Do you ever wonder what exactly the definition of a certain beer style is? What’s a classic Irish-style dry stout, exactly? What’s a Belgian-style Saison by definition? The place to find those exacting explanations is through the Brewers Association and its Beer Style Guidelines. In fact, the association has just released its 2013 Beer Style Guidelines. Updated annually, this year’s version defines 142 styles of beer, up from 140 in 2012.
Compiling the guidelines annually is a collaborative effort, and the 2013 version incorporates more than 100 suggestions from U.S. and international beer judges and experts, brewers and beer lovers. This year, Adambier and Grätzer styles were added for the first time. Both are historic pre-Reinheitsgebot styles that are making a slow revival among U.S. and international brewers. Adambier and Grätzer are historically smoky ales, with the former thriving in and around Dortmund, Germany, and the latter brewed primarily in Poland.
Changes were also made to the guidelines for American wheat ale, reflecting a growing trend in the craft brewing and homebrewing communities by which all-wheat grists are used in the brewing process.
As consumers and beer judges generally use their senses of sight and smell before they taste a beer, the descriptive text for virtually every listed beer style has been updated and reorganized to reflect the order of the beer sensory experience. The guidelines now focus first on appearance, aroma, flavor and finish, in that order. They also include vital statistics on each of the 142 styles, including ranges for: original gravity/plato; apparent extract/final gravity; alcohol by weight/volume; and bitterness and color.
“These guidelines are first and foremost an educational tool, but they also help to illustrate the United States’ role as a leading beer nation,” said Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewers Association. “The Brewers Association toasts America’s small and independent brewers, including homebrewing enthusiasts, who continue to push the evolution of style guidelines with their innovative brewing and ingredients.”
Since 1979, the BA has provided beer style descriptions as a reference for brewers and beer competition organizers. The beer style guidelines developed by the BA use sources from the commercial brewing industry, beer analyses and consultations with beer industry experts and knowledgeable beer enthusiasts as resources for information. Much of the early work was based on the assistance and contributions of beer journalist Michael Jackson and Fred Eckhardt. The guidelines are used in some of the world’s most prestigious beer competitions, including the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup.
The 2013 beer style guidelines are available for download at BrewersAssociation.org.