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Beer Style Guidelines – What kind of beer is this?

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

Beer style guidelines are as numerous as the types of beers that you will find around the world. In fact there are different types of beer styles… styles of beer styles if you will. One organization that produces beer style guidelines is the Beer Judging and Certification Program (BJCP). They have a long list of beer style guidelines. Another organization that created beer style guidelines is the American Homebrewing Association (AHA), who publishes even MORE styles than the BJCP. Both offer copious amounts of information pertaining to any beer style that you can imagine.

For the home brewer, learning the details of the beer style guidelines is a natural progression. One of the first things I learned was the difference between ales and lagers. This was quite a fascinating discovery and fueled my curiosity and need for more brewing equipment. From there, I went on to explore the categories and branch out into brewing different styles. I have not tried the Rauchbier (smoked beer) category yet, nor the sour ales or lambics, but there is always something new to try! At this point, when brewing for personal use or a party, what really matters is having fun.

Home brewers should begin to consider guidelines more closely when crafting their own recipes. When it comes to entering beer into a competition, the guidelines must be given careful attention. For most competitions, the judges will be comparing your beer against the standards set forth for the category. One path to becoming a master taster is to become a BJCP certified judge. The best way to start is to join your local home brew club and inquire.

bjcp guidelines

BCJP currently has approximately 70 styles of beer, plus a handful of classifications for meads and ciders. AHA has over 120 styles and gets very intricate with subtle differences between categories.

BCJP guidelines include descriptions of: Aroma (smell), Appearance, Flavor, Mouthfeel, Overall Impression, History, Comments, Ingredients, Vital Statistics (OG, FG, IBU, SRM, ABV). Commercial examples are also provided. I found these useful when I wanted to try a commercial variety.
The following websites will guide you to both BJCP and AHA beer styles. Cheers!

AHA Website: http://www.beertown.org/
AHA Guidelines: http://www.beertown.org/education/pdf/BA_Beer_Style_2009.pdf

BJCP Website: http://www.bjcp.org/
BJCP PDF Guidelines: http://www.bjcp.org/stylecenter.php (available in web or PDF format)

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