Styles are evil, according to a well-known brewer.

OK, that’s not really a question, but a common comment that deserves to be addressed.

This type of comment often comes from people who misunderstand the purpose of our Style Guidelines. Our guidelines are descriptive, not proscriptive. That is, they describe similar beers as produced by world class brewers. Our guidelines are not meant to tell those brewers how to brew. As styles evolve, so do the guidelines (not vice versa). We cite commercial examples for our styles to help judges understand how they should taste.

A common argument is that styles inhibit the creativity of the brewer. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many of the styles in the BJCP Style Guidelines are very wide open, and allow significant creativity on the part of the brewer. Look at the English Mild and Old Ale categories for examples. If a brewer wishes to create and enter a totally unique and creative entry, we have the Specialty Beer category for just that purpose. Knock yourself out; just tell us what you intended so we have some idea of how to evaluate your beer.

Without beer styles, competitions would be nearly impossible to conduct. Judging would simply become a hedonistic event, where judges would simply pick beers according to their preference. The outcome would be totally arbitrary and would depend on the background and preferences of those who judge their beers. This is not a desirable situation.