Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Points for pondering, courtesy of the GABF's revised style guidelines.

Early June is when breweries receive their registration packets for the annual Great American Beer Festival in Denver Colorado, which will take place this year from October 11-13.

If you’ve ever wondered, draft beers for the festival's public tasting sessions make their way to Denver in Microstar kegs via Anheuser-Busch’s distribution network. Meanwhile, beers for the medals competition judging must be bottled (or canned) and shipped separately.

It’s doubtful that NABC will participate in 2007, and this decision has nothing to do with politics or my traditional ambivalence about Charlie Papazian's empire. We’re small, money’s finite, and we feel it is better spent taking entertaining tasting trips to regional festivals like this Saturday’s 12th Annual St. Louis Microfest in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Great Taste of the Midwest in Madison, Wisconsin on August 11.

Having noted that, I’m always interested in the yearly tweaking of the GABF style categories and sub-categories, and for this reason I’m reprinting the text of competition manager Chris Swersey’s message to brewers. The complete style list can be viewed here.

These annual refinements represent an effort to match judging criteria to current trends and realities, and while some always represent progress – the addition of American-Style Sour strikes me as indicative of wonderful things – others denote regress, as in the case of German Oktoberfests no longer being distinguishable from Dortmunders. That's quite sad, isn't it?


The 2007 GABF competition is just around the corner, and I hope that you will enter your beers and be a part of the fun – there’s nothing like the rush you get during the awards ceremony on Saturday afternoon. Be sure to look over the style list and the style descriptions very carefully before submitting your entry form. As usual, there are a number of big changes to the categories that need pointing out – don’t use last year’s category numbers when you complete your entry form!

I also want to point out a recent trend in American-Style Pale Ale, Strong Pale Ale, IPA and Imperial IPA entries. During the past four years, the style descriptions for the American-style Pale Ale family of beer styles have evolved to the point that the essential differences reflect alcoholic strength more than any other single quality. We have received numerous comments from brewers, judges, and consumers which indicate that there is confusion regarding the alcoholic strength of beers entered in particular categories, with respect to the brand name of the beers themselves. For example, a brewery could intentionally under-enter a strong pale ale in the pale ale category, with the idea that the beer might outclass the competition.

The GABF has no intention of policing entries for compliance by alcoholic strength. Analyzing entries is impractical and expensive, and more importantly, this role would subvert the function of the judge panel. Over the years, the judge panel has told us what makes great beer, and we plan to continue to let them. With this in mind, the judge orientation this year will include a taste calibration session that focuses on alcoholic strength, along with a reiteration of the comments that we have received regarding alcoholic strength. Please be sure to enter your beers in the appropriate category based on alcoholic strength as well as other factors.

Okay, here’s a list of some of the changes you’ll see in the style guidelines:

Category 4d – we’ve added Pumpkin Beer as a subcategory to fruit or vegetable beer.

Category 10 – Other Low Strength Ale or Lager – a new counterpart to category 73, Other Strong Ale or Lager.

Category 12 – Gluten Free Beer – This rapidly growing product segment now has its own category.

Category 13a – American-Style Sour Ale – an exciting new category for mixed fermentation beers that reflect American brewing on the cutting edge.

Category 16 – Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer – ditto.

Category 19 – Smoke-Flavored Beer – greatly expanded subcategories to reflect the broad range of German-style smoke beers.

Category 20 – International-Style Pilsener - Renamed the old European-style Pilsener to reflect the broad origins of adjunct lagers from around the world.

Category 24 - Dortmunder/European Style Export or German-Style Oktoberfest/Wiesen (Meadow) – This category reflects the current market reality that current-day German-style Oktoberfest is indistinguishable from Dortmunder or Export.

Categories 59-62 – Reorganized the Belgian-style categories based on feedback from judges and brewers from both the United States and Belgium.

Category 70b – Added an American-style Imperial Stout. We plan to continue the Pro-Am Competition this year. This is a special competition that will be judged by the same professional judge panel that evaluates all GABF entries.

Good Luck at the 2007 GABF, we'll see you in Denver this fall!

No comments: