comparing a moving target to a fixed.

another thing, whilst I am on a blogging mode, all this waffle about Black IPA’s, Belgo-IPA’s… My god people, is it that important??  if you answer, no, pat yourself on the back and carry on with your day to day’s.

if you answer yes, you may want to carry on reading… 😉 The hybridisation, call it “combined style brewing” is something pretty cutting edge, in my eyes.  The modern incarnations of Black IPA and Belgo-IPA’s are hotly debated as much the origins of IPA itself.

So, here’s my take on things:

1, we have the semantics of the names, Belgo-IPA or to some confusing Black IPA.

2, we have the time line issues, when, who, where… did these beers come from?

3, are these new styles?

1, The names:

Vigotsky and Chomsky, eminent academics with long pedigree of suggesting that the key to all learning is access to the templates and structures in the language  peculiar to the subject.    Now, I see it as this:

Now to best understand my perspective, I will have to note what I see at the semantics of IPA, meaning India PALE ale to many as such this where  people get hung up, with the “extension of style” brews.   The evolution of language, that surrounding Beer, I believe has transitioned from IPA meaning solely a beer destined for India, but a hoppy strong ale, pale typically.   I could throw into the equation that IPA, in the beer for india sense, wasn’t called IPA? (Martin/Pete!?) but just “beer for export to india”.   IPA now as term is a construct, perhaps somewhat created by Michael Jackson and Fred Eckhart, and then bracketed by the BJCP in their style guide, toward a strong hoppy ale thus creating a fixed point.

Now, we have to remember that the BJCP is a beer judging program, these style guides are just a contract between brewer and judge; when I brew a belgian blonde ale, I am submitting it under the program guidelines saying this is my target, what do you think?  I am being judged on my talents/skill to produce something of specification, not as many see as some sort of rule book to global beer styles.   By all means use it as a template for learning from, call it a fixed basis.  Early learning if you will.

Now, here’s the kicker: the moving targets.    IPA’s as we all know came about, say, before January 1835, and for some time after this date, this style of beer was referred to as “pale ale as prepared for India”, “India Ale”, “pale India ale” or “pale export India ale”.  So, for 175 years we have had time to get our heads around the subject, refine and digest.  For some, that’s not been long enough seemingly.

So, lets tackle the modern derivations:

BLACK (dark malts) + IPA (STRONG and HOPPY) = BLACK IPA.

BELGO (belgian yeast(saison or trappist type)) + IPA (strong and hoppy) = BELGO-IPA.

Particular comments extend to is BLACK IPA a HOPPY PORTER? :  no.   The details of ingredients, the use of specialist dark malts, the lack of chocolate and roast malts deny that.   Black IPA is essentially, and american IPA stained black with the same malts that are used for making schwartzbier.   Roast characters are to be kept to a minimum, allowing the copious dry hopping and kettle hopping to show through.   notable examples, for me:  Matt Van Wyks “Cascadian Dark Ale”,  21st Amendment’s Back in Black.     In fact Back in Black was the beer that turned my head to the style.    I think it was really, 2009 that I first tried the brew.   Jesse Houck, brewer of undeniable talent and much under celebrated, I might suggest refined the style to, to my mind, it’s best template.    So, in construct, it’s actually a hybridized beer of American IPA and schwartzbier.   Is it a cascadian Dark ale: no.  it might have come from Canada, or something, or Oregon, back in the late 90’s.  Deschutes certainly made something akin to the primer.    and, having been a bar man for way too long – if someone asked me for a cascadian dark ale on a busy night, or a black IPA, I know which term I prefer.      I think the Black IPA moniker works better, as it describes more accurately to the neophyte

Belgian IPA’s, or Hoppy Belgian Ales: So, we’re assuming that their belgian-esque in aroma and hoppy.   Beers like Houblon Chouffe perhaps the marker?  or is De Ranke XX bitter?    Now, as I see it, I think there’s actually a slight divergence here.   The Anglo hopped ones, and the yanky-doodle-dandy hopped ones.    Houblon Chouffe, Mikkeller GIPA, Valheur Extra – hopped with CTZ, (Columbus, Zeus or Tomahawk, depending on the farm they are grown at)  for the first two, and Amarillo for the Extra.    A base of pale malt, some carapils, maybe some wheat, a firm mash temp, maybe slightly wetter and a nice soft run off, and some warrior, hallertau then finished with Columbus for a good firm bitterness, some spice and a good orange peel citrus aroma.   Ferment with the lovely Chouffe/Ardennes strain, and Roberts your mothers brother.     Then we have the more Anglo hopped versions, lots and lots of lovely East Kent Goldings, beers such as De Ranke XX bitter, or Hopsinjoor, or perhaps Slagmuldher “Tripel” – some have a little kick of american hops too.     Again these are moving targets, probably been around say, 10-15 years?

2, their existence, a time line?

I see beer as a moving target, very rapidly moving.   New beers come to the fore, faster and faster now.  That wasn’t new styles, I mean new beers.     For a brewery to gain something of a niche, we as brewers have to think… to compete on the norms, or search for a further niche.   Or, we can just make what we might like to drink ourselves.

To extend this to styles, I think, really there needs to be enough beers brewed of a type, with particular character – which then can be clustered (say pidgeon holed) into a loose group, er,um, STYLE?

