Beer styles: To stay or stray? 3

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?

3 thoughts on “Beer styles: To stay or stray?

  • Bill Wardyga

    Brewers should stray outside the box, as I am always searching for that unique beer that offers a new flavor to tickle our tastebuds. However that being said a brief description of the beer in its name, i.e. your maple stout identifies your stout is not a regular stout. As for a kolsch, so few breweries make a good kolsch. So if I am ordering a kolsch, thats what I would expect. Although I have not had the opportunity to try your kolsch, your description of it seems to make it closer to a saison then a Kolsch.
    P.S.-Why aren’t your beers available in Pawtucket yet?

  • Don

    beers are loosely categorized in commonly accepted groups. the brewer should at least let the taster know what group he is sampling. that way his taste sense can hone in on other beers that he may have sampled over his/her lifetime. for a brewer to be so egotistical to say that his brew is unique or that they do not care is beyond the pale. (no pun intended).

  • Jon Landis

    Both! Some brewer should stay true to style, others should completely mix it up. There is plenty of room in the craft beer world for everyone, purists and extremists alike. You seem to have found your niche, so take it and run with it.

    “The end result are beers that we really like..”

    You said it there yourself. If you are brewing beers you don’t enjoy then there is a problem.

    I feel that if you try to please both extremes, chances are you will fall short on both ends. Better to figure out which side you gravitate towards, what you enjoy most, and work that angle as best you can.

    Personally, I enjoy both types of beer, both traditional and unconventional. It just depends on the mood I am in, what I feel like drinking. I am thankful that there are brewers out there that stick to a path and provide me with the options that my palate and appetite desire on any given day.

Comments are closed.