Selection of the Beer Styles for the Competition

Criteria for Selecting the Beer Styles included in Byggvir's Big Beer Cup
By Harvie Holmes

When reviewing the information about Byggvir's Big Beer Cup, you will notice that many BJCP styles have not been included. Our selection of styles attempts to balance the theme of the Renaissance Festival while still providing a wide range of styles for entering in the contest.

The Renaissance Festival celebrates the Renaissance period in Europe from roughly 1300 to 1699 AD. Even though the basic brewing technique of using enzymes to convert starches to sugars remains the same, many of the other aspects of the brewing process have changed. The beers chosen have, in some way, aspects that reflect back to beers of the Renaissance period.

Wild Yeast

It was not until the mid 1800's that the knowledge and technical skill necessary to select individual yeast strains existed. It is safe to assume that most beer had many different yeast strains present in the finished product. German wheat and rye, Belgian ales and all the sour beers have retained the aspect of this unique combination of yeasts.

Ales vs. Lagers

Related to the subject of wild yeast is that of lager yeast. As was previously mentioned, the technology needed to select single yeast strains was late in coming to beer. Most lager beers of today are brewed with a single yeast strain that has been selected to minimize the characteristics that are likely to have existed in Renaissance beers. Because most lager beers are too far from those likely to have existed in the Renaissance, we eliminated those categories. We have included Bock beers because they may represent one of the first international beers. The high alcohol content protects the finished product from bacterial spoilage, which would have made it safer to export. Also, Einbeck, Germany, the most likely home of Bock beer, was located on waterways that would make export possible.

Smoke and Wood-Aged Beers

Until the early 1700s wood and/or straw was used to dry the malt after germination. As the malt dried, it took on the flavor of the smoke from the burning fire and this flavor would be present in the final product. Once again, the flavor of smoke is likely to have been present in many Renaissance beers. The debate about the amount of flavor a wooden barrel would have imparted to a finished beer remains unresolved. Many barrels have been lined with pitch, which would prevent the beer from coming in contact with the wood. However, many beers such as Lambics are stored in unlined barrels to facilitate the development of the wild yeast cultures. It is safe to assume that beers in the past would have been stored in unlined barrels and would therefore take on the flavor of the wood.

American Beers

Even though one of the first things the settlers did when they landed on Plymouth Rock was to brew beer, what they brewed were often examples of beers made in England at the time. There are examples of beers brewed in America that have historical significance and the judges at Byggvir look forward to tasting some of these examples. However, most of the American style beers recognized by the BJCP have been developed since World War II, therefore have been eliminated from the contest.


If you have any questions about the styles accepted for Byggvir's Big Beer Cup, please contact the contest organizers. The judges at Byggvir look forward to your entries!