- Imperial stouts, double IPAs and IPAs reigned supreme, making up 59 percent of the list.
- The average ABV for the top-100 beers was well above average, clocking in at almost 10 percent.
- Decorah, Iowa-based Toppling Goliath produced beers that ranked #1 (Kentucky Brunch) and #5 (Mornin’ Delight) that tied or beat classic “best” beers like Westvleteren 12, Pliny the Elder and Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout.
One of the fun aspects of these lists is the ability to compare and contrast, so today we take a step back one year to see what 2014’s best beers looks like when compared to our tastes in 2013.
While stouts and IPAs still stayed on top when comparing the two years, subtle differences did emerge with just one year:
There were 28 different beers/styles represented in 2013 compared to 2014, but there were 37 world-class beers listed last year (full list here) that didn’t show up in this year’s list.
Some highly-regarded beers not included left me scratching my head:
- Firestone Walker Wookey Jack Black Rye IPA
- Hair of the Dog Adam
- Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock
- Lawson’s Finest Double Sunshine IPA
But others left out seemed to suggest the potential for fatigue with “classic” beers that are either easy to find or have been around for a long time:
- AleSmith Barrel Aged Old Numbskull
- AleSmith Barrel Aged Wee Heavy
- Founders Imperial Stout
- Founders Porter
- North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
- Russian River Blind Pig IPA
Now, this is not to say these beers won’t appear on next year’s list, but they are worth highlighting when considering what we saw with Zymurgy’s annual “best beer” lists. That research suggested that while drinkers still hold some beers in high regard – like Sierra Nevada’s lineup – they’re slipping in rankings year-to-year. My thought was a case of the beers being too “boring” when enthusiasts are always seeking something new.
It’s probably too early to tell, especially since RateBeer rankings historically have recognized the same core group of beers, but his is an interesting development.
Due to these changes, there was only a slight uptick in average ABV among top-100 beers from 2013 (9.65 percent) to 2014 (9.95 percent).
Additionally, the average ABV for most popular styles was also similar, putting 2014’s beers almost at the max alcohol content per style, according to BJCP guidelines:
“Best of” Lists
For name comparison’s sake, here are the top-25 beers from both years side-by-side, as ranked per RateBeer’s weighted rating system:
|Toppling Goliath Kentucky Brunch||Toppling Goliath Kentucky Brunch|
|Westvleteren 12 (XII)||Westvleteren 12 (XII)|
|Russian River Pliny the Younger||Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout – Double Barrel Aged|
|Toppling Goliath Mornin’ Delight||Russian River Pliny the Younger|
|Bells Black Note Stout||Toppling Goliath Mornin’ Delight|
|AleSmith Speedway Stout||Bells Black Note Stout|
|New Glarus R & D Sour Fruit||AleSmith Speedway Stout|
|Rochefort Trappistes 10||Rochefort Trappistes 10|
|Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout||Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout|
|Founders KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout)||Founders Backstage Series # 2: CBS (Canadian Breakfast Stout)|
|Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout||Founders KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout)|
|Bells Expedition Stout||Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout|
|Russian River Pliny the Elder||Bells Expedition Stout|
|Alchemist Heady Topper||Russian River Pliny the Elder|
|Goose Island Bourbon County Stout||Alchemist Heady Topper|
|Three Floyds Dreadnaught Imperial IPA||Goose Island Bourbon County Stout|
|Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel||Three Floyds Dreadnaught Imperial IPA|
|Westvleteren Extra 8||Hill Farmstead / Blaugies Le Sarrasin|
|Bells Hopslam||Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel|
|Deschutes The Abyss||Westvleteren Extra 8|
|Firestone Walker Parabola||Bells Hopslam|
|Hair of the Dog Matt||Deschutes The Abyss|
|Perennial Barrel Aged Abraxas||Firestone Walker Parabola|
|Struise Pannepot||Hair of the Dog Matt|
|Surly Darkness||Perennial Barrel Aged Abraxas|
Very similar, for sure, but even with a few small differences, there’s little change:
- New Glarus’ R&D Sour Fruit is a rotating one-off batch, so it makes sense that it disappears from 2013 to 2014.
- Struise Pannepot doesn’t drop far, even though it’s out of the top 25 in 2014. From 2014 to 2015, it only fell one spot to 26.
- Ditto for Surly Darkness, which went from 25 in 2013 to 27 in 2014.
Oddly enough, the minor adjustments in top 25 from 2013 to 2014 gives me greater pause for the “classic” beers that fell off the lists from one year to the next. Again, the static inclusion of many beers year-to-year shows that RateBeer users aren’t going to change much, but the one shared trait among beers like Russian River’s Blind Pig, North Coast’s Old Rasputin and others is that they’ve been around for a while and may not be as exciting as something new showing up on shelves almost daily.
I’ve captured data looking at the best of the best beers from these lists going back 10 years to 2006’s rankings. With the help of some charts, we’ll see if there are any significant differences over that time.
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