The British Guild of Beer Writers annual seminar took place the Meantime's Old Brewery last night. The seminar theme was 'beer styles' and Meantime CEO, Alastair Hook, Beer Academy Supremo, George Philiskirk and the newly appointed London Ale Taster, Steve Williams (pictured), all gave their own, and highly individual, perspectives on the topic.
Alastair argued that the brewing industry needed to learn from the example of the new world wine makers who used grape varietal styles to demystify wine and open a dialogue with the consumer.
George and Steve took a more pragmatic line, focusing rather on the dangers of the over-rigid application of a burgeoning number of beer styles that threatened to confuse rather than enlighten the consumer.
The Q&A session at the end of the seminar showed that the issue is more contentious than one might initially assume, and - like most things where beer writers are concerned - there were strongly held opinions both in favour of beer styles being a necessary mechanism to grow the beer market and those who preferred the status quo.