Friday, 26 March 2010

Venn diagrams of beer dispense, part I

I may have got a lot of the detail of this wrong, and corrections, especially pedantic ones, are welcome, but I thought Zythophile's idea of classifying beers by Venn diagrams was much superior to the periodic-table approach, so I've decided to give it a go. Rather than take on beer styles, this diagram handles dispense methods. One reason for this is that it's easier; another is to attempt to show that traditional lager and real ale have more in common that a lot of people think.

Many of the greatest German and Czech lagers, when served by gravity or air pressure, very nearly qualify as real ale even by the strictest CAMRA definition (if you get to drink them straight from the lagering tank, they actually do, but most of us aren't often that lucky). Depending on your approach to beer and/or opinion of CAMRA you might think that is pretty amazing or perfectly natural.

I realise this is old hat to some people, but it needs repeating. Stonch had a great post on the subject, which said it all better than I could, but his blog is now private so I can't link to it any more.


  1. Interesting indeed, since for every factor of classification use, the diagram still includes both things that are as well as those which aren't . So it effectively does away with the main fault of the "neat little cases" approach, i.e. all the beery round pegs that don't fit any of them square holes.

  2. Adding in nitro dispense and filtration are left as an exercise for the reader. I don't know enough about filtration to open that can of worms.

  3. Crackingly mad but interesting stuff.

    I'd say the distinctions aren't all strictly to do with dispense (as you say, there's only really cask, keg & tank dispense? - + bottle) also distinctions such as force-carbonation, whether a beer is filtered (sterile or rough-filtered?), wood barrel aged?

    Now I know why all the Qs on Twitter! :~)

    Keep it up.

    Interestingly the heavyweights (in the literary sense) of the beer world, R.Protz & P.Brown are talking of lager & real ale's similarities at White Horse Parson's Green in a few days.

  4. I started writing a paragraph on force carbonation but gave up. It's striking that the best known "rules" for quality beer don't say anything about how the beer tastes, just about how to make it. The Reinheitsgebot tells you what you can put in beer, the CAMRA definition of real ale tells you how you can serve it. I suppose regulating things that can be objectively measured is easier than defining something as necessarily subjective as what a "good beer" is.

  5. Somehow you need to fit Hoegaarden and Cooper's Sparkling Ale, beers that are kegged but still contain live yeast, in there as well ...