By Dennis Mitchell, with review and editing from Gordon Strong
The BJCP receives many questions about judging practices and correct usage of the style guidelines. Sometimes, these questions are sent directly to BJCP staff via email, but other times they appear on social media or other discussion forums. This new newsletter column will discuss some of these frequently asked questions. If you have a question that you think would be helpful to answer in the newsletter, send Dennis an email.
Q: Should I enter a fruited Berliner Weisse into Wild Specialty Beer or as a Fruit Beer?
A: A fruited Berliner Weisse should be entered as a Fruit Beer because it is a classic style with fruit added. Some brewers and judges have been confused by language in the guidelines, but BJCP President Gordon Strong clarified the intent of the Fruit Beer and American Wild Ale guidelines in a post on the BJCP Members Forum. His post can also be accessed here.
Q: If I add fruit or another special ingredient to an IPA, should I enter it as a Specialty IPA?
A: No. Your entry should go into one of the appropriate specialty beer categories. An IPA with fruit would be a Fruit Beer. An IPA with chilies should be entered as Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer. Specialty IPA entries should be reserved for widely accepted IPA modifications that usually involve more than just adding one specialty ingredient.
One way to think about this would is to think about what a competition entry write-up for a Grapefruit IPA would look like. It would be something like “American IPA with Grapefruit.” That’s not a new style, it’s a classic style with fruit added, so it should be entered as a Fruit Beer (this is the same logic used for the fruited Berliner Weiss example above). Most of the currently declared Specialty IPAs are style hybrids that generally go beyond taking a classic style IPA and adding a single special ingredient. Rye IPA is an exception, but Rye IPA is a clearly defined Specialty IPA style that is brewed frequently by both commercial and home brewers.
Q: In what category should I enter my super hazy New England IPA?
A: Specialty IPA. Unlike the fruit/spice examples above, the currently popular (and divisive) NE IPA is a unique take on the IPA style that involves much more than adding a single specialty ingredient. The NE IPA is balanced to fruity or tropical aroma and flavor hops with subdued bittering, a cloudy appearance, and a fuller, creamier mouthfeel. A short description should be provided until a standard BJCP style description is prepared.
Q: Where should I enter a Gruit since it is not on the list of Historical Beers?
A: As a Historical Beer. The introduction to the Historical Beer category specifically states that brewers can enter a historical beer that is not on the BJCP-defined list, as long as the entrant provides “a description of the style for the judges in sufficient detail to allow the beer to be judged.” In other words, entrants are not limited to the list of Historical Beer styles in the current edition of the guidelines. For something as broad as a gruit, a description of the specific entry is needed more than the general definition of gruit.
Q: Did Northern and Southern English Brown Ales get combined into the same style?
A: No. Northern English Brown Ales are now part of the new British Brown Ale style, which is much broader than the former Northern English Brown Ale. Southern English Brown was moved to the Historical Beer listings and renamed London Brown Ale.