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Old 06-02-2010, 06:02 PM   #1
Forbein11
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Default BJCP Guidelines vs. Commercial Guidelines

I could use some help sorting something out. I've brewed a hoppy amber ale that I would like to enter into a competition. I'm trying to decide what category to enter it in. It fits sort of into the pale ale cetegory and sort of into the American amber category. I've tried to look at the commercial examples to sort it out, but I am finding that they are not a great guide.

For example. The American amber guidelines for IBU's go to 40 max. However, many of the commercial examples cited show up on their respective websites as 50+. (eg. Northcaost Red Seal and Troegs Hopback amber).

This ale has some carmel flavor and is also hoppy. Beersmith has it at over 45IBU's.

How does one determine a category to place this in? Where I think it will do best? Do both and see how it fares in each? (That's 6 bottles though, 3 extra I don't get to drink).

And maybe more importantly, why do the commercial examples not match the style guidelines (maybe it's just because they are guidelines not absolutes)?

I'd like to get feedback but also for the beer to do well.

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Old 06-02-2010, 06:16 PM   #2
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They are guidelines and not absolute for sure. A judge will not be able to tell the difference between 40 and 45 IBUs, so you're ok. It even can work to your advantage to have a beer that is at the top end of the spectrum in those regards because it'll stand out against the rest. If it has a big malt backbone and is darker in color, I'd enter it as an amber.

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Old 06-02-2010, 06:30 PM   #3
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The guidelines don't match because the BJCP is a design target and the commercial ones are limited to production examples.

As far as competitions go, there ain't no "hoppy amber" category. So, you can enter it as an amber and take a hit on the excess aroma or as a pale and take a hit on the color. Or Cat. 23 Out-of-style variations of existing styles (e.g., low alcohol versions of other styles, extra-hoppy beers, �imperial� strength beers)

Needs to be repeated: BJCP is about brewing to style, not creativity.

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Old 06-02-2010, 07:10 PM   #4
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Why not enter it in both, and see how it fares?

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Old 06-02-2010, 07:21 PM   #5
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Thanks for the help. I think I will enter it as an Amber. I say hoppy amber, but I do not mean IPA hoppy. It is more along the lines of a Magic Hat Roxy Rolls. I hope that I do not get dinged for the hoppy flavor/aroma. It is a very balanced beer even though it is somewhat hop forward. If it scores lower based on hops, I'll later enter it as an APA as I will definitely brew this again.

I figured that the BJCP guidelines were just that...guidelines, but wanted to hear that I guess. Some of the competition stuff sounds so specific it is difficult to tell what is actually required. Hard to know where the line lies when judging against a standard vs. judging for a good beer.

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Old 06-02-2010, 08:16 PM   #6
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I think you are focusing way too much on the numeric parameters. BTW, Red Seal is 42 IBU per the North Coast website.

Obviously someone though the Troeg's Hopback Amber was a good representation of the style as described despite it not matching up numerically. Another factor is that sometimes beers change over time, the guidelines are only edited every several years.

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Old 06-03-2010, 02:22 AM   #7
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"Commercial guidelines" are set by the marketing department. In other words, if they think it will sell better with "stout" on the label it's a stout. If they think it will sell better with "porter" on the label, it's a porter.

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Old 06-03-2010, 02:49 AM   #8
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Yea, there are no guidelines telling breweries what to call thier beers. If you start looking at a lot of Belgian beers, they are labeled all wierd. The label might say "tripel", but in reading the description, you might find that its really a BGS.

For competitions, don't really focus on the #'s (IBU, SRM, OG, SG). A judge probalby won't be able to perceive something within a 10ish IBU range. Most styles have a pretty wide range anyways. No judge will calculate the SRM. If its supposed to be a pils and its amber, thats a problem though. For gravities, unless its unusuably boozy or weak, it won't really matter.

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Old 06-03-2010, 02:51 AM   #9
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Well I think the issue here is that the commercial examples for American Amber Ale promulgated by the BJCP include Troeg's Hopback Amber.

There are many examples of a beer outside in one parameter being included, though many are named (Old Peculiar and Eliot Ness come to mind).

The only thing that is important is does the beer embody the style as written. The numerical parameters are there to draw a box that most beers embodying the style will fit in. They are not and can not be meant to exclude beers, because beer judges will not know them.

Also some beers (Ellie's Brown comes to mind) change over time and move out of a style they were once a good example of.

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Old 06-03-2010, 12:33 PM   #10
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Thanks for all of the insight.

Hope I did not cause any confusion by saying "commercial guidelines" instead of "commercial examples" that are listed by BJCP.

I'd assumed the numbers provided were guidelines and mostly I wanted clarification of that from either judges or those with more experience in competitions than I. I have only previously entered 2 competitions and the beers fit squarely into a particular category. I just want to make sure I get the best feedback I can to improve my brewing process or a particular beer that may be close to being quite good.

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