Archive for bjcp

Beer Counselor #2

Posted in beer with tags , , , , , , , on April 15, 2015 by cueball

I get a lot of questions about beer styles.  We have a lot of people who are just getting into craft beer or have gotten into craft beer but think IPA is the only craft beer and it is certainly the only one they have ever drank. So, this week, I will describe the major beer styles.

Beer is primarily broken up into two major categories:  ales and lagers.  Now, lager beers are bottom fermented (for the most part).  They ferment at cooler temperatures and for longer periods.  That makes them clearer, crisper, and cleaner in appearance and taste.

Ales are top fermented and the first style of beer discovered.  They ferment at a higher temperature, close to room temperature and have a shorter fermentation time.  They tend to have a fruitier aroma and more complex taste and the yeast can sometimes hang around giving a cloudier appearance.

Now under each of those groups there are numerous styles.  This will not be a complete list.  There are far too many styles and substyles for a beginning craft beer drinker to absorb.  Depending on who you go to for information there are somewhere over 70-90 different styles.  For a complete list here is the Beer Judge Certification Program and the list from the Brewer’s Association.


  • Lagers – Malty and darker than pilsners.
  • Pilsners – Crisp, light, and a brighter hoppiness then lagers.
  • Bocks – Similar to pilsners, but maltier.


  • Pale ale – The style that started the craft beer revolution in the United States. Light appearance with a touch of hop bitterness and flavor.
  • IPA – A pale ale with more hops and more alcohol. Originally created to withstand the trip from England to India in 18th and 19th centuries. Adapted by American brewers to be as hoppy as humanly possible
  • This is the biggest question I get: What is the difference between a pale ale and an IPA.  I often get told by customers I like pale ales when what they mean is I like IPAs.  They are different categories and have different attributes.   First level beer nerdery:  knowing the difference between an American IPA and an American Pale Ale.
  • Brown ale – Maltier and darker than pales. More toasty and chocolate in taste then pales but still has a good hop presence.
  • Porters/Stouts – Really dark in color and little to any hop taste. Can be sweet are really dry in taste.

Then there are smoked beers, sour beers, Belgian style beers and other random hybrids.  Smoked beers use malt that has been smoked with some type of wood.  Sours are usually made sour by some type of wild yeast or bacteria introduced during the fermentation process.  Belgian style beers are a variety of fun sours and fruit based beers that deserve their own blog post.  Hybrids are beers that combine the yeasts and fermenting processes of lagers and ales.

If you are a craft beer newbie this should be a good start in craft beer.  If you want to go even more in depth I would recommend the Beer Judge Certification Program website and the website to get started.  Those are good resources for anyone at any level of craft beer nerdom.


Stuff You May Need To Know About Craft Beer

Posted in beer with tags , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2013 by cueball


Beer Styles

  • Indian Pale Ale (IPA) – Originally, a British Pale Ale with a lot of hops added so that the beer could last the long trip from Britain to India before the advent of refrigeration.  Now it is a hoppier version of a pale ale.  Currently, there are 3 sub-styles: British IPA, American IPA (hoppier), and the Imperial (or double) IPA (hoppier still).
  • Pale Ale/Brown Ale – The basic British tradition beer styles.  The difference between the two is the brown ale is darker (of course) and a little sweeter due to the different malts used.  As with most beer styles originating in Europe the American versions are more.  More hops, more malt, more alcohol.
  • Porter/Stout – Porters are strong, dark beers first brewed in Britain with little hop profile.  Stouts are a darker, even stronger tasting version.  Often described as chewy or meaty.
  • Pilsner – A lager.  Usually pale in color and rather light in taste.  The most popular beers style worldwide.  Budweiser, Coors, Miller, Heineken.  Often described by craft beer aficionados as “fizzy water.”
  • Lager versus Ale – This difference is due to the yeasts used to brew these styles.  The lager yeasts ferment longer, at colder temperatures, and provide a “cleaner” taste.  Ale yeasts ferment quicker, at warmer temperatures, and give off more flavors.

