A brew by any other name

Posted on February 13, 2012


On an interpersonal level, there are few things that can start a beer-related argument as easily as the opinion on tasting/judging to style. This basically comes down to there being two basic opinions about how to assess the overall quality of a beer: Is this a good beer? Or, Is this a good (style of beer). For example, is Yuengling Traditional Lager a good beer or is it a good American lager? Many a discussion has started over this exact question, and often ends with everyone agreeing to disagree.

It is important to note that this is not about professional judging, which is always done to style. This is more about people sitting around a table or at cashier’s counter discussing the beer at hand. An important aspect of tasting to style is that there are many layers of understanding and bias behind both the beer itself and the assumptions behind it.

What people have read or heard about a style can alter their expectations or willingness to appreciate the style. One of the reasons some beer drinkers give for dismissing the American style lager produced by Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors is a perceived dislike of beers produced with adjuncts, ie corn. This is partly because it has been stated and (many times) repeated that the use of adjuncts results in a lower quality beer. Some people will then extrapolate this information and dismiss any beer that they hear uses adjuncts. However, this does not take into account the fact that there is a long history of using adjuncts in beer and that many highly regarded beers use adjuncts. 1 With regards to large American brewers, perhaps they should have their own style: large production, American style adjunct lager. This style could be looked at from a larger perspective, being judged on aspects such as consistency across batches and durability. These are areas of brewing in which these brewers excel.

With regard to specific styles, first impressions can be extremely strong and limiting. When encountering a new or unfamiliar style, someone might dismiss the beer completely if they do not like the style. Someone might refute the beer, to others or on beer forums, unfairly. Or, if someone’s first experience with a new or unfamiliar style is with a poorly done beer, they might extend the impression to all beers in the style, which will limit their further adventures into this style.

† I personally think that Yuengling Traditional Lager is a great beer and a great American lager.
1 “Who’s Afraid of a Big Bad Adjunct?” All About Beer Magazine.  Ken Weaver. March 2011. http://allaboutbeer.com/live-beer/brewing/ingredients/2011/03/whos-afraid-of-a-big-bad-adjunct

Posted in: Consumption