The Case Against Styles
It was one of my first decisions, and it resulted in one of the first feature requests submitted. BeerRiot does not acknowledge “style” as an intrinsic property of beer. Beers are not classified by any of the terms people toss about in relation to beer today.
First off, what does it matter what style the beer is? If you like the beer, you like the beer. I want to try to help people not to pigeon-hole themselves. I’ve seen far too many people decline to try a beer because, “I don’t like stout.” (or whatever the style happened to be at the time)
What do you mean by “stout”? Terms are so overused these days. I’ve had stouts that are thick, thin, bitter, sweet, and different in many other ways. About all I can be assured of any more is that a beer labeled “stout” will be dark in color. That doesn’t help me in my beer selection. The same goes for other styles, but stout comes up often.
Is that stout really a porter? Not to harp on stout more, but it seems like a brewery will choose to call a beer either “stout” or “porter” depending on which way the wind is blowing that day. I’ve not heard a good explanation for the difference other than in official contest rules. Those rules seem not to apply outside the contests.
According to many beer afficionados, that which we call porter today has very little to do with the porter of yesterday. In fact, some say we don’t even know what made up the original porter. (Yes, I know those last two sentences can be contradictory – take them in the way that they are not so.) This seems to happen with more styles daily. Just a month ago I heard some pundit refer to “brown ale” as Altbier – a personal offense to one of my favorite styles.
Finally, what about those beers that really do span styles? Many, but by no means all, wheat beers contain fruit, which would make them fruit beers. But, there are fruit beers that are not wheat-based. Clearly a fruit-wheat beer fits in more than one style, and a separate fruit-wheat style seems like overkill.
So, given that styles don’t give much information, and that information is constantly changing, I chose to just leave the whole lot out.
However, I do recognize that more than wanting to know what kind of beer is being recommended to her, a rioter may want to explore a particular style of beer. For that purpose, I think tags fill the requirement nicely.
With tags, rioters can mark a beer “fruit” as well as “wheat”, “porter” as well as “stout”, or even just “dark-colored”. No endless debates about whether a beer should be moved to a different category. If the shoe fits, put it on. If no shoe fits, make another shoe.