How did you choose the commercial examples?

We drink a lot of beer. Seriously.

Many of the officers and staff in the BJCP are truly committed beer geeks. We travel all around the world drinking beer. When we go on our beer excursions, we often take detailed notes and try to add to our commercial examples and also validate the style descriptions. It’s not as much fun as just drinking beer, but it gives us something else to do and sometimes you might wind up on TV doing it.

Many of the best commercial examples are listed in the reference books on the beer styles. Michael Jackson’s books are always a good source. We supplement these with our own tastings. We tend not to rely on Internet voting sites where anyone, knowledgeable or not, can rate their favorite beers. This kind of data is often unreliable since it is more of a popularity contest for vocal fans of breweries rather than an objective evaluation. However, these sites may give us ideas of beers that we want to investigate on our own.

The commercial examples undergo considerable review within the BJCP when the guidelines are being published, and they are also reviewed by our members. 

The Continuing Education Program is doing its own research of beers for various databases and projects, including a beer characteristics database. We used much of this data in reviewing the commercial style.

One of the hardest tasks in selecting and maintaining the commercial example list is tracking which breweries close or which product lines are discontinued. Several great beers were dropped from the commercial list because they are simply no longer being brewed. Sometimes these great beers do come back (e.g., Thomas Hardy’s Ale, Samichlaus, Kulmbacher Reichelbrau Eisbock, Okocim Porter), so we don’t always remove the beers from the list immediately. 

Finally, commercial examples change over time. Just as beer styles change, individual examples change as well. Just because a beer was once a great example of a style does not mean that it will always be a great example of the style. Sometimes the beer changes (with ownership change, perhaps) or sometimes the style trend changes but the beer doesn’t. Anchor Liberty helped define the American IPA style when it was created, but it seems much more like typical American Pale Ales today.