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STYLE: Specialty Beer

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This is explicitly a catch-all category for any beer that does not fit into an existing style category. No beer is ever "out of style" in this category, unless it fits elsewhere. The category is intended for any type of beer, including the following techniques or ingredients:
  • Unusual techniques (e.g., steinbier, ice beers)
  • Unusual fermentables (e.g., maple syrup, honey, molasses, sorghum)
  • Unusual adjuncts (e.g., oats, rye, buckwheat, potatoes)
  • Combinations of other style categories (e.g., India Brown Ale, fruit-and-spice beers, smoked spiced beers)
  • Out-of-style variations of existing styles (e.g., low alcohol versions of other styles, extra-hoppy beers, "imperial" strength beers)
  • Historical, traditional or indigenous beers (e.g., Louvain Peetermann, Sahti, vatted Porter with Brettanomyces, Colonial Spruce or Juniper beers, Kvass, Grätzer)
  • American-style interpretations of European styles (e.g., hoppier, stronger, or ale versions of lagers) or other variants of traditional styles Clones of specific commercial beers that aren't good
  • representations of existing styles
  • Any experimental beer that a brewer creates, including any beer that simply does not evaluate well against existing style definitions This category can also be used as an "incubator" for any minor world beer style for which there is no BJCP category. If sufficient interest exists, some of these minor styles might be promoted to full styles in the future. Some styles that fall into this grouping include:
  • Honey Beers (not Braggots)
  • Wiess (cloudy, young Kölsch)
  • Sticke Altbier
  • Münster Altbier
  • Imperial Porter
  • Classic American Cream Ale
  • Czech Dark Lager
  • English Pale Mild
  • Scottish 90/-
  • American Stock Ale
  • English Strong Ale
  • Non-alcoholic "Beer"
  • Kellerbier
  • Malt Liquor Note that certain other specialty categories exist in the guidelines. Belgian Specialties or clones of specific Belgian beers should be entered in Category 16E. Christmas-type beers should be entered in Category 21B. Beers with only one type of fruit, spice, herbs, vegetables, or smoke should be entered in Categories 20-22. Specialty meads or ciders should be entered in their respective categories (Category 26C for meads, Category 28D for ciders).

    Aroma: The character of the stated specialty ingredient or nature should be evident in the aroma, but harmonious with the other components (yet not totally overpowering them). Overall the aroma should be a pleasant combination of malt, hops and the featured specialty ingredient or nature as appropriate to the specific type of beer being presented. The individual character of special ingredients and processes may not always be identifiable when used in combination. If a classic style base beer is specified then the characteristics of that classic style should be noticeable. Note, however, that classic styles will have a different impression when brewed with unusual ingredients, additives or processes. The typical aroma components of classic beer styles (particularly hops) may be intentionally subdued to allow the special ingredients or nature to be more apparent.

    Appearance: Appearance should be appropriate to the base beer being presented and will vary depending on the base beer (if declared). Note that unusual ingredients or processes may affect the appearance so that the result is quite different from the declared base style. Some ingredients may add color (including to the head), and may affect head formation and retention.

    Flavor: As with aroma, the distinctive flavor character associated with the stated specialty nature should be noticeable, and may range in intensity from subtle to aggressive. The marriage of specialty ingredients or nature with the underlying beer should be harmonious, and the specialty character should not seem artificial and/or totally overpowering. Hop bitterness, flavor, malt flavors, alcohol content, and fermentation by-products, such as esters or diacetyl, should be appropriate to the base beer (if declared) and be well-integrated with the distinctive specialty flavors present. Some ingredients may add tartness, sweetness, or other flavor by-products. Remember that fruit and sugar adjuncts generally add flavor and not excessive sweetness to beer. The sugary adjuncts, as well as sugar found in fruit, are usually 31 fully fermented and contribute to a lighter flavor profile and a drier finish than might be expected for the declared base style. The individual character of special ingredients and processes may not always be identifiable when used in combination. If a classic style base beer is specified then the characteristics of that classic style should be noticeable. Note, however, that classic styles will have a different impression when brewed with unusual ingredients, additives or processes. Note that these components (especially hops) may be intentionally subdued to allow the specialty character to come through in the final presentation.

