With the changing of the calendar, January didn’t just bring a new year, but new reasons to dissect the beer industry and what us enthusiasts are going crazy about these days.
While it took extra work to compile the best of the best beers in 2014, RateBeer, one of the two preeminent rating sites, along with Beer Advocate, has just released its own annual lists, which includes the top 100 beers in the world.
The collection of top-rated brews has evolved over the years, most notably taking a dramatic shift last year, when RateBeer stopped ranking the best beers in numerical fashion, but opted to simply provide an alphabetized listing.
But that won’t stop me from navel gazing at another “best beer” list, especially when it provides us with valuable insight into beer lovers and the liquid we love so much.
So even thought this year’s list may have flown under the radar because it doesn’t rank your favorite beers, that’s what I’m here for…
As you might expect from a list like this, big beers like imperial stouts and double IPAs perform rather well. Here’s a chart of styles:
.. and for those completists out there, here is the numerical breakdown:
|RateBeer Style||Number of Beers|
ABV Analysis of Styles
The average ABV of all 100 top beers was almost 10 percent, coming out at 9.95 percent. According to methodology by Bart Watson, staff economist for the Brewers Association, an average ABV for craft beer is 5.9 percent ABV. That puts RateBeer’s average more than two standard deviations from the average. It’s also well above the national average of 8 percent I derived from Beer Advocate’s ratings.
No surprise, the average ABV of specific styles also falls on the far end of each style’s spectrum.
For example, the 36 imperial stouts on the list had a combined average ABV of 11.55 percent, which is almost at the max (12) of BJCP guidelines. The 14 double IPAs weren’t as high, averaging 9.01 percent with a max of 10, per BJCP guidelines.
Regular old IPAs came off a bit more even, with nine beers averaging 6.8 percent, easily below the BJCP max of 7.5.
I find this interesting because not only does it reinforce the idea that high-ABV beers are valued, but high-ABV beers for individual styles specifically perform well.
Best of 2015’s List
The top 25:
|Toppling Goliath Kentucky Brunch||Imperial Stout||12||4.44|
|Westvleteren 12 (XII)||Quad||10.2||4.44|
|Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout – Double Barrel Aged||Imperial Stout||11||4.38|
|Russian River Pliny the Younger||DIPA||11||4.35|
|Toppling Goliath Mornin’ Delight||Imperial Stout||12||4.35|
|Bells Black Note Stout||Imperial Stout||10.5||4.32|
|AleSmith Speedway Stout||Imperial Stout||12||4.3|
|Rochefort Trappistes 10||Quad||11.3||4.3|
|Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout||Imperial Stout||11||4.29|
|Founders Backstage Series # 2: CBS (Canadian Breakfast Stout)||Imperial Stout||10.6||4.29|
|Founders KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout)||Imperial Stout||11.2||4.29|
|Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout||Imperial Stout||15||4.29|
|Bells Expedition Stout||Imperial Stout||10.5||4.28|
|Russian River Pliny the Elder||DIPA||8||4.27|
|Alchemist Heady Topper||DIPA||8||4.24|
|Goose Island Bourbon County Stout||Imperial Stout||14.4||4.24|
|Three Floyds Dreadnaught Imperial IPA||DIPA||9.5||4.23|
|Hill Farmstead / Blaugies Le Sarrasin||Saison||4.22|
|Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel||Imperial Stout||10.9||4.22|
|Westvleteren Extra 8||Strong Ale||8||4.22|
|Deschutes The Abyss||Imperial Stout||11||4.2|
|Firestone Walker Parabola||Imperial Stout||12.5||4.2|
|Hair of the Dog Matt||Strong Ale||12.5||4.2|
|Perennial Barrel Aged Abraxas||Imperial Stout||11||4.2|
Congrats to Toppling Goliath for owning some classic “best” beers.
The Difference of 10 Years
For fun, I pulled the top-25 beers from RateBeer’s 2006 list to compare to 2015. While there are holdovers – Westy 12 and AleSmith Speedway Stout are never going away – it’s fun to get this perspective.
Here are the lists, side-by-side:
|1||Westvleteren 12 (XII)||Toppling Goliath Kentucky Brunch|
|2||Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout||Westvleteren 12 (XII)|
|3||Rochefort Trappistes 10||Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout – Double Barrel Aged|
|4||Bells Expedition Stout||Russian River Pliny the Younger|
|5||Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock||Toppling Goliath Mornin’ Delight|
|6||AleSmith Speedway Stout||Bells Black Note Stout|
|7||Stone Imperial Russian Stout||AleSmith Speedway Stout|
|8||Three Floyds Dreadnaught Imperial IPA||Rochefort Trappistes 10|
|9||Goose Island Bourbon County Stout||Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout|
|10||Westvleteren Extra 8||Founders Backstage Series # 2: CBS (Canadian Breakfast Stout)|
|11||AleSmith YuleSmith India Pale Ale||Founders KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout)|
|12||Struise Pannepot||Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout|
|13||Dogfish Head World Wide Stout 2001/2003-Present (18%)||Bells Expedition Stout|
|14||Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout||Russian River Pliny the Elder|
|15||St. Bernardus Abt 12||Alchemist Heady Topper|
|16||Thirsty Dog Siberian Night Imperial Stout||Goose Island Bourbon County Stout|
|17||Rochefort Trappistes 8||Three Floyds Dreadnaught Imperial IPA|
|18||Pizza Port Frank Double IPA||Hill Farmstead / Blaugies Le Sarrasin|
|19||Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout||Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel|
|20||Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA||Westvleteren Extra 8|
|21||Founders Breakfast Stout||Bells Hopslam|
|22||Dieu du Ciel Péché Mortel||Deschutes The Abyss|
|23||Great Lakes Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout||Firestone Walker Parabola|
|24||Abbaye des Rocs Brune||Hair of the Dog Matt|
|25||Bells Kalamazoo Stout||Perennial Barrel Aged Abraxas|
I love seeing “classic” best beers in 2006 like 90 Minute, Breakfast Stout and Yeti, which seem rather ho-hum by today’s standards. They’re amazing beers, but we’ve got lots more like them today.
It wouldn’t be an analysis if I didn’t have more research to share! Next up, a comparison between RateBeer’s 2015 and 2014 lists to see if there’s any differences worth noting.
Editor’s note: RateBeer’s lists are numbered for the year they are released (2015) but cover the prior year (2014). So future references will match. For example, 2014’s list represents 2013, 2013 covers 2012 and so on.
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac