Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The Highest Form of Beer? (An attempted Beerage)

When you don't blog for over a week, there is always the danger that one will lose the essential thrust, the purposeful desire.  Here then is a sketched discussion, as a means to stimulate the creative juices once more.

I was sipping a sour beer this evening in the Post Office Vaults, a Petrus Aged Pale to be precise.  It was delicious, but then again all "Sour Ales" are, aren't they?  And if indeed this is the case, are Sour Ales an inherently prestigious style of beer, a style which is automatically enjoyed by beer fans because of their provenance and heritage?  Perhaps, in order to obtain status within the beer drinking fraternity, appreciation of the more 'refined' beer styles is a sort of marker on the path to enlightenment, a bit like moving along Scientology's Bridge to Total Freedom or whatever.

Now this is an interesting discussion in itself, but what I really wanted to have a bash at here, was a sort of rough outline of where some beer types might feature in a hierarchy of styles.  If the average lager lout thinks John Smiths Extra Smooth has too much flavour, then Lager must be lower than John Smiths according to a/the/my theory of beer appreciation.  But then again, even lager fans recognise higher forms of lager - Becks or Peroni, as opposed to Carling or Stella Fosters.  The status quo is constantly rocked by trying new beers.   All beer fans have gateway beers - beers which perhaps move them a notch up the beer hierarchy.  For my part, I tried Hoegaarden and it made me want more flavour.  Later I tried Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and it opened my eyes to new hops.  See what is happening here?  One's palette is developing and this leads to appreciation of styles which are seen as 'better'.  But what is the prescribed/recommended consensual route up the ladder?  And what's at the top.

Using my general observations and with an eye on the Ratebeer rankings, here then is my peerage, or, if you will, my beerage.

(n.b. levels are indicated by numbers, with most prestigious at the top, duh.  Styles which are of roughly equal standing, stand next to each other, duh).

So how does that look?  An initial examination for sure, but does it strike a note of sanity, or is it complete cobblers?

p.s. If someone could put this into a Powerpoint style organisational chart, I'm sure this idea could be presented in a much more illuminating way.

p.p.s. Someone (maybe lots of people) have probably had this same discussion, many times before.  A cursory Google search didn't reveal these discussions, but if they do exist, and I have subconciously pinched these ideas, then I apologise.  


  1. Not sure we have seen anything like this before. To put it another way, you're ranking beers in order of 'accessibility' -- the extent to which they are an acquired taste?

    Would be interesting to see sales figures for each category. (But probably impossible to get.)

  2. Yep, the [admittedly vague] thinking behind this is:
    i) That there is a hierarchy amongst beer styles - e.g. people respect Tripels, more than they respect Milds. I see this pecking order as being akin to heraldry - i.e. an Earl is better than a Viscount, which in turn is better than a Baron.
    As for why they might respect one beer style over another, this could be because:
    ii) It is more of an acquired taste. Perhaps every beer style has a 'difficult'rating, which leads to styles being conquered in a typical order, as the palette develops.
    iii) Perhaps rarer, or more difficult to create beers automatically generate a better 'difficulty' rating, on account of the difficulty in acquiring them. If this were true, then Sahti or Gose would be near/at the top.
    iv) Snobbery factor - beers which are more expensive (probably aligned with low distribution) automatically scores a better difficulty rating, so oak aged ales are rare, because fewer of the population are seeking them out and are consequently expensive and highly regarded.... but then again, would more people seek them out if they were more well known and/or cheaper??

    Sorry, I'm disappearing up my own backpassage here.