Why Choosing A Good Beer Is More Complicated Than You'd Think

Choosing a good beer in today's market is more complex than most people realize, so if you've ever wondered why you feel overwhelmed while making a selection, you're not alone. In an exclusive conversation with Tasting Table, Jeff Tyler, head brewer and co-owner of Spice Trade Brewery & Kitchen, delves into this intricate topic. "That is a really challenging question to answer," Tyler states. "As beer has changed and styles have evolved, beer has gotten very complicated." He explains that traditional indicators such as clarity, which once denoted quality (except in styles like German hefeweizens), are no longer reliable due to the rise of hazy IPAs. Those IPAs are good beers, even when opaque and with haze, hence their name.

Tyler also brings attention to the pitfalls of relying on online reviews. While platforms like Untappd or Rate Beer are popular among enthusiasts, the reviews they contain often reflect personal tastes rather than objective quality and the technical merit of a beer, potentially misleading consumers. Tyler suggests an alternative approach: look for breweries that have won multiple awards. These accolades typically signify the brewery produces high-quality beverages that are true to their style and tradition. Tyler emphasizes, "You can build up your knowledge of classic beer styles and get a great understanding of what beer should taste like." This will serve as your foundation for knowing and appreciating what makes a good beer.

While quality is important, picking a beer you enjoy is equally important

Continuing our conversation, Jeff Tyler addresses the other side of beer selection — the impact of innovation and personal taste. He points out that breweries pushing the boundaries with new ingredients or styles often find themselves at odds with traditional judging standards. This is because competitions like the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) or the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) primarily assess beers based on established, rigid comparisons to existing styles. "We [at Spice Trade Brewery & Kitchen] struggle with being able to fit our beer into BJCP or GABF style guidelines, and I know other breweries who are making different types of beer hybrid beverages have the same issue," laments the head brewer.

However, he encourages drinkers to embrace these innovations and have confidence in their own preferences. "At the end of the day, taste is subjective," he notes. "Trust your gut and what tastes good to you!" Tyler's advice reminds us that while understanding traditional beer styles and guidelines is valuable, personal enjoyment should be the ultimate goal when it comes to brew selection. By prioritizing individual taste, beer lovers can confidently navigate the complex world of lagers, stouts, and everything in between while discovering beverages that genuinely resonate with their palate.