    Mouthfeel: Mouthfeel may vary depending on the base beer selected and as appropriate to that base beer (if declared). Body and carbonation levels should be appropriate to the base beer style being presented. Unusual ingredients or processes may affect the mouthfeel so that the result is quite different from the declared base style. Overall Impression: A harmonious marriage of ingredients, processes and beer. The key attributes of the underlying style (if declared) will be atypical due to the addition of special ingredients or techniques; do not expect the base beer to taste the same as the unadulterated version. Judge the beer based on the pleasantness and harmony of the resulting combination. The overall uniqueness of the process, ingredients used, and creativity should be considered. The overall rating of the beer depends heavily on the inherently subjective assessment of distinctiveness and drinkability.

    Comments: Overall harmony and drinkability are the keys to presenting a well-made specialty beer. The distinctive nature of the stated specialty ingredients/methods should complement the original style (if declared) and not totally overwhelm it. The brewer should recognize that some combinations of base beer styles and ingredients or techniques work well together while others do not make palatable combinations. THE BREWER MUST SPECIFY THE "EXPERIMENTAL NATURE" OF THE BEER (E.G., TYPE OF SPECIAL INGREDIENTS USED, PROCESS UTILIZED OR HISTORICAL STYLE BEING BREWED), OR WHY THE BEER DOESN'T FIT AN ESTABLISHED STYLE. THE BREWER MAY SPECIFY AN UNDERLYING BEER STYLE. If a classic style is identified, the base style should be recognizable. Classic styles do not need to be cited (e.g., "maple smoked porter" is acceptable). For historical styles or unusual ingredients/techniques that may not be known to all beer judges, the brewer should provide descriptions of the styles, ingredients and/or techniques as an aid to the judges.

    Vital Statistics: OG, FG, IBUs, SRM and ABV will vary depending on the underlying base beer.

