Author Topic: BJCP Classification of Heather Ale?  (Read 932 times)

Offline Viper Mike

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BJCP Classification of Heather Ale?
« on: September 08, 2016, 03:33:25 PM »
I am renewing my interest in homebrewing Heather Ale with an eye towards competition. While the 2008 BJCP guidelines used to cite Fraoch (probably the best known commercial heather ale) as a commercial example in the Spice/Herb/Vegetable beer category, this reference no longer exists in the 2015 guideline. That category also asks brewers to identify the base style of the beer, indicating it does not have to be a classic style. This is good, because heather ale, though an ale from Scotland, does not conform to the Scottish Ale style(s), or any other base beer for that matter. It is uniquely heather ale, apparently tracing its roots back some 2000 years and long predating the advent of hopping. So my question is this: is heather ale still stylistic category-wise an herb beer, or does it better fit into the new-for-2015 guidelines 'Historical Beer' category? It is not one of the eight beers currently listed in that category, but by the guideline description that does not preclude it from being categorized as an historical beer...
« Last Edit: September 08, 2016, 03:42:58 PM by Viper Mike »
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: BJCP Classification of Heather Ale?
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2016, 04:01:25 PM »
WWGD (What would Gordon do)?  I dunno.  This is a great question.

I find it extremely unfortunate that herb/gruit lovers were given no obvious category to put our beers besides 30A Spice Herb or Veg, where the instructions state "the entrant must specify a base style", and about 90% of your competition then will be pumpkin spice beers (yuck).  I don't know if Fraoch has a base style, but maybe it's something like an 11A/B/C British bitter, but with heather instead of hops.  That might be as close as we can get in the new guidelines.  Then if they ding you for "not enough bitterness for a bitter", ugh.

You could try entering it as 27 Historical too, but then they ask you to write your own effing style guideline for them which would be a PITA, plus is it very likely that the judges will never see anything that you wrote, either that or you'll tell them what to taste based on how it really tastes and then they'll simply check the box, "yep, tastes malty and a little floral, no bitterness".  Yay.

Prior to the new guidelines, we'd just throw it into Category 23 Specialty with all the other weirdos and judge it based on its own merits, with no need for guidelines.  I don't think that system was broke and didn't need fixing.

Clearly I'm pretty well fed up with the new guidelines and my bottom line advice might be just to save your money, skip the competitions, and enjoy all the herb beers yourself and among good friends and family.  My apologies to those who've made it this far and disagree and now want to argue with me.

EDIT: Hey, I forgot about this!  See below response straight from Gordon Strong on the BJCP forum regarding the very same topic.  I'm not saying this is the best answer but it represents another viewpoint from a respected source:

« Last Edit: September 08, 2016, 04:46:11 PM by dmtaylor »
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Offline Viper Mike

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Re: BJCP Classification of Heather Ale?
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2016, 06:44:39 PM »
Okay, Dave thanks. That is as good an approach as any, and kind of where I thought it should go. The problem with the spice/herb/veggie category where a base style is not obvious, is that the beer gets judged by a standard (judge dependent) that is almost irrelevant to what is in the bottle. I recall one judge recording that they weren't even sure what heather was and then going on and on about the floral quality of the hops. At least with the historical category there is scope to contribute to a standard description such that the beer is both judged on practical merits/flaws, and that the uniqueness of the style will hopefully be articulated over time, and maybe even find a place among the eight already described in detail. I actually tried to resolve this through the BJCP forum, but that community is reserved for certified and aspiring judges. That ain't me...

Mike
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: BJCP Classification of Heather Ale?
« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2016, 07:49:37 PM »
I actually tried to resolve this through the BJCP forum, but that community is reserved...

I did too, in a manner of speaking, but I don't think they like my attitude.  Can't say I blame them, as there's more than enough egoism on these interwebs and especially in there... and not just my own, either.   ;D
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Offline brewinhard

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Re: BJCP Classification of Heather Ale?
« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2016, 09:36:15 PM »
Does your heather ale contain a significant portion of wheat?  If so, you may be able to enter in the S/H/V category as simply "wheat" beer with heather (and maybe describe to the judges what they should be looking for). Just a thought. 

You could also enter it in both S/H/V and historical category and see where it scores higher. Then you will know for next time where it fits best and gets scored best. You may be surprised.  I have done that before in comps where a beer runs a fine line between two categories (or even subcategories).

Offline toby

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Re: BJCP Classification of Heather Ale?
« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2016, 02:12:21 PM »
Generally speaking, I would enter a Heather Ale or a Gruit as a historical style (27) since those are historical styles, assuming they're trying to be true to traditional examples of those styles.  There's no requirement for there to be a written set of guidelines if you read the Entry Instructions section.  Just specify it as a Scottish Heather Ale in the description.  Judges should be able to look up descriptions for that relatively easily.

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: BJCP Classification of Heather Ale?
« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2016, 03:12:50 PM »
Judges should be able to look up descriptions for that relatively easily....

...assuming they've got smart phones.  I just got mine for Christmas last year.  ;)
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Offline toby

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Re: BJCP Classification of Heather Ale?
« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2016, 07:06:16 PM »
Judges should be able to look up descriptions for that relatively easily....

...assuming they've got smart phones.  I just got mine for Christmas last year.  ;)

Welcome to the 21st century! ;)

Offline brewinhard

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Re: BJCP Classification of Heather Ale?
« Reply #8 on: September 09, 2016, 11:29:38 PM »
Judges should be able to look up descriptions for that relatively easily....

...assuming they've got smart phones.  I just got mine for Christmas last year.  ;)

Welcome to the 21st century! ;)

He didn't say he knows how to use it.... :D

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: BJCP Classification of Heather Ale?
« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2016, 12:14:07 AM »
Judges should be able to look up descriptions for that relatively easily....

...assuming they've got smart phones.  I just got mine for Christmas last year.  ;)

Welcome to the 21st century! ;)

He didn't say he knows how to use it.... :D

I actually use it for reading homebrew forums way more than for anything else.  :)
Dave

The world will become a much more pleasant place to live when each and every one of us realizes that we are all idiots.