Style and Tasting Stuff That Can Make You Sound Kind of Smart

  • IBU – International Bitterness Units, the measurement of the hop bitterness in the beer.
  • ABV – Alcohol By Volume, how much alcohol does your beer contain.
  • SRM – Standard Reference Method, is a measurement of the color of the beer.  The higher the number the darker the beer.
  • Lacing – The bubbles left on the side of the glass from the head as you drink your beer.  A good beer in a good clean glass will leave a nice lace.

Pretentious Style and Tasting Stuff You Don’t Need To Know Yet But Might Hear If You Hang Around Any of Us Homebrewers Too Long

  • Diacetyl – A butterscotch flavor found in some beers.  If too prominent it is an off taste and signifies an unsuccessful beer.
  • DMS – Dimethyl Sulfide, definitely an off taste found in lagers that are fermented at too high a temperature.
  • Original Gravity – Original gravity.  Basically, the amount of sugars in the wort before fermentation.
  • Final Gravity – Final gravity. Basically, the amount of sugars found in the beer after fermentation.  Helps tell you how much alcohol is in the beer.

What Does This Remind Me Of?

Posted in beer with tags , , , , on February 24, 2013 by cueball

Beer tasting should answer 5 questions.

  • What does the beer look like?
  • What does the beer smell like?
  • How does the beer feel in my mouth?
  • What does the beer taste like?
  • Do I like it?

As a taster you should be able to answer those questions intelligently in language that anyone can easily understand.

I want to ask a sixth question with my tasting notes:  What does this beer remind me of?  For me beer, bourbon, music, and literature all have emotional memories for me.  I associate tastes and sounds with specific moments and I think about that every time I take a drink.  I may not write about the specifics of moments, but I want to relate those memories in a general sense to what I’m drinking and why I do or don’t like it.

The deeper into craft beer you get the more you will find that different types of judged competitions have different guidelines they follow for judging beer.  For judges at large competitions (BJCP sanctioned) it is not enough to judge how good the beer tastes, judges also look to whether a beer is a good representative of the style.  Each style has certain guidelines that define appearance, aroma, feel, and taste that it has to meet to get first place.  The most common style guides are the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Guide, the Brewer’s Association Style Guide, and the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) Style Guide.

Now, for most normal people, you taste a beer to see if you like it.  Again, the deeper you are into craft beer the more you kind of care about whether a beer meets the style benchmarks, but even then, you are just trying to find something worth drinking.

As a slightly abnormal person, I drink a lot of beer and have begun to develop my palate to taste differences in beers within styles.  It can be a fun experience to be able to taste something and say, “That isn’t quite what I expected from an IPA.”

Take my recent experience with the Devil’s Britches IPA from Highland Brewing.  I bought it knowing it was IPA.  However, when I started drinking it, I knew something was different about it.  I had gone in with the expectation of your average hoppy American IPA (a distinct style under BJCP, Brewer’s Association, and GABJ style guides).  Instead, as soon as I tasted it, I knew something was different.  It is what Highland calls a “red” American IPA.

Now, as a normal beer drinker, I was surprised by the taste of this particular beer, but grew to quite like it the more I drank it.  I have recommended this beer to others.  However, I don’t know how it would fair in a beer competition in its style.  It might push the limits of what an American IPA too far to win any BJCP competitions.  As a beer drinker, that does not matter as long as I like it.

It is entirely possible that the best tasting beer in a competition does not fall into any of the prescribed guidelines and the worst tasting beer in the competition hits every guideline perfectly.  Luckily, even if the beer doesn’t hit all the guidelines, judges worth a crap will still give it high marks if it tastes good (it still probably won’t win) and they will kill a beer that tastes like crap.  They are after all beer fans.

All of that is to say this:  In the tastings and notes I will do for this blog (it will be such a sacrifice) I will respect the style guidelines the BJCP has set down, but I will not let those style restrictions decide on what I recommend.

Next up I’m going to give a short glossary of terms.