    Commercial Examples: Bell's Rye Stout, Bell's Eccentric Ale, Lakefront Riverwest Steinbeer, Samuel Adams Triple Bock, Hair of the Dog Adam, Great Alba Scots Pine, Tommyknocker Maple Nut Brown Ale, Divide Bee Sting Honey Ale, Stoudt's Honey Double Mai Bock, Rogue Yellow Snow, Rogue Honey Cream Ale, Dogfish Head India Brown Ale, Zum Uerige Sticke Altbier Introduction to Mead Guidelines (Categories 24- 26) The following discussion applies to all the mead styles, except where explicitly superseded in the sub-category guidelines. This introduction identifies common characteristics and descriptions for all types of mead, and should be used as a reference whenever entering or judging mead. 1. Important attributes that must be specified:
  • Sweetness. A mead may be dry, semi-sweet, or sweet. Sweetness simply refers to the amount of residual sugar in the mead. Sweetness is often confused with fruitiness in a dry mead. Body is related to sweetness, but dry meads can still have some body. Dry meads do not have to be bone dry. Sweet meads should not be cloyingly sweet, and should not have a raw, unfermented honey character. Sweetness is independent of strength. Carbonation. A mead may be still, petillant, or sparkling. Still meads do not have to be totally flat; they can have some very light bubbles. Petillant meads are "lightly sparkling" and can have a moderate, noticeable amount of carbonation. Sparkling meads are not gushing, but may have a character ranging from mouth-filling to an impression akin to Champagne or soda pop.
  • Strength. A mead may be categorized as hydromel, standard, or sack strength. Strength refers to the alcohol content of the mead (and also, therefore, the amount of honey and fermentables used to make the mead). Stronger meads can have a greater honey character and body (as well as alcohol) than weaker meads, although this is not a strict rule.
  • Honey variety. Some types of honey have a strong varietal character (aroma, flavor, color, acidity). If a honey is unusual, additional information can be provided to judges as to the character to be expected. Note that "wildflower" isn't a varietal honey; it is specifically a term used to describe a honey derived from unknown or mixed flowers.
  • Special ingredients. Different sub-styles may include fruit, spice, malt, etc. Judges need to understand the ingredients that provide a unique character in order to properly evaluate the mead. 2. Common Mead Characteristics:
  • Appearance: Clarity may be good to brilliant. Crystal clear, reflective examples with a bright, distinct meniscus are highly desirable. Observable particulates (even in a clear example) are undesirable. Highly carbonated examples usually have a short-lasting head similar to Champagne or soda pop. Some aspects of bubbles or head formation that may be observed and commented upon include size (large or small), persistence (how long do they continue to form?), quantity (how much are present?), rate (how fast do they form?), and mousse (appearance or quality of foam stand). The components of bubbles or head will vary greatly depending on the carbonation level, ingredients and type of mead. In general, smaller bubbles are more desirable and indicative of higher quality than larger bubbles. The color may vary widely depending on honey variety and any optional ingredients (e.g., fruit, malts). Some honey varieties are almost clear, while others can be dark brown. Most are in the straw to gold range. If no honey variety is declared, almost any color is acceptable. If a honey variety is declared, the color should generally be suggestive of the honey used (although a wide range of color variation is still possible). Hue, saturation and purity of color should be considered. Stronger versions (standard and sack) may show signs of body (e.g., legs, meniscus) but higher carbonation levels can interfere with this perception.
  • Aroma: The intensity of the honey aroma will vary based upon the sweetness and strength of the mead. Stronger or sweeter meads may have a stronger honey aroma than drier or weaker versions. Different varieties of honey have different intensities and characters; some (e.g., orange blossom, buckwheat) are more recognizable than others (e.g., avocado, palmetto). If honey varieties are declared, the varietal character of the honey should be apparent even if subtle. The aromatics may seem vinous (similar to wine), and may include fruity, floral, or spicy notes. The bouquet (rich, complex smells arising from the combination of ingredients, fermentation and aging) should show a pleasant fermentation character, with clean and fresh aromatics being preferred over dirty, yeasty, or sulfury notes. A multi-faceted bouquet, also known as complexity or depth, is a positive attribute. Phenolic or diacetyl aromatics should not be 32 present. Harsh or chemical aromatics should not be present. Light oxidation may be present, depending on age, and may result in sherry-like notes, which are acceptable in low to moderate levels (if in balance, these can add to complexity). An excessive sherry character is a fault in most styles (except certain Polish-style specialties, or other meads attempting a sherry-like character). Oxidation resulting in a papery character is always undesirable. Alcohol aromatics may be present, but hot, solventy or irritating overtones are a defect. The harmony and balance of the aroma and bouquet should be pleasant and enticing.
  • Flavor: The intensity of the honey flavor will vary based upon the sweetness and strength of the mead. Stronger, sweeter meads will have a stronger honey flavor than drier, weaker versions. Different varieties of honey have different intensities and characters; some (e.g., orange blossom, buckwheat) are more recognizable than others (e.g., safflower, palmetto). If honey varieties are declared, the varietal character of the honey should be apparent even if subtle. The residual sweetness level will vary with the sweetness of the mead; dry meads will have no residual sugar, sweet meads will have noticeable to prominent sweetness, semi-sweet meads will have a balanced sweetness. In no case should the residual sweetness be syrupy, cloying or seem like unfermented honey. Any additives, such as acid or tannin, should enhance the honey flavor and lend balance to the overall character of the mead but not be excessively tart or astringent. Artificial, chemical, harsh, phenolic or bitter flavors are defects. Higher carbonation (if present) enhances the acidity and gives a "bite" to the finish. The aftertaste should be evaluated; longer finishes are generally most desirable. A multi-faceted flavor, also known as complexity or depth, is a positive attribute. Yeast or fermentation characteristics may be none to noticeable, with estery, fresh and clean flavors being most desirable. Alcohol flavors (if present) should be smooth and well-aged, not harsh or solventy. Light oxidation may be present, depending on age, but an excessive sherry-like or papery character should be avoided. Aging and conditioning generally smooth out flavors and create a more elegant, blended, rounded product. Flavors tend to become more subtle over time, and can deteriorate with extended aging. 3. Entering and Categorizing Meads:
  • Mandatory Requirements: o Entrants MUST specify carbonation level (still; petillant or lightly carbonated; sparkling or highly carbonated). o Entrants MUST specify strength level (hydromel or light mead; standard mead; sack or strong mead). o Entrants MUST specify sweetness level (dry; semisweet; sweet).
  • Mouthfeel: Before evaluating, refer to the declared sweetness, strength and carbonation levels, as well as any special ingredients. These can all affect mouthfeel. Smooth texture. Well-made examples will often have an elegant wine-like character. The body can vary widely, although most are in the medium-light to medium-full range. Body generally increases with stronger and/or sweeter meads, and can sometimes be quite full and heavy. Similarly, body generally decreases with lower gravity and/or drier meads, and can sometimes be quite light. Sensations of body should not be accompanied by an overwhelmingly cloying sweetness (even in sweet meads). A very thin or watery body is likewise undesirable. Some natural acidity is often present (particularly in fruit-based meads). Low levels of astringency are sometimes present (either from specific fruit or spices, or from tea, chemical additives or oak-aging). Acidity and tannin help balance the overall honey, sweetness and alcohol presentation. Carbonation can vary widely (see definitions above). Still meads may have a very light level of carbonation, lightly carbonated (petillant) meads will have noticeable bubbles, and a highly carbonated (sparkling) mead can range from a mouth-filling carbonation to levels approaching Champagne or soda pop. High carbonation will enhance the acidity and give a "bite" to the finish. A warming alcohol presence is often present, and this character 33 usually increases with strength (although extended aging can smooth this sensation). Overall Impression: A wide range of results are possible, but well-made examples will have an enjoyable balance of honey flavors, sweetness, acidity, tannins, alcohol. Strength, sweetness and age greatly affect the overall presentation. Any special ingredients should be well-blended with the other ingredients, and lead to a harmonious end product.


