Can RateBeer’s Best Teach Us About Beer’s Hype Train?

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More: Read my first post on RateBeer’s best in 2016

There are a lot of layers when it comes to “best beer” lists. Subjective opinion, especially on experiential goods, is perfect for controversy. A limited list is going to leave something out of consideration, then it’s left to others and an almost innate need to fill in the gaps.

This is one of the reasons I love curating my annual “best beer” list, because as much as it can, it makes the process more objective by consulting numerous people and viewpoints. It may not be perfect, but it’s an excellent way to get a feel for the trends and topics that drive a year in beer.

An initial analysis of RateBeer’s top 100 beers from 2016 has seemingly added context to a growing body of evidence documented on this blog concerning the connection between beer styles, rarity and perception of quality. This is not meant to be seen as a “good or bad” thing, although you’re free to assume how you wish. But rather, as we’re able to compile data to support our experiences, it simply becomes “a thing” that we need to address.

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Hunt Whalez or Die Tryin: 2016’s Best of RateBeer

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Last month we took a look at 2016’s best beers as selected by writers, bloggers and beer enthusiasts.

Today, we step it up to an annual celebration of “best” by one of the Internet’s main beer reviewing websites, RateBeer. The site recently held their annual RateBeer Fest where it released a collection of best beers of the year, according to the reviews of users and weighted by performance within and outside of style.

As in years past, the list of 100 beers offers a good opportunity for analysis, especially as we gain a better understanding on the psychological impacts of choice when it comes to beer and perception of quality. This collection may not break new ground in terms of better understanding trends, but it does offer insight into preferences and beer culture.

So grab your abacus and put in your pocket protector, because it’s time to crunch some numbers.

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Zymurgy’s “Best Beers” List Loves Hops, Clings to Heritage Brands

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Death, taxes and Pliny the Elder being voted as Zymurgy’s “best beer” in America. All the things you can count on for the past eight years.

In fact, to see any change at the top of this list, you’d have to go all the way back to 2009, the last year the top-two beers *weren’t* Pliny (#1) and Bell’s Two Hearted (#2).

What makes the annual poll unique, however, is that it’s voted on by members of the American Homebrewers Association, not the public at-large from around the world, like Beer Advocate or RateBeer. On that point of information alone, you can surmise why Zymurgy’s list always includes unforgettable heritage brands made by the likes of Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head. In just about any other scenario, beers made by these breweries are long past their expiration date of relevance to the Beer Nerds controlling review boards. Not so much on this year’s list – again.

BUT … the results are still similar in at least one way: these voters love their IPAs. More than 18,000 online votes cast with up to 20 allowed per voter picked the favorite commercial beers available for purchase in the United States.

Let’s see what’s trending.

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Trend Spotting: What Can RateBeer’s Best New Beers of 2015 Tell Us?

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In my previous post about RateBeer’s latest collection of “best” beers, we focused on the overall top 100, as released annually by the beer review site. But new this year, RateBeer has also shared a list of 50 best new beers released in 2015.

This is exciting because it not only gives us a better glimpse into trends and preferences for the subgroup of active reviewers on the website, but it also provides an opportunity to compare with my previous “best of 2015” list compiled from a collection of writers and beer enthusiasts.

Like RateBeer’s overall list analyzed in my last post, this one is a wide collection of rare and hard to find beers. As mentioned in a previous piece about the rising price of beer, expensive and speciality brews cater to “snobconsumers, “for whom the acquisition of scarce goods generate ‘signaling effects’ on consumption, increasing their utility when the good consumed is uncommon and generates status.”

In an age of accumulating badges on Untappd and standing among beer loving peers, a list like this isn’t representative to Average Jane Sixpack, but it’s still useful to look at to get a better grasp on the socio-cultural preferences shown by beer lovers.

So let’s once again get to crunching some numbers.

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Why You Should Care About Arkansas’ Beer

Arkansas beer state

Editor’s note: here’s a primer about why we’re exploring this topic.

With a combined “weighted rank” of 3.52 (out of 5) for it’s top-10 beers according to Beer Advocate users, Arkansas placed last out of 51 states and D.C. in my recent analysis of ratings from the website. To help prove that isn’t indicative of all that’s offered within The Natural State, I’ve enlisted the help of Jonas Schaffer and Josh Whitson, authors at Arkansas Beer Blog.

