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Beer reference as art


How many times have you painstakingly mapped out the spectrum of beer styles for friends? I did it once: It took me a good 30 minutes to list every BJCP-recognized style, and by the time I finished everyone just thought I was weird. Plus, no one could read my poor excuse for handwriting.

But when you’re trying to educate people about what they’re sipping, a situation I find myself in often, it’s a hell of a lot easier to have a visual aid. The majority of people will sip, say, an ESB and be like “Hey, that’s a bit bitter with some caramel sweetness.” But when you can frame the experience in terms of how a style relates to the entire beer genre, then they’ll be like “Hey, that’s a bit bitter with some caramel sweetness—I can see how this concept was a jumping off point for English IPAs, and how it played a part in developing American pale ales, American IPAs and, finally, the extreme imperial IPAs I love so much.” That’s how people talk when the beer section of their brain is expanding.

Here’s the takeaway: Give your friends some context when they grab something out of your beer fridge. Sure, you can feverishly scribble down your own chart like a social pariah, or you can just hang “The Very Many Varieties of Beer” poster from somewhere for easy reference (It doesn’t strictly adhere to BJCP guidelines, but it’s still a great bird’s-eye view of beer).

In case you haven’t noticed yet, we love charts.

What’s your method for relating the spectrum of beer? Talking?

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Chris Staten is DRAFT’s beer editor. Follow him on Twitter at @DRAFTbeereditor and email him at

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