2021 BJCP Beer Style Guidelines Update

The 2021 BJCP Beer Style Guidelines

by Gordon Strong, BJCP President Emeritus and Chair, BJCP Style Guidelines Committee

The 2021 edition of the BJCP Beer Style Guidelines are complete and will be published shortly. This update is a minor revision to the 2015 guidelines, similar to the 2008 update to the 2004 guidelines. The term ‘minor’ confuses some people, so let me explain. There are significant changes to the guidelines, but the structure and naming of beer styles are mostly the same. When styles have been added, they tended to be added so as not to cause changes in the association between the style numbers and names. This was done intentionally so as to minimize disruption on those studying for exams and entering competitions.

While the structural changes are minor, each individual style description has been reviewed, edited, and updated to remove outdated or redundant material. Duplication was eliminated when Aroma and Flavor descriptions exactly matched. Consistent language, grammar, and usage has been introduced, and the guidelines read with a single voice. The Introduction and Glossary have been expanded, and better cross-referencing of styles has been introduced. A completely new Introduction to Specialty Beers section has been written.

We reviewed all submitted suggestions, and clarified areas that had been reported as confusing. The Entry Instruction section of styles have been revised. The History sections have been updated based on the latest references, and were reviewed by beer historian Ron Pattinson. The Characteristic Ingredients sections have been rewritten to read less like recipes. All Commercial Examples have been revised, and minor changes have been made to some Style Parameters. Color descriptions and SRM values are in better alignment.

Sour Beers received major attention. There are expanded fault and descriptive terms in the Glossary for sour beers, and consistent terminology has been adopted throughout the style descriptions. Brettanomyces is worded to not always imply a funky character. Berliner Weisse allows fruity Brett. Flanders Red and Brown ales allow balanced acetic character. A new Straight Sour Beer style has been added to allow use as a base style in other beers, such as fruited kettle sours.

Sweet Beers also received attention, with lactose being allowable in specialty styles previously mentioning only fermentable sugars. The definition of sweeteners in beers has been loosened to cover additional products. A Specialty Spice Beer style has been added in a similar manner to the existing Specialty Fruit Beer style.

There are a few name changes and style moves. Gose moves from Historical to European Sour, reflecting its new popularity. Kellerbier moves to Historical and is rewritten to cover Pils, Helles, Amber, and Dark base versions, and is more of a specialty-type style now. Grape Ale has been added to fruit beer. Italian Grape Ale remains unchanged as an Italian style of beer having originated in Italy. The Trappist Ale category is now named Monastic Ale, and the Trappist Single style is now Belgian Single. Clone Beer has been renamed to Commercial Specialty Beer, and the style description rewritten. 

Some styles moved from web-only Provisional Styles into the main guidelines. New England IPA was renamed Hazy IPA and joins the IPA Category. A new Brut IPA style was added to Specialty IPA. Catharina Sour and New Zealand Pilsner move into the Local Styles section for Brazil and New Zealand, respectively. 

The guidelines gain some flexibility in the use of future Provisional Styles between guideline updates, and now have a new Style Entry Suggestions page on the website to describe where to enter some emerging styles that fit into existing categories. The Mixed Category Beer style has been rewritten to allow for more flexibility in using non-standard ingredients and methods as variations of existing styles, not simply fusing existing styles. Specialty styles allow for a wider range of ingredients, and the Specialty IPA and Historical Beer categories retain their flexibility for user-defined styles in competition.

Watch the BJCP website for more news when the guidelines will be published. They will be released yet in 2021, initially as a Word document and later in web forms. Future announcements will describe the phase-in schedule for exams and competitions. Third-party translations and formats will certainly follow. Comments, suggestions, and corrections can always be sent to [email protected]. Share and enjoy.

Note: Updated on 12/15/2021 to clarify language about Grape Ale and Italian Grape Ale.