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Monday, October 12, 2009

Not Sure I'm Convinced

Charlie Papazian, who may be the high priest of American beer classification, takes on an interesting topic: when is a double IPA a barleywine? Through the bulk of his post, he goes through two styles, Double IPAs and Double Red Ales, pointing out that except for slight variations, they look a whole lot like barleywines. His conclusion:
There is overlap with some of the most fundamental characters, notably alcohol levels and hop bitterness. So why are there separate style categories for these two beers that on the surface resemble barley wines?

Neither the barley wine ales nor the double India pale ale and imperial or double red ale descriptions make a point that barley wines are primarily intended to be aged. Double India pale ale and imperial or double red ales are designed to have a bright hop character that is fresh and assertive. These beers are not stylistically intended to be aged. The brewer’s intention is to present a fresh, bright and lively beer to the beer drinker.
So, Double IPA = green barleywine, so sayeth the high priest (I really want to call him the Pope, but I don't want to offend any Catholics out there). I couldn't make a better case that there are too damn many styles.

(My vote: you have a single category for stong ales into which you dump all the double and imperialed beers--stout excepted. You have your IPA, your strong ales, your barleywine. Done.)


  1. With the chance I sound really dumb...they taste different!

  2. Mr. Beervana, do you distinguish between ordinary and double IPA by IBU value or ABV percentile? And what value?

    I decided on IBU [vis ABV] and settled on 65 and up as Double / Imperial / 2X.

    Is your criteria the same for Double Red Ale as for Double IPA?

    Charlie Papazian suggest Double Red Ales are defined by IBU 65-85; if so, then Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale [65+ IBU] is a double and Bear Republic Double Red Rocket Ale [~115 IBU] is a barley wine; not a beer.

  3. In the world of commercial beers styles are more about marketing then classification anyways. For competitions though I like the plethora of styles, even if I agree there's too many.

    Let's say your judging between two beers, both in the same category, both technicaly great beers, but different flavor profiles. Both flavors are common representations of the style so lets say you split it (ie classifying beers as northwest style). Splitting the style would allow both beers that are technicaly great to be honored. Awards wouldn't be effected because the category would remain the same, but the beers would be competing against each other for the category, and not for the style.

    Also as time changes flavor profiles change. So the guy that's making the IPA according to the old rules and tastes could be at a dissadvantage when competing against a beer brewed to current tastes. You split the style then each beer is judged on different merits.

  4. Oh.... have I've been gone to long?


    "I couldn't make a better case that there are too damn many styles."

    Categorizing is a pain in the ass. I like beers that are outside of any category. But, would you say there are too many categories of apples or pears? After all... it's just a pear and just an apple. ;-}


    "Let's say your judging between two beers, both in the same category, both technically great beers, but different flavor profiles."

    As a beer judge, I understand what you are saying 150%, but this is too heady for some of these readers. ;-} It's like trying to describe the difference between a Dopplebock and Eisenbock or an ESB and a Pale ale or PABST and a Keystone......

  5. If we're spending waaaay too much time obsessing over over beer styles whilst down't pub, then we're likely losing at Scrabble. Share and enjoy.

  6. @Mike Winslow

    Pears and apples are grown and beer is brewed. The raw ingredients that go into making the heavier ale styles may have only slight nuances, but new varieties of apples actually have different lineages. Save this type of tangent for a discussion on hop varieties.

  7. A lively discussion...

    [Do] you distinguish between ordinary and double IPA by IBU value or ABV percentile? And what value?

    I think the question here is does the Brewers Association (and Papazian) make that distinction--and the answer is yes. By both measures.

    Jared, I think you outlined the Brewers Association's rationale nicely. And in one sense, I'm not offended. There are conservatively 10,000 beers brewed annual in the US. If we say that 5% of them are exceptional, that's still 500 beers--way more than will get recognized. Since they're not split evenly across styles (everyone brews a pale ale; few brew lambics), you want to subdivide the big categories. On the awards side, it makes sense.

    Problem is, these categories have a pernicious quality of stickiness. They begin to have the appearance of objectivity. That's where I part ways with the rationale.

  8. @ Ryan

    Hmmmmm.... sounds like you learned a lot from working a bottling line. ;-}

  9. I did, Mike. Invite me out for a beer sometime and I'll tell you about it.

  10. @Ryan

    Sure Ryan.... Lets' have a beer.

  11. All I know is that there are a lot of Double IPA's that taste like Barleywines... and those are the ones that I don't care for.. such as Rogues IIPA, etc etc... way too big of a malt profile... I like lighter, more bready IIPA's like Dorado, Pliny... etc...

    So I'd say the ones that are malt bombs are infact over-hopped barleywines... and the ones that aren't... are real IIPA's. Just my opinion.

  12. Well, Ryan!! The Doctor offered to have a beer with ya! Are ya going to take him up on that offer or are ya scared?


  13. Check your gmail account much, Mike?

  14. @Ryan

    I checked my Gmail account.... I have no emails from a Ryan.

  15. "Sent: Tue 10/13/09 11:23 AM

    When and where is a good time for you?

    ryan hirscht"

    OK, since that didn't work, how about Monday, 3PM at Belmont Station?
    BTW, I ain't buying beers for the Wort Crew and/or your multiple personalities.

  16. @ Ryan

    Funny I didn't get that email...

    3PM?! Do you not work? Try my gmail account again with a date and time that reflect the working people of this world.... ;-}

  17. Did someone from Beervana really say: Too many Style Categories?!

    Joe's not dumb, just stating the nuance in style difference. I think it's not entirely ABV either. I look for bigness in other areas of complexity...and think sometimes a few BW's should be in a Category called Xmas Ale.

    I am one of the group of Brew Crew Members who host a series of DIFFERENT STYLE Imperial Tastings each year. (I host Imperial Stouts, and we Tasted 31 this year) We opened 41 distinct Barleywines in May 2009, our 6th year for this particular Tasting. We do separate tastings for Belgians, and for Imperial IPA/& Double Reds.

    IMO, Imperial IPA and most Doubles appropriately do not make the cut for the BW Tasting. One can argue IBU's and similarities all you want, IMO, but there remains an experiential difference. Heat is not the same as light. And most the BW's we share are Aged...hence more rare, and evolved in flavor thru process.

    There is already a broad range among the Aged, higher Alcohol Brew collectors who Cellar look for among Barleywines. At 8-10%, a double's aroma and flavors may abound, but they, with some exceptions, are *ususally* just not in the Barley-WINE class, IMO. That said, many of the more complex the Imperial/Double, as in oak aged and bourbon-barrel brews DO approach the heat and scintillating complexity I look for in a BW. But I think the BJCP was right in adding a separate Style for that, too. Vive la difference!