. To Germans, a beer known as an ‘Oktoberfest’ must have been brewed by a Munich brewery and served at the Oktoberfest event – something most of us can’t manage. To avoid issues with the semi-appellation, the choice is for the more historical name of Marzen, or March beer (when it was traditionally brewed).
- What is served at Oktoberfest in Germany today is NOT Marzen. It is a much lighter style, often called Wiezen. With some confusion already stemming from the similar names of hefe/dunkelweizen, Berlinerweisse, weissebier, and witbier, the powers that be have decreed Festbier to be a much more descriptive name to use. I can’t disagree with that.
- Dark American Lager renamed International Dark Lager.
- Munich Dunkel remains the same.
- Schwarzbier (Black Beer) naming simplified to just Schwarzbier.
- Maibock/Helles Bock naming simplified to just Helles Bock.
- Traditional Bock is more descriptively Dunkels Bock, as it is called in Germany.
- Doppelbock and Eisbock remain the same.
Light Hybrid Beer
- Cream Ale, Blonde Ale, and Kolsch remain the same
- American Wheat or Rye Beer has been simplified to just American Wheat Beer. Rye-centric beers are now meant to be in the Alternative Grains category (except for rye IPAs – more on that in the next post).
- By popular demand from long-clamouring Aussies, the Australian Sparkling Ale style has been added
Amber Hybrid Beer
- Northern German Altbier has been eliminated and subsumed into International Amber Lager – although you can probably still list it as a Descriptor.
- California Common Beer renamed to simply California Common, reflecting current usage.
- Dusseldorf Alt renamed simply to Alt.
In BJCP Update Part 3 – Ales and Specialty Beers later tonight, I will continue the review of the proposed changes. Time for a beer break for me!