Author Topic: American ale is skewed towards West Coast examples  (Read 816 times)

Offline S. cerevisiae

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American ale is skewed towards West Coast examples
« on: July 15, 2014, 10:52:28 AM »
One thing that I noticed while taking the Beer Judging Exam is that American ale is skewed towards West Coast-style ale.  There is such a thing as East Coast American Amber Ale just as there is such a thing as East Coast American Pale Ale and East Coast American IPA, and they are radically different beer styles than their West Coast cousins.  Amber ale was considered to be a training wheel beer here on the East Coast during birth of craft brewing.  One of the beers that I judged was classified as an American Pale Ale, which to my senses was indeed a good example of West Coast-style American Pale Ale.  The proctors, who were from the DC suburbs (insert transient professionals here), dubbed the beer an American Amber Ale due to its reddish orange hue; hence, the beer took a serious hit for being out of style.  I shook my head when I heard the proctors state that the beer was actually an American Amber Ale.  To me, American Amber Ale tastes more like Fat Tire than SNPA. Sam Adams Stock Ale is a good example of East Coast American Amber Ale.  Sissons in Baltimore used to make a good East Coast-style American Amber Ale.
« Last Edit: July 15, 2014, 10:54:42 AM by S. cerevisiae »
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A pale ale losing points for being too pale is like a vicar being defrocked for being too godly. It is no wonder that beer judges get such a bad rap.  - Graham Wheeler

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: American ale is skewed towards West Coast examples
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2014, 11:03:14 AM »
To Americans in the 21st century, all 100+ beer styles are merely variants of West Coast IPA.  Hence the silliness of the drafted 2014 BJCP Guidelines where you can have an IPA of any color you want, white, normal, red, brown, black, blue, green, clear, purple.....

I agree that there is more to life... much more to life......
Dave

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Offline ynotbrusum

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Re: American ale is skewed towards West Coast examples
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2014, 11:31:07 AM »
Here! Here!  The hop insanity has run its course for me.  I rarely brew anything approaching 50 IBU's any more.  Modest early addition and a little aroma and the occasional dry hop addition and I am covered for most of my brews.

I laughed this past weekend when a group of 20 something's were sucking back several monster IPA's before a dinner.  I told them they should save some of their taste buds for tasting dinner!  They were pleasant and with our party group for a wedding rehearsal, so I did not press beyond that comment.  Yet, IPA's continue to dominate the taps of many fine craft beer serving establishments. 

After dinner I convinced a few to try a Dragon's Milk Stout for dessert - it was well received, for sure.  After that, they were on their own and left to their own devices....
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Offline dsmitch19

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Re: American ale is skewed towards West Coast examples
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2014, 01:29:44 PM »
There are certainly regional preferences in the US with regards to hop/malt balance. But, I would not call them different styles but more reflective of the range that a style can have. Generally, no one beer dictates a style (with the exception of maybe Anchor Steam...).

Anyway...I really hope the proctors did not base their conclusion on just the appearance of the beer since APA and amber can actually overlap in color, but rather that it was more like an American Amber Ale due to having more malt character (usually caramel), more body and possibly slightly less hop character than an APA. I would hope their scoresheets backed up their conclusion appropriately.

Did the exam administrator actually tell you what the beer was?
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Offline erockrph

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Re: American ale is skewed towards West Coast examples
« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2014, 03:00:27 PM »
The times, they are a-changin'

When I first started drinking craft beer Harpoon IPA was the standard for IPA in my area. Until recently if you ordered either "Harpoon" or "IPA" in most restaurants in southern New England you got a Harpoon IPA. I fear nowadays it would get dinged in an APA category as "not hoppy enough". I can't help but wonder if it would do better as an American Amber given its light copper hue.

Still, that seems to be the way the American craft beer palate has shifted. It's silly for the BJCP not to evolve with the times. But I agree that there needs to be some sort of regional distinction. The West Coast has certainly taken the lead in the craft beer movement, but that shouldn't be managed at the East Coast's expense. We make our fair share of damn good beer here as well.
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Offline Simon

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Re: American ale is skewed towards West Coast examples
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2014, 03:31:08 PM »

To make matters worse, you regularly hear the bad advice to home brewers entering a competition to "make it just a bit hoppier so your beer 'stands out'..."

I love a hoppy Amber, I love a malty Amber. Agreed the BJCP should have recognised that when looking at the style guidelines but they styles are also steered by what they are judging I guess.

That's the best thing about home brewing. We make the beer we want to drink. Pitch the style guide and load up your glass with your favourite Amber.

Offline S. cerevisiae

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Re: American ale is skewed towards West Coast examples
« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2014, 05:07:32 PM »
Anyway...I really hope the proctors did not base their conclusion on just the appearance of the beer since APA and amber can actually overlap in color, but rather that it was more like an American Amber Ale due to having more malt character (usually caramel), more body and possibly slightly less hop character than an APA. I would hope their scoresheets backed up their conclusion appropriately.

Did the exam administrator actually tell you what the beer was?

I spoke with proctors at length after the exam. They pretty much concluded that they graded it as being out of style.  The beer did not taste malt forward to me.  It tasted like a slightly orange-colored SNPA.   I was never told the claimed style of the beer, but I believe that it was left over from a contest.  It was definitely well-made home brew.

« Last Edit: July 16, 2014, 11:42:21 AM by S. cerevisiae »
Mark V.

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https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/forum/index.php?topic=19850.msg252492#msg252492

A pale ale losing points for being too pale is like a vicar being defrocked for being too godly. It is no wonder that beer judges get such a bad rap.  - Graham Wheeler

Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: American ale is skewed towards West Coast examples
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2014, 08:46:23 AM »
I agree, the east coast variants of styles have been almost completely eradicated by the BJCP in favor of west coast preferences. That would make sense if the easy coast styles were a dying breed but they aren't. If I were one to enter competitions and brewed east coast styles I would think strongly about entering them in the English categories.
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Offline dkfick

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Re: American ale is skewed towards West Coast examples
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2014, 09:13:09 AM »
If you brew a pale ale that doesn't fit the designated style then the specialty category is where you would want to enter it.  Explain what the beer is and why the beer doesn't fit in the APA or AAA categories in your description though.
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Offline rapurcell85

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Re: American ale is skewed towards West Coast examples
« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2014, 05:28:55 AM »
I believe the problem is that they DO fit the style guidelines, but hoppier beers tend to score better.

Offline ram5ey

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Re: American ale is skewed towards West Coast examples
« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2014, 06:40:23 AM »
I think well made beers tend to score better.  Judges are only tasting what is in front of them.  It's not like they are some kind of block that thinks the exact thing together, they all share opinions on style.  The guidelines do give quite a range on American ale and IPA and my experience is that competition location plays a bigger part than some overarching west coast bias. 

To also reverse my point, try finding a good non-west coast pale ale in the south....I know for me I can find Dales, Bells, but otherwise it's homebrew or brewpub....so it can be down to availability. 
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Offline S. cerevisiae

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Re: American ale is skewed towards West Coast examples
« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2014, 12:57:11 PM »
I believe the problem is that they DO fit the style guidelines, but hoppier beers tend to score better.

Most of the established East Coast ales would be judged as being out of style.  East Coast ale lies somewhere between British ale and West Coast ale.
Mark V.

Just say "no" to yeast rinsing
https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/forum/index.php?topic=19850.msg252492#msg252492

A pale ale losing points for being too pale is like a vicar being defrocked for being too godly. It is no wonder that beer judges get such a bad rap.  - Graham Wheeler