You know, sometimes “educated” beer drinkers can really get under my skin. Particularly ones who have taken the BJCP course and passed the test to become certified beer judges. Does every single beer need to be pigeon-holed into a nice neat category?? Can’t you just drink and beer and comment on whether or not it’s drinkable?
A few weeks ago, I made an English ale. I used 8.5 pounds of Maris Otter malt, 0.75 pounds of medium crystal, an ounce of chocolate malt, Fuggles for bittering, EKG for flavouring, and then fermeneted it with Whitbread yeast. I think the OG was something like 1.054. You’d have to admit that this is definitely an English ale. Just look at the ingredients.
So last night I was sharing it with a few people and one of them asks “What style is it?”. I said it’s an English pale ale. He sips at it again and says “It’s a bit strong for that style”. So I reply “Well then, it’s an ESB”. He raises an eyebrow and tells me that it a bit too malty and perhaps not enough bitterness to be an ESB. Oh come on, it’s a nice English ale. Let’s just leave it at that.
This morning I checked the BJCP Style Guidelines. They don’t differentiate between English pale ales and ESB’s. They both fit in Category 8-C, which they label as “Extra Strong/Special Bitter (English Pale Ale). And this is their overall impression of the style:
An average-strength to moderately-strong English ale. The balance may be fairly even between malt and hops to somewhat bitter. Drinkability is a critical component of the style; emphasis is still on the bittering hop addition as opposed to the aggressive middle and late hopping seen in American ales. A rather broad style that allows for considerable interpretation by the brewer.
So there ya go!!