Many things annoy me. My evenings are spent screaming at the TV, while Dolores covers her ears and the kids hide cower behind the settee. Pretty much top, beer-wise, is the assertion that you can't have an IPA under 4% ABV. Because IPA "was a strong beer" in the 19th century.
I've just two problems with that argument. First, IPA wasn't a strong beer in the 19th century. It was about standard strength. I've plenty of examples of a base-level X-Ale Mild that were stronger than Bass IPA (or whatever they called it, I think it was often just Pale Ale) in a given year.
Second problem: assuming beer styles are flies trapped in amber, unchanging. British beer styles have been exceedingly dynamic, in terms of strength, ingredients and even colour. Judging a modern British beer by the style guidelines of 1850 is ludicrous. Surely everyone can see that? Well, no they can't. Otherwise there wouldn't be the repeated, tedious complaint that Greene King commits fraud with their IPA.
I'm going to move this over the Irish Channel. And look at Guinness, applying the same logic that condemns Greene King IPA. Does Guinness match up to its 19th-century ancestors? How strong was Guinness Extra Stout in, say 1870? Or 1880? Or 1914?
Let's take a look at one of my traditional tables (I've deliberately thrown in some FES examples as a benchmark):
|Guinness Stout 1870 – 1914|
|1901||Guinness||Foreign Extra Stout||1013.302||1075.67||8.18||82.42%|
|1901||Guinness||Extra Foreign Stout||0.243||1013.20||1074.98||7.86||81.34%|
|British Medical Journal June 25th 1870, page 658 http://books.google.nl/books?id=TH1AAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA68&dq=%22mild+ale%22&hl=en&ei=vhSbTeC0OoSeOtqelKMH&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCgQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22malt%20liquors%22&f=false|
|"Chemie der menschlichen Nahrungs- und Genussmittel" by Joseph König, 1889, page 839|
|Wahl & Henius, pages 823-830|
Based on that, an Irish Stout should be 7-8% ABV
|Guinness Stout 1964 – 1966|
|1964||Guinness||Foreign Extra Stout||0.07||1015||1072.8||200||7.56||79.40%|
|Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002|
Look at that. Modern Guinness Extra Stout is barely half the strength that it was 100 years ago. How can you call that a Stout? Fraud, I call it.
* Guinness Special Export