An obsession with a beer's style can obscure rather than illuminate

 

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Beer drinkers are obsessed with style. Not sartorial style, by and large (I can hear the snickering about beards and sandals from here), but beer style: that is, what category a beer fits in to. Is it an IPA or a pale ale, a Weissbier or a Witbier?

There's value in this. For those who are new to beer (and even those who aren't), style boundaries offer an idea of what you're getting.

The problem is that an obsession with style can obscure rather than illuminate. Plenty of beers fall between the cracks or simply defy categorisation.

One solution is to keep creating new styles to reflect craft beer's burgeoning diversity. That's what they do across the Atlantic: there are 90 categories judged (incorporating 138 styles!) at the Great American Beer Festival. There's a huge variety of great beer in the US, but that's silly.

I heard Sam Calagione, founder of the influential American craft brewery Dogfish Head, talking about style at a dinner hosted by Tottenham's Beavertown a few weeks back.

His brewery struggled in the early days, he says, because so many of his beers did not fit within neat style guidelines – until, that is, the great beer writer Michael Jackson wrote glowingly about them.

That's ironic, because Jackson was really the first to talk seriously of beer styles, back in the 1970s.

Perhaps now, though, it's time to look beyond the framework he left us.

Three to try

Camden IHL

A lager with the potent pine-heavy punch of an IPA. Much too drinkable, given its strength. 6.2 per cent ABV, coming soon, beermerchants.com

BrewDog Vs Weihenstephan India Pale Weizen

The world's oldest brewery collaborates with Scotland's noisiest. 6.2 per cent, £2.60 for 330ml, brewdog.com

Share Partizan Iced Tea Saison

Possesses a bewitching citrus, tea-tinged aroma. 3.8 per cent, £2.70 for 330ml, eebria.com

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