A Whole New World? The Geography of RateBeer Rankings

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Today we take a break from Monday’s RateBeer number crunching, but don’t worry, it’s back on Friday.

From part one of this series on our beer-related behavior, RateBeer.com’s rankings showed us how much beer nerds from around the world LOVE imperial stouts. Especially well-made rare ones.

Then again, don’t just take my word for it:

While limited-release imperial stouts will likely always end up high on beer rankings, that trend may be slowly changing. In the last couple years, other styles have been clawing their way toward top spots thanks to an increase of innovative breweries like Vermont’s Hill Farmstead and Florida’s Cigar City.

These tasty brews are important for changing the way we think about beer and what we like, but just as important is the geographical location. When we talk about global beer production – especially that of the top-ranked beers in the world – it’s increasingly becoming something of an “Old World” vs. “New World” situation.
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A Taste of Pure Michigan: Arbor Brewing Lineup

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Sure, Founders and Bell’s breweries may get most of the attention for Michigan beer thanks to wide distribution, but there’s plenty more to be had.

That’s something Friend of the Program, Mark Graves, touched on with his Six-Pack Project entry for Michigan. There are about 100 total breweries spread across the Great Lakes State, so there’s something to be had by all.

The Missus recently made a trip to Ann Arbor, where upon her kindness and the suggestion of a local grabbed me a mixed six-pack of Arbor Brewing‘s lineup. Baring the slogan “Mitten Made,” I can’t imagine of a more fitting way to be more “Pure Michigan” for my tastebuds. Let’s take a dive into some of their offerings, which seem to have a uniquely Belgian inspiration.
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A Unique Experience … with Orval

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This bottle of Orval is special for several reasons:

  1. It’s fresh from Belgium, having been bottled in July for its ideal seven(?) week conditioning.
  2. It was delivered to me from Belgium, by way of my brother who visited the Orval brewery a week ago.
  3. Instead of a proper serve, it was enjoyed at room temperature, straight from the bottle after traveling across country with my brother.

All this amounts to a rather unorthodox way of drinking his beer, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t fantastic. Since I didn’t pour out the beer, I can’t comment on its visuals, but I assume the mixing of the beer through multiple flights gave it some wonderful characteristics after flying from Belgium to Seattle to upstate New York, where my family recently gathered.

This beer contains: water, hops, barley, candi sugar and yeast. But it smelled like pepper and damn-near tasted like a pumpkin spice beer. It had a refreshing dryness to it. I have no idea why, but can only assume the aromas and flavor was a conglomeration of all the contextual variables that brought the bottle from Belgium to my hand. I’ve had Orval a long time ago, but I couldn’t comment on this bottle’s taste compared to one found at a beer store here in the States.

I can’t give detailed impressions because I didn’t take notes – just enjoying a beer with my brother – but it was a great beer that was wonderfully carbonated and offered a great spicy tingle on my tongue.

These are all odd descriptors, but added up to a great beer drinking experience I’ve never had before. I hope to have it again.