Page 15 - Beverage MasterAprMay 2021
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Craft Brewery

               fermentation, it’ll certainly pick up some haze.
               Does that make it New England Style? We may
               never know.

                 It’s not an unfamiliar debate. A decade or more
               ago, beer industry veterans will remember a similar
               debate around Black IPA. How could you possi-
               bly call it an IPA? After all the P stands for “Pale.”
               We’ve had Brown IPAs, Red IPAs, Belgian IPAs, Brut
               IPAs, Session IPAs, Hazy IPAs, Juicy IPAs, and even
               IPLs. “India” is one of the most over-used meaning-
               less words found in beer styles, yet the industry is
               happy to pedantically argue about every word that
               happens to land anywhere near it.

                 The industry is both obsessed with style classi-
               fications and their definitions and crippled by its
               hyper-focus on them. At the largest beer compe-
               titions in the world – The Great American Beer
               Festival and the World Beer Cup – beers are judged
               as “best” by how closely they adhere to style
               guidelines written and maintained by the all-holy
               gatekeepers of beer, the Brewers Association. The
               US-based organization essentially functions as the
               worldwide arbiter of what makes a beer “authen-

                 Here’s the problem. Brewing “to style” is not a
               measure of quality, and customers would rarely
               recognize it if it were.

                 The arcane and specific definition of beer styles
               emerged at around the same time as the coun-
               try’s first craft breweries with the 1985 found-
               ing of the Beer Judge Certification Program
               (BJCP) by Pat Baker of the Home and Beer Trade
               Association along with support from the author of
               The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, and veritable
               Godfather of Craft Beer, Charlie Papazian. From its
               originators, it seems quite clear that the purpose
               of defining beer styles was to further interest in

                 Using styles as an educational tool created a com-
               mon language for homebrewers to learn how beer
               differed around the world. It created a framework
               for writing about historic origins and context. It
               gave homebrewers a language for their dreams
               of recreating that beer they had when they were
               traveling right in their own kitchen. It gave them
               the ability to share recipes with other homebrew-
               ing enthusiasts in a shorthand that they could all
               recognize, to save the countless hours that would
               otherwise be needed to explain over and again the
               nuanced differences between an American Brown

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