Every year the Brewers Association (BA) updates and releases its guide to beer styles that sets the bar for brewers across the nation. This year’s version, the 2013 Beer Style Guide was released Monday, March 4 with a few new styles and several modifications to existing styles. The BA is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and protecting craft breweries in the United States through educational programs and advocacy.
In this year’s edition, the number of recognized styles has grown from 140 to 142. The two additional styles are Adambier and Grätzer. Both brews are historic brews that have been appearing more and more in American breweries. Adambier is a German beer that was popular around Dortmund, while Grätzer is native to Poland.
Adambier, also called Dortmunder Adambier or Dortmunder Alt, is a potent, smoky beer often weighing in above 10% ABV. Traditionally the beer was strong, dark, and sour with high hopping rates and, in historic batches, a significant amount of wheat. The beer was typically barrel-aged for at least a year and often much longer. The new style guidelines according to the BA are:
“Light brown to very dark in color. It may or may not use wheat in its formulation. Original styles of this beer may have a low or medium low degree of smokiness. Smoke character may be absent in contemporary versions of this beer. Astringency of highly roasted malt should be absent. Toast and caramel-like malt characters may be evident. Low to medium hop bitterness are perceived. Low hop flavor and aroma are perceived. It is originally a style from Dortmund. Adambier is a strong, dark, hoppy, sour ale extensively aged in wood barrels. Extensive aging and the acidification of this beer can mask malt and hop character to varying degrees. Traditional and non-hybrid varieties of European hops were traditionally used. A Kölsch-like ale fermentation is typical Aging in barrels may contribute some level of Brettanomyces and lactic character. The end result is a medium to full bodied complex beer in hop, malt, Brett and acidic balance.*”
The second new addition, Grätzer, gets its name from the town where it originated, Gratz in what used to be Prussia. The town is now called Grodzisk and is located in the province of Wielkopolski in western Poland. The region has a well-established brewing history as evidenced by the output of the port city of Gdansk. In the 15th century, the city on the Baltic Sea managed to produce well over 6 million gallons of beer at over 300 breweries. The Grätzer style of history is that of a smoked, white wheat beer. Traditionally the wheat malt was smoke with oak or birch wood. The guidelines for the style set out by the Brewers Association state:
“Grätzer is a Polish-Germanic pre-Reinheitsgebot style of golden to copper colored ale. The distinctive character comes from at least 50% oak wood smoked wheat malt with a percentage of barley malt optional. The overall balance is a balanced and sessionably low to medium assertively oak-smoky malt emphasized beer. It has a low to medium low hop bitterness; none or very low European noble hop flavor and aroma. A Kölsch-like ale fermentation and aging process lends a low degree of crisp and ester fruitiness Low to medium low body. Neither diacetyl nor sweet corn-like DMS (dimethylsulfide) should be perceived.*”
It is important to note that the style guidelines set forth by the BA are used as the basis for judging beers at the Great American Beer Festival held every year in Denver, Colo. and at the World Beer Cup. These style may differ slightly from style guides produced by other beer judging organizations, but are by far considered the Gospel by many brewers both hobbyist and professional.
The addition of historical styles as well as popular style indicates that craft brewing is coming into its own. Interest in traditional styles is on the rise allowing for new generations of beer enthusiasts to experience the delights inherent in each. As new historical styles are discovered and rise in popularity, they too will no doubt find their place in future Brewers Association guidelines.
*2013 Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines used with permission of Brewers Association.