Gratuitous advertisement for Stone Go To IPA.

Style Bending and the death of the BJCP

The other night on Facebook, I posted a statement that went like this :

If you set down a Lagunitas Daytime, a Stone Go To IPA and a Firestone Easy Jack, you are guaranteed three freaking delicious beers, but if I had to choose just one, Easy Jack would be the winner.

It’s easily my new desert island beer.
#craftbeer

It garnered quite a bit of discussion, starting off with the reminders of other similar beers that I had missed, Karl Strauss Mosaic Session, Founders All Day IPA, Pizza Port SIPA, etc.. All of which are AMAZING beers.

What struck me as odd is that no one expressed any concern with the idea that these beers are NOT IPAs, but are style bent Pale Ales that are over hopped. I know some of you are rolling your eyes and I totally get that .. but bear with me.

For the purpose of this article, I am going to pick on Stone’s Go To IPA.

According the BJCP, the style guides are as follows:
10a “American Pale Ale” :
OG: 1.045 – 1.060 IBUs: 30 – 45     FG: 1.010 – 1.015 SRM: 5 – 14     ABV: 4.5 – 6.2%

14a “American IPA” :
OG: 1.056 – 1.075 IBUs: 40 – 70     FG: 1.010 – 1.018 SRM: 6 – 15     ABV: 5.5 – 7.5%

Stone’s Go To IPA is at the bottom of this scale at 4.5% ABV … the SRM is in the lighter range of a Pale Ale but there is also a lot of overlap in SRM so we are also in the lighter range of the IPA, but the IBUs… oh my, the IBUs roll in at a whopping 65 … more then 20 points higher than the Pale Ale range and nearly at the top of the IPA range, so which is it?

If you all remember your 2012 & 2013 craft beer controversy list ( is that a thing? ) you’ll remember that back then it was all the rage to be disgusted by anyone who called a dark hoppy beer a “Black IPA” … There was the crowd that insisted that they were to be called “Cascadian Dark Ales” — obviously that was the Pacific Northwest crowd.  The argument centered around the fact that IPA stands for India PALE Ale, which clearly isn’t ever going to be a dark beer.

During those dark days of civil war in the craft beer world, I was a proponent of the idea that IPA was no longer an acronym, but had taken on its own meaning and designation, among the overall community, and I think a lot of people agreed with that, and in the end, people call dark hoppy beers Black IPAs or Cascadian Dark Ales depending on where they live, and there is no “real” style for it.

The take away from that particular argument was that brewers showed that ultimately they are unconcerned with the BJCP style guides when it comes to brewing, something we all kind of knew already, and that they are content with brewing beers that they can drop into the specialty category #23 and not worry too much about the possibility of winning awards.

Which brings up my next point.  The death of the BJCP as an organization that establishes styles.  Can this organization maintain any sort of relevancy when their standards and guidelines are completely ignored by the industry which it is geared at?  The BJCP as an organization is just as much at fault for this as the brewers that ignore them.  If you visit the BJCP website : http://www.bjcp.org and click on the style guide links .. you will see something that should offend you far more than a dark ale being referred to as a pale ale .. the style guides have not been updated since 2008.  Are you kidding me?! We’re in an industry that has new beers released pretty much every day .. new boundaries are being tested, and broken just as often, and let’s face it .. is this industry, or the product it creates even remotely recognizable from where it was in 2008?

The purpose of the BJCP as stated in their website is :

The purpose of the Beer Judge Certification Program is to:

  • Encourage knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the world’s diverse beer, mead, and cider styles;
  • Promote, recognize, and advance beer, mead, and cider tasting, evaluation, and communication skills; and
  • Develop standardized tools, methods, and processes for the structured evaluation, ranking and feedback of beer, mead, and cider.

Can they really fulfill this purpose if they are not keeping with the creators & innovators of the product they are trying to promote and standardize? And is standardization of craft beer even a possible goal?

Part of what makes craft beer so spectacular is that it’s punk, it’s hard core, and frankly it don’t give a fuck about standards! The standards have become a way for us to get a starting point of what we should imagine we will be trying and then we go from there.  So in our discussion above about a “Session IPA” .. where do you start.  If you said a low ABV beer that has been hopped nearly to death .. you deserve a cookie.

So where do we go from here?  Do we as a community of consumers really care if breweries are releasing beers that don’t fit within a style?  I mean really, what is a White IPA?  It’s FUCKING delicious, that’s what it is.. beyond that, does it matter?

Also, do breweries RELY on awards as much anymore?  I capitalized “rely” because awards still matter .. they matter a lot, but are they the end-all, be-all that we judge a brewery by now?  I don’t think so.  Social media, and especially Untappd,  have created a network of beer judging that is far more telling then who won gold in the cream ale category of last years GABF.

So does this mean the death of the BJCP?  Is that a death that we as consumers would mourn, or even notice?

Personally, I hope not.  I think the BJCP is a necessary organization, especially with the influx of new brewers and breweries.  In my opinion, style bending is an art form, and one that should only be attempted by brewers who have proven themselves.  Whenever I try a new brewery, with a fresh new brewer, and they hand me a barrel-aged 18% stout, I think .. that’s great, but can you brew a pale ale .. to style?  It’s far too easy to brew huge ABV or massively hoppy beers that you can bury a plethora of brewing errors behind.  So, in my opinion, it’s important for new brewers ( especially home brewers ) to learn and respect the style guidelines that are in place, and when you are able to brew good quality, stylistically correct beers, then you can go out and start pushing the boundaries and bending the styles to your whims.

