"This beer pours with a 1.17 inch head that drops into a nice webby lace within 7 minutes. The carbonation rises from the bottom like giant hot air balloons on a hot summers day in Readington, New Jersy. The front end dances on your taste buds with a bit of intense citrus, finishing with an herbal note that a light breeze can blow off of your tongue. If you squeeze your eyes shut and grit your teeth, you can sense a faint note of matured Sugar Maple woodiness from Burlington, Vermont." Waiting for a punchline? There is none. It's just a mouthful of bullshit. Possibly great beer, but still bullshit. Today, we're going to sift through that bullshit and find out where beer reviewing went wrong.

The many shades of beer.

Oregon Brewers Festival 2006

Let's start by identifying the problem: What the hell are you talking about? If I read your review and don't know that you're talking about beer, there's a problem. If I learn about the scents from your grandfather's farm as the sun rises above the sunflowers, there's a problem. If you are trying to make use of that unused English Literature degree in your closet, don't write beer reviews, stick to novellas. If your Pale Ale tastes like a Pale Ale, stop there--don't try to suck something out of the beer that isn't there. Unfortunately, in the blogging age, quantity doesn't often equate with quality.

Of course, anyone can bitch and complain, but here at portlandbeer.org, we also provide solutions. When I sit down at a bar and open up your beer publication, I want to know what's out there and what to try. I don't want to know if the grain is willowy, or if the hops transport you to another world. Honestly, I don't want your opinion. I don't even want to know if you liked it. The only thing I want to know is what style it is and if it fits the BJCP style guidelines.

Oregon Brewers Festival 2006
The Portland beer community at the 2007 Oregon Brewers Festival.
For example, if you are reviewing an English Brown Ale, is it a Mild, Southern English Brown, or Northern English Brown--and of course, why? There's plenty to talk about right here: Aroma, Appearance, Flavor, Mouthfeel, etc. Oh, and if your a strict numbers person, talk about preferable ranges for Original Gravity, Final Gravity, International Bittering Units, and Alcohol By Volume for that style.

Now, once you make all of these comparisons, you may find that the beer does not fit it's intended category. Don't fret! If the statistics point toward a Brown Porter, maybe the intentions of the beer and the final product are a bit different. Too often, reviewers dismiss beer that is miscategorized. This beer might be a bad example of an English Brown Ale, but that alone does not make it a bad beer. It still could be the best Brown Porter in the world!

I want to read about a beer, see if it's a great representation of that style, and then put it on my to-drink list. That's it. Just give me the facts and let me decide for myself. Beer is too subjective to review without any guidelines to rely on. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to take the creativity out of beer reviews, I just want to make sure that they include facts about the style.