Brewers Association Releases 2023 Beer Style Guidelines
The Brewers Association has released its Beer Style Guidelines for 2023, with two major being made; West Coast-Style India Pale Ale and Dessert or Pastry Stout. The additions of both styles represent significant changes in commercially available beers in the United States.
The Brewers Association has compiled beer the Beer Style Guidelines since 1979 to aid brewers, drinkers, competition organizers, and judges alike. The Brewers Association relies on beer industry experts, physical beer analysis, and sources from commercial brewers from around the world as guides to craft this resource. The guidelines are reviewed and revised annually by the BA.
In the early days of craft brewing, many American brewers drew inspiration for their America-Style India Pale Ale from British-Style India Pale Ale. These beers typically would have a noticeable malt character. Over time, in order to emphasize the hop character, some American brewers began to brew their India Pale Ales with more pronounced hop character and less focus on the malt. The result is a beer lighter in color and drier in its finish with a high to very high hop aroma and flavor. While some brewers still brew the original version of the American-Style India Pale Ale, the category has diverged into two distinctly different styles. Both brewers and consumers have adapted the moniker “West Coast” for this divergent style as a nod to both the perceived area of origin as well as the location in the U.S. where the hop varieties typically used in this beer are cultivated.
The addition of Dessert Stout, or Pastry Stout to the Beer Style Guidelines reflects the increased commercial availability of these beers. Strong, sweet beers with a dark beer base, these beers incorporate culinary ingredients to create sweet flavor profiles that mimic the character of desserts or pastries. Wisely consumed as a digestif, this style of beer is perfect for generating conversation at the end of a meal.
Along with the new style additions this year, minor revisions and clarifications were made in several categories including European Dark Lager and American-Style India Pale Lager.
“As the collective styles of India Pale Ale continue to evolve, it is important that the guidelines reflect the innovations brewers have brought to the most popular type of craft beer,” said Chuck Skypeck, technical brewing projects director, Brewers Association. “The craft beer landscape continues to evolve worldwide. We want to ensure that our Beer Style Guidelines continue to be a trusted resource as craft brewers across the globe look to the U.S. for ideas and inspiration.”
The Beer Style Guidelines are a direct product and blend of historical significance, traditional authenticity, and popularity in the current craft beer consumer market. Adding in a style or modifying an existing style of beer is taken very seriously and is done after extensive expert consultation, research, and analysis of market factors. Another consideration when adding or modifying a style guideline is that commercially available examples are always in flux and may not be representative of historical versions or records of the style.
“With so many diverse beers being made, we rely on expert feedback to help identify styles that need to be added or updated to ensure the Beer Style Guidelines remain as current and relevant as possible,” said Skypeck. “Key to this process is the feedback provided by drinkers, brewers and judges from around the world which creates and maintains the brewing communities shared understanding of international beer styles.”
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