I spent a few hours at a friends house last night, sharing some beers and just hanging out. This friend is one of my friends that has ties to Germany. So its always a good time when I have some German style beers ready to share. Last night’s tasting group consisted of Rum Rebellion, Da Rye, Session Bitters, and the dopplebock.
Through the course of the night we talked about beer styles and a little bit about contests. It was when we were drinking the Rum Rebellion that brought into this discussion. You see, from the time I started entering beers into contests I started placing my beers into two different categories at home; contest beers and non-contest beers.
The categories are pretty straight forward when you understand how I work it. The non-contest beers are experimental and are hard to truely define their category. Rum Rebellion is one of these types of beers. It is based on an ESB but after it has sat on oak it becomes something completely different; the sum of its parts adds up to an entirely new whole. They don’t really fall into the style they belonged to originally. Tequila Sunset (my agave wheat) follows the same pattern. It is a great beer but it doesn’t really fall into the wheat category anymore (the melding of the agave nectar to the base beer turns it into something else entirely).
Contest beers are pretty straight forward. These are beers that are meant to be brewed to style. I brew these because I enjoy trying to emulate the style in question but also to test myself and build skills as a brewer. These beers require a bit more attention to the finer details of the style itself.
Having chosen to step away from competing this year has given me a chance to explore quite a few more beer styles than I might have otherwise. Its given me some new perspective and insites that don’t show up as easily when you are scrambling to meet entry deadlines and such. I am also getting a chance now to explore the contest environment from a different perspective (I have some time to work as a steward finally).
Sometimes in brewing as in life, it helps to step back a little and take a proverbial breath so you can look at everything in a new light. That step might be just the difference between mired in the process and opening your mind to new opportunities.
Time for a pint…