Before we get into a brief Q&A with Jonas and Josh, let’s recap some of the vitals of Arkansas as found through my Beer Advocate series:

Top 10 Beers (as of Nov 2014)

Beer Name Brewery Style ABV WR
Paradise Porter Diamond Bear Brewing Porter 6.24 3.76
Two Term Diamond Bear Brewing DIPA 8.5 3.51
IRISh Red Diamond Bear Brewing Red Ale 5.86 3.5
Pale Ale Diamond Bear Brewing Pale Ale 6.2 3.5
Presidential IPA Diamond Bear Brewing IPA 6.2 3.334
Southern Blonde Diamond Bear Brewing Pilsner 5.18 3.3
ESB Core Brewing ESB 6.1 3.68
Rockroberfest Diamond Bear Brewing Oktoberfest 5.98 3.68
Flaming Stone Boscos Restaurant Blonde 4.8 3.44
Oatmeal Stout Core Brewing Stout 5.6 3.5
 AVERAGES: 6.066 3.5204

According to results of the Beer Advocate research, the average ABV of all “best beers” was 8 percent, with states having an average of 5.5 beers at or below that threshold. Nine of Arkansas’ beers were below that threshold, which included one of the few blonde ales to get highlighted among 506 beers.

In terms of Beer Advocate user preferences, all this means not many people seem to care about Arkansas beer. Why should you? Let’s find out with Jonas and Josh.

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Why You Should Care About South Dakota’s Beer

South Dakota beer state

Editor’s note: here’s a primer about why we’re exploring this topic.

With a combined “weighted rank” of 3.529 (out of 5) for it’s top-10 beers according to Beer Advocate users, South Dakota placed 50th out of 51 states and D.C. in my recent analysis of ratings from the website. To help prove that isn’t indicative of all that’s offered within the Mount Rushmore State, I’ve enlisted the help of Landon Swanson, head brewer at Custer’s Bitter Esters Brewhouse and president of the state’s craft brewers guild.

Before we get into a brief Q&A with Landon, let’s recap some of the vitals of South Dakota as found through my Beer Advocate series:

Top 10 Beers (as of Nov 2014)

Beer Name Brewery Style ABV WR
Pile O Dirt Crow Peak Porter 6 3.7
Smoke Jumper Firehouse Dry Stout 4 3.62
11th Hour Crow Peak IPA 6.5 3.52
Red Firehouse Red Ale 4.1 3.44
Canyon Crow Peak Cream Ale 5 3.04
Chukkar Firehouse Pale Ale 5.3 3.73
Wilderness Wheat Firehouse Hefeweizen 3.8 3.23
Spearbeer Crow Peak Pale Ale 5.1 3.56
Naughty Redhear Sick N Twisted Red Ale 8 3.73
Buffalo Bitter Firehouse ESB 4.3 3.72
AVERAGES:  5.21 3.529

According to results of the Beer Advocate research, the average ABV of all “best beers” was 8 percent, with states having an average of 5.5 beers at or below that threshold. All 10 of South Dakota’s beers fell below that threshold, including one of the few cream ales to get highlighted among 506 beers. The state’s average ABV for it’s top-10 beers of 5.21 percent was the lowest in the country.

In terms of Beer Advocate user preferences, all this means not many people seem to care about South Dakota beer. Why should you? Let’s find out with Landon.

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Why You Should Care About Louisiana’s Beer

Louisiana beer state

Editor’s note: here’s a primer about why we’re exploring this topic.

With a combined “weighted rank” of 3.629 (out of 5) for it’s top-10 beers according to Beer Advocate users, Louisiana placed 46th out of 51 states and D.C. in my recent analysis of ratings from the website. To help prove that isn’t indicative of all that’s offered within the Pelican State, I’ve enlisted the help of Nora McGunnigle, a freelance beer and food writer living in New Orleans, focusing and the unique food and beer culture of Louisiana and the Gulf region.

