As craft brews continue to gain ground among consumers, brewers are trying to determine how to broaden their appeal even further. One of the issues that some brewers and craft beer drinkers deal with is expressing the taste of their beer to other people. This is not dissimilar to what wine tasters have been dealing with for years. As with wine, beer is incredibly complex and some feel that there needs to be a way of expressing the tastes of beer in a simple form that won't scare new drinkers away. In some ways the wine world has done this in forms such as the famous wine wheel that matches up broad scents such as Fruity or earthy, then below that has more specific connotations such as Grapefruit, or wet mossy soil. So you knew it wouldn't be long before craft breweries of some ilk would try and do the same. The shock of it is the people behind it, and the method they chose.
However, before I go into details there are two other really good blog entries on the subject over at Realbeer and A Good beer blog that you can check out as well.
The very respectable CAMRA or the Campaign for Real Ale, based out of England has joined with 14 real ale brewers (also from Great Britain) to 'demystify ale.' The program is somewhat ridiculously called CYCLOPS, yes that one-eyed beast of mythology who had is eye poked out during a drunken rage. The gist of the initiative is to break down what real ale should look, smell, and taste like. The taste and smell portion is where I have issues, its one thing to say what style head or basic color a beer should have, its quite another to break the smell and taste down into only two things, sweet and bitter. While these two things are important, the sweetness of malt and bitterness of hops, beer is so much more complex than this, to pigeon hole themselves is absurd. The other issue is that you can't tell people how to taste, we all have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to tasting and smelling things. One person may taste sweet chocolate, another may taste bitter esspresso in a stout. Who is right who is wrong? Well neither is wrong, because that's what they taste. People shouldn't depend on others telling them what to expect when they take the first sip of that pint. They should experiences it themselves, heck that's half the fun of experimenting with new beers.