Types of beer

I just drank what the brewer called a breakfast stout. (maybe my experience of b&b is limited). Before that I had what RB adjudicated to be a foreign stout (6.6%). Presumably because it was 0.1% above the Robust Porter category despite its hint of coffee.
And then we get the splintering of stouts and the murky world of golden /blonde /pale terminology.
Is it just me but has the beer revolution left the old titles with as much legitimacy as a Duc or Marquis in revolutionary France.
Do we need a better system or is it like days of the week.? Let us stick to 7…
Huge topic but if you rate beer it’s basic…

I think style names have always been and always will be marketing terms. Sure some of them had/have some kind of meaning for tax purposes, provenance or describing the actual product, but in the end it is made so that the customer recognizes what she’s about to drink.

If we actually wanted to have styles as a correct classification system, we would have to use other attributes than these arbitrary if historical names. If it was me, I would probably go for a three tiered approach based on provenance, strength, and appearance. Styles would then be something like “English light pale ale”, “American strong dark ale”, “Belgian strong pale ale” and so on.

You could maybe add a 4th level of classification describing predominant taste as being sweet or bitter. Something like an IPA would American, strong, pale ale (bitter), a stout could be American, strong, dark (sweet) and a black IPA or could be American, strong, dark (bitter). This system obviously gives a very non-romantic sounding style - sounds completely OCD actually, such as a good classification system should.

Styles have never been accurate, as beers tend to fall in a sliding scale somewhere between two or more styles. Subdividing them further doesn’t really help + if you add your fourth category of sweet/bitter it won’t be too long before people ask for medium, semi-sweet, ultra-bitter etc. Plus of course due to variations in individual perception, people will argue little long and hard about whether the same beer is bitter or sweet anyway.

I quite like the style names we’ve got anyway. They sound interesting, and encourage you to try new beer types in a way that mere style descriptors wouldn’t. It was thanks to RB that I discovered that the darker maltier ales I was enjoying were called milds and actively started to look for beers labelled mild. I don’t think under your categorisation I’d have been encouraged to look for English light dark sweet ale as much - plus you’re losing the long history that many of these style names have.

I am confuzzled by something in the first post. What Robust Porter category? Funnily enough, I got a beer changed from Stout to Foreign Stout a while back. The ABV struck me as somewhat high so I read the descriptions and realised it tied in with the Foreign Stout definition.

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I was glancing at one of those beer periodic tables, and Robust Porter had abv to 6.5% and mine was 6.6% comfortably in the foreign stout band. Given that this was a Staffordshire beer in a Nottingham pub “foreign” seemed a surprise.
In a world of beer, the old names collide across cultures. And sometimes the taste and label do not match.