The traditional approach to deal with moving objects is to use time-sampling:  at regular time intervals one checks which objects have changed their position,  and these objects are deleted from the data structure and re-inserted at their new positions. The problem with this approach is two-fold. First, it is hard to choose the right time interval: choosing it too large will mean that important ‘events’ are missed, so that the data structure will be incorrect for some time. Choosing the interval very small, however, will be very costly—and
even in this case one is likely to miss important events, as these will usually occur at irregular times.

We’d have to use really hefty computational geometry,  so-called kinetic data structures (KDSs, for short), “A KDS is a structure that maintains a certain ‘attribute’ of a set of continuously moving objects—the convex hull of moving points, for instance, or the closest distance among moving objects. It consists of two parts: a combinatorial description of the attribute, and a set of certificates—elementary tests on the input objects—with the property that as long as the outcome of the certificates does not change, the attribute does not change. In other words, the set of certificates forms a proof that the current combinatorial description of the attribute is still correct. The main idea behind KDSs is that, because the objects move continuously, the data structure only needs to be updated at certain events, namely when a certificate fails. It is assumed that each object follows a known trajectory—its flight path—so that one can compute the failure time of each certificate. When a certificate fails, the KDS and the set of certificates need to be updated. To know the next time any certificate fails, the failure times are stored in an event queue. The goal when designing a KDS is to make sure that there are not too many events, while also ensuring that the update time at an event is small”

Got it?

Don’t bother debating the existence of a beer style or type, until, 1, there are enough to worry about, 2, make sure the questions we’re asking of the beer are applicable.  3, don’t be afraid to reclassify, at appropriate intervals.     Martin Cornell’s time line for Porter is brilliant:  different strata referring to what porter was over a time, and I think that could be used as a model for many of the traditional/core styles of beer, IPA is a great one to throw it at.

3, Styles?

so, what I see is that there is, each brewer is entitled to his take on a style, it’s up to him or her, what direction it takes and brewing enough of these beers.  Beer is a fast moving entity, but they have been around long enough and seem to be staying.   They have easy, accessible style names.  They have pretty well defined recipes.  We can all name a few beers that fit into the each category.   It’s being made everywhere.   They exist.

These are not gimmicky beers, these are the heart, sweat and passions of brewers challenging themselves to produce something of interest and flavour for their market place. New beer styles don’t happen every day, and they only take ahold in time; depending on your local market and their acceptance to the contemporary flavours.   Hell, double IPA must have been seen as a joke by some…   If I read one more blog about describing the above beers as gimmicky: it’s as much saying that people who blog aren’t proper writers…

Here in lies the issue, you can never resolve the arguments when you compare moving targets to fixed.

presses publish, runs away, quietly...
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7 thoughts on “comparing a moving target to a fixed.

  1. I got half way down reading this and thought “My god people, is it that important??????”

    What’s in a name anyway, it’s beer innit?

  2. Well said Phil.

    In science you can measure and classify. Brewing is an artform. Words can never accurately describe art it must be appreciated by consumption not description. Styles cannot properly classify. What styles do is give us a broad expectation of what it in store for us as we appreciate by consumption.

    The KDS methodology is useful in a wide scope of applications such as this.

  3. I persevered and was rewarded, a very interesting post Phil. Does it really matter? Well us humans can’t help but spend our life classifying, our whole perception of reality is based on what things are not compared to other things. And to make that easier, we need a few (a million billion or so) classifications to help us out.

    PS. Much as I want to like Cascadian Dark Ale, I just can’t bring myself to do it.

  4. Lovely. What’s the target that’s moving again? I can see that we might have a scatter of points in beerspace, some of which fit poorly with previously identified “style volumes”, but why hold that they’re in some (moving) style constellation – or is naming them similarly enough?

    I think Mr Howe hits it – named styles hint as to what we’ll get when we open that bottle. If style descriptors are useful in that way, then they’re “correct” enough. That said, would “BLACK-BELGO-IPA” be a new style, or is it merely a description – meaningful to people who already understand the individual tokens, and what it means to compound them?

    But no, I can’t see brewing as an artform. Some people are better at the craft, have better understanding of the technology, than others. A test of “art” which depends on descriptions failing to live up to the pleasure of consumption would have to include just about everything made by humans for humans. Are custard doughnuts art? All of them? For anyone?

    • Black-Belgo IPA = Bashah, no? Then all we need is a few more, and pop, we have a new style

      custard donuts, can be elevated to an art form, by sheer talent. Surely watching Zidane ghost past players, make a single top flight game his and scoring seemingly effortless goals in once in a life time games – is that not art. Certainly not all “custard donuts” are art, but at one point, somewhere, there will be someone pushing the limits, challenging the status quo and bringing a super-special presentation to the “norm” of a custard donut.

      I see beer as the perfect dichotomy of Art and Science/Engineering. Some choose one path, their personal leaning; and others choose theirs. I very much strive to keep it in balance, despite being of a more artistic leaning, and survive the rudimentary Engineering demands, this is my next challenge, and ambition to work within the Engineering field of brewing. But, to deny that brewing doesn’t have the opportunity to seek the artistic edge to the brewers field, I can’t help but disagree with you.

      Enough about custard donuts.

      • There are beers out there that transcend to art, and certain brewers, who by nature – either thru sheer persistence get to a point of the end of their awareness, or the true savant who just nail it.

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