Criterion #1(a): A Distinct Ingredient Bill

Originally, I had set this up having a distinct ingredient bill as my second full criterion for a beer style, but in the process of examining it, I realized that this basically just reinforces the previous criterion, a geographically and historically linked tradition. In other words, I started with these three requisites:

  1. Tradition based in a historical narrative that is geographically distinct
  2. A fairly set ingredient bill
  3. Unique, local ingredient(s)

But then I downgraded #2 to be subrequisite to #1, as you’ll see at the end of this post. So let me explain.

This particular condition of a brewing style is one that generally has to do with combinations of ingredients, and is most often expressed in the grain bill in brewing. For example, if you want to brew a traditional Tripel, you would probably just use a combination of Pilsner malt and sugar of some kind, along the appropriate low-alpha acid noble hops. If you’re looking to brew a German wheat beer, it really needs a grist of 50%+ of malted wheat along with the barley malt, as well as the appropriate German hops. Personally, I think that standing alone this is would be the weakest of the qualifications because the final product is what ends up being judged. Besides which, this usually develops out of a strong historic tradition. For example, the relation of German brewing laws and the grain bills of the aforementioned wheat beers.

A hefeweizen grain bill. malt + wheat.

Really, this ends up undermining the strength of a distinct ingredient bill as a qualification, in the sense that it’s almost impossible for a new beer style to enter the lexicon through this method, if nothing else because the homebrewing world is so defined by its creativity and constant innovation—of course this could just be my point of entrance to this world as a North American. Likewise the development of a distinct ingredient bill is so dependent on tradition that this second qualification basically only reinforces the first. To prove the point, take the Dorada Pampeana that Mosher examines: it has a set ingredient bill, down to the yeast strain. Yet what makes its argument as a distinct geographically-linked style is the tradition behind it, the DIY ethic that comes from trying to hone your brewing during a time period when basically all the ingredients anyone had to brew with in the first place were those required by the recipe.

So at this point when I originally wrote this whole essay, I realized that I had pretty much argued myself into thinking that while the a distinct ingredient bill is still a good criterion for examining possible new styles, it functions primarily as a secondary condition or to reinforce the first. And that’s why in my recurring schematic, I’ve listed it as point 1(a):

  1. Tradition based in a historical narrative that is geographically distinct
    1. A fairly set ingredient bill reinforces the validity of the tradition
  2. Unique, local ingredient(s)

That said, I’ll move on to the final category, “Unique, local ingredient(s),” in the next post of this series.

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