Bucket beers have been on sale in a few locations for a couple of weeks now and the feedback has been fantastic! A frequent comment, however, has been that the Rhode Scholar which is often billed as a kolsch is not strictly true to that style.
Well, that is true enough. So why do we do it that way? When we craft a new beer, we’ll start off by making a fairly generic version of a given beer. There are plenty of style guides out there, as well as recipes online that one can pour through to find the common traits and ingredients of a given style. We do the research and then see what we get when we try to brew by the books. Once we have something good, then it is time to try and make it distinctive and unique to the Bucket Brewery.
At this point it comes down to individual tastes. Whoever is crafting the beer will try the basic version and think about what tastes they think will complement the style. Would the beer be better with a stronger citrus taste? Should it be sweeter? Drier? More or less bitter? Tweaks will be made across the board to try and hone in on exactly the taste we want. In the case of the Rhode Scholar, Erik favored the lemon and pepper flavors he managed to get out of his hop and yeast choices. In the upcoming Pawtucket Pail Ale, I worked towards a toastier, maltier base on one end and lots of hop aroma with a touch less bitterness on the other. Both beers have evolved for years as they were refined.
These changes can and do result in beers that aren’t strictly in the style they started out in. The Bucket philosophy is that we don’t care! The end result are beers that we really like, even if they don’t fall neatly into a category from a style guide. On the other hand, there are purists who believe that staying within stylistic norms is an art form and take pride in brewing something unique within those constraints. Indeed, that is a great challenge to work towards as well, though I think that it is limiting outside of being an exercise in precision.
So, which camp do you fall into? Should brewers stay true to style or feel free to go outside the lines?