  • Ingredients: Mead is made primarily from honey, water and yeast. Some minor adjustments in acidity and tannin can be made with citrus fruits, tea, chemicals, or the use of oak aging; however, these additives should not be readily discernable in flavor or aroma. Yeast nutrients may be used but should not be detected. If citrus, tea, or oak additives result in flavor components above a low, background, balance-adjusting level, the resulting mead should be entered appropriately (e.g., as a metheglin or open category mead, not a traditional).
    FG:
  • Vital Statistics:
    OG: sack: 14 - 18% hydromel: 1.035 - 1.080 standard: 1.080 - 1.120 sack: 1.120 - 1.140+
    ABV: hydromel: 3.5 - 7.5% standard: 7.5 - 14% dry: 0.990 - 1.010 sweet: 1.025 - 1.040+ semi-sweet: 1.010 - 1.025
    IBUs: not relevant for anything but braggot, but bittering hops are optional even in this style.
    SRM: basically irrelevant since honey can be anything from almost clear to dark brown. Melomels and pyments can have orange, red, pink and/or purple hues. Cysers are most often golden. Braggots can be yellow to black. In all cases, the color should reflect the ingredients used (type of honey, and fruit and/or malt in some styles).
  • Optional Requirements: Entrants MAY specify honey varieties used. If honey varieties are declared, judges will look for the varietal character of the honey. Note that the character of a varietal honey will be identifiable as distinct to the source flowers, but may not resemble the source plant, tree, or fruit. For example, orange-blossom honey has the character of orange blossoms, not oranges; blackberry honey is only distantly like blackberries, although it is an identifiable character.
  • Category-Specific Requirements: Some categories require additional information, particularly in categories other than traditional mead. For example, declaring specific fruit, spices, or special characteristics. Supplemental materials may be provided to judges if an obscure ingredient or method is used.
  • Defaults: If no attributes are specified, judges should evaluate the mead as a semi-sweet, petillant, standardstrength mead with no varietal honey character and no special ingredients. Competition organizers should make every effort to ensure that judges are provided the full set of attributes of the meads being evaluated. See the Introduction to Mead Guidelines for detailed descriptions of standard mead characteristics, an explanation of standard terms, and entering instructions.

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