Wednesday, April 29, 2009

To Brew or Not to Brew (To Style)

I was listening to an archived episode of the Brewing Network's The Session featuring the brewers from De Struise, the 2008 Best Brewers in the World according to Rate Beer. The brewers stated that they brew to taste and that they were against the whole idea of having styles.

(In case you don't know, the beer styles are defined by the American Homebrewer's Association. Each style has a defined range for color and gravity, along with a desired flavor profile.)

There's definitely strong arguments for both sides of the debate: brewing to style can restrict creativity, but it's the only way to win a medal at a large, nationally known competition like the GABF. Breweries like Magic Hat who don't brew to style are unlikely to medal at those competitions, no matter how good their beer tastes. However, styles provide guidelines and allow us to categorize and compare great beers. Jamil Zanischeff has remarked that when you think you are brewing your own style, you're really just brewing another style.

What do you think? Do you brew to style or taste (or both)? Why?


Phillip J. Birmingham said...

I do both. Whatever I brew is usually roughly to some style, but I don't sweat too much whether I am using the "right" yeast, hops, or getting the correct gravity, color, and bitterness for the style. Taste is my guide there.

The American Don said...

I say brew what you like to drink. If you like a barleywine with mushrooms and apricot, then by all means make it happen. If you want to send it competition, then try to find something that fits.