GABF categories I don’t quite get

GABFOne thing I noticed while I was live(ish)blogging the GABF awards ceremony this weekend was the existence of some… odd… styles of beer that were being judged. I suppose the full descriptions explain them somewhat but considering all the pedantantry that has gone on with the GABF styles and their perhaps excessive sub-categorizing in the past, I just have to wonder how these got slipped through?

Field Beer: Subcategory of Category 5, “Field Beer or Pumpkin Beer”: Now I’m all for a Pumpkin Beer category, but “Field” beer? Apparently it’s what happens when you separate “vegetable” from past “Fruit or Vegetable Beer” category… but why not just “Vegetable Beer”?

Field beers are any beers using vegetables as an adjunct in any of the mash, kettle, primary or secondary fermentation, providing obvious (ranging from subtle to intense), yet harmonious, qualities. Vegetable qualities should not be overpowered by hop character. For purposes of this competition, coconut is defined as a fruit, and beers containing coconut would be appropriately entered as fruit beer or fruit wheat beer, unless they are highly experimental. Beers containing a fruit (e.g. juniper berry) or vegetable (e.g. chili pepper) with herbal or spice qualities would be more appropriately entered in the herb and spice beer category. Beers containing pumpkin would be more appropriately entered in the pumpkin beer subcategory. Clear or hazy beer is acceptable in appearance.

Indigenous Beer, Category 15. Now, I’d like to think I have a pretty good handle on what “indigenous” beer means, at least as far as American beers go; I’m not sure this is it:

There are many excellent and popular beers that are brewed with either non-traditional or traditional ingredients and processes yet their character may distinctively vary from all other styles currently defined or included in these guidelines. These beers are brewed reflecting local beer culture (process, ingredients, climate, etc.). This category recognizes uniquely local or regional beer types and beers distinctively not defined in any recognized style in these guidelines. They may be light or dark, strong or weak, hoppy or not hoppy. They may have characters which are unique to yeast, fermentation techniques, aging conditions, carbonation level or higher or lower levels of profound characters normally associated with other beer types.

Aged Beer, Category 24. Ummm can we say “generic”? This just sounds like a last-minute catch-all category.

These are beers aged for over one year that do not exhibit qualities or characteristics typical of wood aging. Generally beers with high hopping rates, roast malt content (in some darker examples), high alcohol content and/or complex herbal, smoke or fruit content may be entered in this category. Any type of beer of any strength may have its character enhanced with extended and creative aging conditions in bottles, kegs, tanks or any type of food grade vessel, although entries that exhibit qualities of wood aging, Brettanomyces characters or microbial souring should be entered elsewhere.

International-Style Pale Ale, Category 48. I guess anything that is hoppy but isn’t using American or English hops?

International-style pale ales range from deep golden to copper in color. The style is characterized by wide range of hop characters unlike fruity, floral and citrus-like American-variety hop character and unlike earthy, herbal English-variety hop character. Moderate to high hop bitterness, flavor, and aroma is evident. International pale ales have medium body and low to medium maltiness. Low caramel character is allowable. Fruity-ester flavor and aroma should be moderate to strong. Diacetyl should be absent or present at very low levels. Chill haze is allowable at cold temperatures.

There are some other eyebrow-raising categories but they are still mostly along the lines you’d expect for such a thing. But if they’re going to have these extra categories, why not have some for some more established styles like Sahti, or Kvass, or Gruit?

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