Beer Style Guidelines

The most established set of beer style guidelines is published by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP).  Popular beer community websites such as BeerAdvocate and RateBeer also have a list of beer styles within them.  They do have some subtle variation, so it is a good idea to be at least somewhat familiar with all of them.


BJCP guidelines are considered the industry standard.  These guidelines have the longest history, predating the Internet.  Most other guidelines are based upon these in some form or another.  Both professional and home brewer competitions all utilize BJCP certified judges.  If you ever want to enter a homebrew competition, your beers must conform to their standards.

There are twenty-three categories of beer each with its own list of substyles.  The guidelines prescribe the most detailed characteristics by far with in-depth information on aroma, appearance, flavor, history, ingredients, and brewing statistics for each style.  Commercial examples are also provided.  BJCP also includes mead and cider guidelines.

While the most detailed set of guidelines and widely considered to be the standard, the BJCP guidelines have some drawbacks for the consumer.  With twenty-three main categories it is difficult to organize the beers into larger categories.  For instance, the origin of styles or lager vs. ale attributes seems to be ignored in the main breakdown.  While this is not an inherent flaw, the human mind is designed to break things down into categories in order to easier understand them.


Both of these popular beer community and rating websites have the advantage of listing all of the beer styles on a single page, which makes it easier to see the entire world of beer styles in a glance.  Another advantage over the BJCP Guidelines is that they categorize the beers.

BeerAdvocate breaks everything down into ales and lagers, and then further divides the beers up by their region of origin.  The downside to this is that there can be some overlap between styles.  For instance, Euro Pale Lager is not really different than an American Pale Lager.

RateBeer does not divide the styles into as many categories, and rather than basing the categories purely on origin they break the beers down into families of beers (such as stouts, wheats, Belgian-style ales, etc.).   These websites do not provide as much information as the BJCP guidelines, but they can be quicker to reference for this reason.

©2010 Extol Beer


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s