The Brewers Association’s missing styles

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News item: The Brewers Association has updated its Beer Style Guidelines, with definitions of 142 separate styles. The newest additions are Adambier and Grätzer.


SO, THE authoritative organization of small American brewers has reached back a few centuries and turned up a pair of thoroughly obscure smoked European wheat beers for its comprehensive directory. They join a list of everything from Leipzig-style Gose to good ol’ American malt liquor.

I’m a big fan of style guidelines (heck, I wrote an entire book about ’em) because they’re handy tools for brewers and drinkers seeking to understand the background of the seemingly endless variety of ales and lagers. Guidelines defining ingredients, aroma, flavor, alcohol and more are the basis for judging at the annual Great American Beer Festival.

Sure, the styles seem endless and even picayune. Nonetheless, I’m afraid this comprehensive list is missing some of the world’s grandest styles, namely:

Fraternity Beer. Indiscriminate lager with generous foam character and hazy memories. Served from an artisan half-barrel with ample hand-pumped oxygen for nuanced red-plastic-cup-like aroma. Light, fruity esters are evident, but you will be reluctant to comment on them in mixed company. Note: Varieties exhibiting actual flavor should be entered in the “Session” category. Subcategories include Beer Pong Beer and Chug-Chug-Chug!

Lawnmower Beer. An American-style lager with indeterminate color and aroma because it is always consumed directly from an aluminum can. Flavor ranges from cold to ice cold. American hops are present on the label. Subcategories include Tailgate Beer and My Old Man’s Beer.

Cult Beer. An imperial stout, triple IPA or sour ale brewed in extremely small quantities for maximum attenuation of the consumer’s wallet. Typically made with supplementary ingredients (don’t call them “adjuncts”). Barrel-aging is permissible if it tasted like crap after primary fermentation. Must be named after a czar or saint.

Green Beer. A hybrid style with post-fermentation chromatic enhancement, traditionally consumed and spewed in mid-March. Aroma is reminiscent of shamrocks and Axe body spray. A negligible degree of Irish extract may be perceived, to the consternation of many. Color ranges from Leprechaun to Blurry. Subcategories include Beer Bong and Spring Break.

Boilermaker. A light-bodied lager enriched with a concentrated, malt-based additive.

Chick Beer. Any beer with “winelike” flavor that totally doesn’t taste like that disgusting stuff they used to serve at college keggers. (See “Fraternity Beer.”) Complex and generally sweet, but it may exhibit a pronounced, bitter edge. Color is honey-blond with a totally hot body.

Imported Beer. Old-World style handcrafted by European master brewers and bottled in St. Louis. German varieties adhere to the fabled Reinheitsgebot, whatever that is. Perception of superiority is quickly tempered by residual regret at overpaying for an ordinary lager with a fancy label.

Session Beer. “Any style of beer . . . [whose] drinkability is a character in the overall balance.” Wait a minute . . . I’m not making that up. That’s an actual Brewers Association head-scratching definition of an invented style that can smell, taste or feel like anything, as long as it’s weak enough to drink all night. Aroma, flavor and body are reminiscent of a far stronger and superior beer.

Extreme Beer. The exact opposite of Session Beer.

Party Beer. Not to be confused with Fraternity Beer, this is any type of bottled ale or lager suitable for sharing at a friend’s party. The distinctive character of specialty ingredients should be pretentious enough to impress the host but pedestrian enough that, in the spirit of good manners, it can be left behind, unopened.

Dark Beer. Though technically a bock, porter, stout, brown ale or nearly anything other than pale American lager, all dark beer tastes the same. It’s strong and heavy and you won’t like it. Robust, roasty flavor is complemented by complaints that you “never drink dark beer.” Finish is yucky.

Free Beer. Unanimously regarded as the world’s finest style, especially when generously shared with friends. Unless it’s Michelob Ultra.


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