Before we get into a brief Q&A with Nora, let’s recap some of the vitals of Louisiana as found through my Beer Advocate series:

Top 10 Beers (as of Nov 2014)

Beer Name Brewery Style ABV WR
IRISh Channel New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing Stout 6.8 3.77
Mechahopzilla New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing DIPA 8.8 3.74
Save Our Shore Abita Pilsner 7 3.67
Hopitoulas New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing IPA 6 3.65
Turbodog Abita Brown Ale 6 3.64
Abbey Ale Abita Dubbel 8 3.62
Spring IPA Abita IPA 6.2 3.6
NOLA Brown New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing Mild Ale 4 3.56
Andygator Abita Doppelbock 8 3.53
NOLA Blonde New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing Blonde 4.9 3.51
 AVERAGES: 6.57 3.629

According to results of the Beer Advocate research, the average ABV of all “best beers” was 8 percent, with states having an average of 5.5 beers at or below that threshold. Louisiana has nine, including an odd choice for these kinds of lists – a pilsner.

In terms of Beer Advocate user preferences, all this means not many people seem to care about Louisiana beer. Why should you? Let’s find out with Nora.

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Why You Should Care About [THIS STATE]’s Beer

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In November, I spent a good chunk of time analyzing data collected from Beer Advocate’s “best beer” lists, studying differences between states and finding patterns in our rating habits.

Among all the research for those posts, one thing stood out as clear as an American lager: some states aren’t getting any love.

Consistently, I’d find a handful of states ranked at the bottom of all 51 options, which included Washington, D.C., when considering Beer Advocate’s proprietary “Weighted Rank” scale.

But with more than 3,000 breweries spread across the U.S. and many more on the way, it’s important to put this outcome in context. Many states are still in their sudsy infancies or simply get lost among the attention thrown at California, Oregon, Colorado and more.

So this week I’m setting out to rectify that.

Over a few days we’ll hear from “representatives” of three states that performed rather poorly according to Beer Advocate’s raters: Louisiana, South Dakota and Arkansas. I reached out to folks from each state, offering them the chance to better explain their impressions of their state’s beer industry and what kind of tasty brews might be offered to people not ready to write-off a state’s beer.

Because heaven forbid we don’t do anything drastic for those brewers lagging behind…

(please note that’s a tongue-in-cheek joke)

Come back tomorrow when we hear from Nora D. McGunnigle, a freelance beer and food writer living in New Orleans who will tell us about the beer scene in Louisiana.

Related: Beer Advocate and the United States of Beer: The Complete Series!

Learn more about under-appreciated beer from:

+Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

Bitter Rivalry: Is It Time to Name a New Region ‘King’ of the IPA?

Last week, we took a glance at the geographic evolution of the IPA, from the West to East Coast and its latest hotspot, the Midwest.

That research was inspired by work first done by Carla Jean Lauter, which prompted me to think about IPAs, rankings and where the interest for this popular beer style comes from. While Carla highlighted the Northeast, my research led to curiosity about the Midwest.

Which led me to think … is a new region ready to steal the throne from the West Coast and be anointed “King” of IPAs?

Previously, I used Beer Advocate rankings to weigh the value of IPAs on a geographical basis. To me, this data set represents the most enthusiastic of the beer community, which might better showcase the “best of the best” IPA options. But if the vast majority of beer drinkers aren’t overly active on beer rating websites, we can try another route to potentially get a greater cross-section of IPA lovers.

For that, we turn to fellow statistically-minded beer geeks at BeerGraphs.

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One Nation, Under Hops: A Geographical Evolution of IPA

united staes of hops

When it comes to understanding craft beer, perhaps the only thing bigger than the idea of its “cultural movement” is ironically one, singular brew – the IPA.

The India pale ale has become synonymous with craft beer and stands tall as arguably the most popular style for Americans picking up bottles or downing pints of Sierra Nevada, Lagunitas, New Belgium or any local option down the street.

As the IPA has taken hold of our pints and wallets, it’s become the cornerstone style for breweries young and old. The IPA has shifted from a novel connection to the West Coast to a beer found everywhere across the country.

So if California, Oregon and Washington no longer reign over the IPA-loving masses like they used to, where exactly are today’s best IPAs coming from?

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