The function of categories and styles is to bring some coherence to comparison. There's just too much difference between a doppelbock and an IPA to meaningfully compare them side by side. But what happens when a brewery uses an alt yeast for its doppel and tosses in a few extra new world hops. Is it still meaningful to make a new category, or just compare it with other doppels?
Reasonable people can disagree, but I want to lodge my own personal, perhaps futile, protest right now. Looking through the current list (.pdf), I can see absolutely no justification for these kinds of distinctions:
Light American Wheat Ale or Lager with YeastOr the inclusion of these unnecessary categories:versusLight American Wheat Ale or Lager without Yeast
Fresh Hop Ale (new)Here's the thing, a fresh hop ale, to take one example, is brewed in a recognizeable style--usually pale ale. It doesn't need its own category. American styles are distinguished from their British counterparts by their hop character solely. Every time we get a new hop, we have to come up with a new style? Absurd. And imperializing something (there are now 47 categories for "imperial" styles) means you've just made a strong ale, not an Imperial or Double India Pale Ale. For the love of Pete, just collapse these damn things. Gluten-free beer? Really?
Ales which are hopped exclusively with fresh and un-dried (”wet”) hops.
American-Belgo Styles Ales (new)
These beers portray the unique characters imparted by yeasts typically used in fruity and big Belgian-style ales.
Garden Beer (Garden beer? Because you have to distinguish between "pumpkin" and "garden"--someone might use zucchini!)
American Style- (pick one, they're all unnecessary: strong pale, IPA, imperial IPA, red/amber, etc.)
I know that this creates a way for more breweries to win more medals, but that's actually a problem. I need six beers to win in the Light American Wheat Ale or Lager with (or Without) Yeast categories? No! It adds nothing to clarity and creates a huge headache for everyone involved as people try to figure out in which precise category a beer should be placed.
If I ruled the world, there'd be a lot more good beer available, but you'd know it by a lot fewer names.
[Note: post cleaned up for clarity of prose and bitterness of spleen.]