In the meantime, I am going to enjoy this new era of sessionable IPAs.  I am going to revel in the low ABV hoppy delights that are being created and hope that we can all realize that no matter what a beer is styled after, or whether the beer is in the proper style, that when it’s tasty and delicious, that’s all that really matters.

Cheers!

CraftBeerPride

Coming Out to Craft Beer

Life is very stifling inside a closet … at some point everyone has to come out, but how does that work, and how far does acceptance go, especially in a male-dominated, “Man’s man” industry like craft beer?

Speaking in generalities, the craft beer industry is one of the most supportive and amazing communities I have ever had the privilege of being apart of.  Newer breweries can usually expect that more established breweries will help and support their growth, and newer brewers can usually count on tips and tricks from the more experienced out there.  The blogging community, and social media world is embraced by craft brewers and within all of that, the craft beer drinkers are some of the most fun people in the world to party with.

Yes, all of that is generalities.  We hear about breweries suing each other all the time, there are breweries that think bloggers are just free beer leaches ( and some of them are ) and sometimes someone into drinking craft beer can be the douchiest mother fucker you’ll ever meet..  but thankfully they seem to be few and far between.

So you might be thinking .. “Dude, it’s beer.  What’s it got to do with being gay?”

Well, a lot actually, and this is a question that straight people, seem to ask a lot.  It’s true that being gay doesn’t affect my taste in beer ( something marketing companies should realize .. LOL ) It doesn’t affect my ability to properly taste, and appreciate a beer, and then convey that experience to an audience.

So why does anyone “need” to come out to the craft beer community?

Well being gay is about a heck of lot more than who I choose to take into my bed.  The same way that heterosexual people don’t define their sexuality simply by who they have sex with.. it’s defined by who they love, who they want to be apart of their life, who they want to share everything with and who is most important to them.

I don’t need to ask a straight person if they are straight because in the course of a 5 minute conversation, I will hear about their wife, their kids, their girlfriend, etc etc etc.  It flows easily and is considered completely normal.  In that same conversation, I will stifle the use of the word boyfriend, I will ditch an entire story in favor of not exposing the fact that I have a same sex partner.  Simple PDA becomes impossible. I can’t walk through a grocery store with my boyfriend and hold his hand, or give him a peck on the cheek.  These things are the equivalent to “throwing my sexuality in their face”.

In the beer community, we like to party.  Every weekend there are hundreds of beer fests, brewery anniversary parties, new brewery openings, etc. etc.   For someone who is in the closet, they have to resign themselves to the fact that they will attend these events alone, or with their significant other at arms length, which is profoundly sad.

For me, when I made the choice to come out publicly, I struggled with what that decision would do to the audience that we had built up with New Brew Thursday.  What would that mean for the friendships I had made with brewers all over the country.  Would I be welcomed like I had in the past, or would there be a bit of snickering going on behind my back when I was at a beer fest?

My experience, was a mixed bag.  From the industry as a whole, the acceptance and support was overwhelming.  Every beer event I attended someone in the industry would come over and hug me, and tell me how proud they were that I came out.  Some even, privately, came out to me.

From the community of craft beer drinkers, it was a little different.  We saw a sizable dip in the viewership of the show, which rebounded eventually, and I had a few run ins with people who would recognize me and come over to let me know that they use to watch the show, but didn’t anymore cause “I don’t need no fag telling me what to drink”. That was an extreme example, mostly people expressed annoyance that my sexuality had to play a part in a show about beer, and so they stopped watching.

My experience, however, has not been the same for others who have made their sexuality public. There are some who have not found that acceptance in the community, and some have even left the industry to do other things because of it, and that’s sad to me.

In the recent past, we’ve seen lots of positive support from the community though.  For instance, Sam Adams took a public stand and boycotted the St. Patrick’s day parade due to its exclusion of LGBT marchers.  In San Diego, we have the very first LGBT Brewery, Hillcrest Brewing Company, which I have sadly not been able to get to yet, an oversight I plan to remedy very soon.

Hillcrest-Brewing-Company1

Also, in Utah of all places, Wasatch Brew Pub and Brewery released a beer called “Live and Let Live“, a response to the equal marriage rights debate going on in Utah.

wasatch_brewery

BrewDog brewery released “Hello My Name is Vladimir” specifically targeted at Vladimir Putin with 50% of all proceeds going to organizations that support suppressed minorities.

cMshWC3

The BMC side of beer , embraced the gay community quite some time ago, largely due to the fact that they are a market with a lot of expendable income.  Every gay pride event is, of course, sponsored by Bud Light.. ick. There is a brewery in Mexico that brews beers specifically aimed at the gay community.  While I appreciate the sentiment, those beers are generally just playing to stereotypes and do more harm than good.

As a community, I would say we do well in our inclusiveness, but there is still A LOT of work to do.  This industry is still very straight male centric, and large groups, like the LGBT community and especially the female community feel left out, and sometimes even pushed out.  Groups like the Pink Boots Society have been formed to give women a platform and a voice in the industry, and to show that they can brew some bad ass beer! I look forward to a time when the industry doesn’t lazily market to stereotypes and that the craft beer industry can show its pride in the LGBT community, can accept its women as equals and can show the world that an inclusive craft beer community is a stronger more amazing craft beer community!

The bottom line? We’re queer, we’re here, and we love craft beer!  Get used to it. ;)

Are you an LGBT craft beer fan?  How do you feel about the community and its level of acceptance and support?