Dave Bailey a.k.a. Hardknott Dave of Hardknott Brewery fame gave me a bottle of his Dark Energy, a 4.9% beer that when we had it on draught for Hardknott Night at The Rake, whilst Dave it described as a stout he qualified the style classification to say he wasn't entirely sure what style it was but that it was the easiest hat to put on the beer.
It tasted enough like a stout at the time but the bottle is distinctly different, it's much more like a Mild and a very nice one at that. at 4.9% though, can it be called a mild? a strong mild?
Since the seminar there have been numerous posts on beer styles, a lot of people saying that there are too many(133 apparently), that we don't need all these classifications, I tend to agree; with consumer choice becoming more widespread regarding beer there is a real danger of confusing the customer to a point of alienating them all over again.
The Molson Coors UK Cheif says he wants beer menus in every pub, well in a lot of pubs cases that is a decent idea after all you have a wine list, why not a beer list. How are you going to lay it out though? It's a question that I have battled with in the last couple of years, deciding how to lay out a beer menu for The Rake, no easy task I can assure you with the fluidity of my ever changing line-up.
It's easy to pigeon hole things, and it happens every day in life, doesn't mean we need to do the same with beer though. After all there aren't really any right or wrong answers in this debate, which kind of makes the whole thing a bit pointless and dull.
There have been comments though that intimate the need for clarity so my beer list will eventually read by simple style and any description will have to fit into that category. For example a Raspberry Porter would come under the Stouts and Porters category rather than fruit beer or 'Raspberry Porter' or the SOS that I recently brewed with Otley would come under the Wheat Beer Category, after all it is a wheat beer.
Keep it basic and don't confuse the customers!