RateBeer Ranked: A Historical Analysis of “Best Beers”

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After looking back at RateBeer user preferences for 2014 as all as a comparison of the last two years, it’s time to take a step even further back.

RateBeer’s “best beer” list goes back as far as 2002 – missing in 2004 and 2005 for some reason – so what I’ve done is taken the past 10 years of data from the annual rankings and selected the best of the “best” to try and gain some kind of insight.

What we have now is historical proof of our drunkenness. Or, at least, signs that demonstrate if we’re sipping on world-class beer, it better bring the heat.

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RateBeer Ranked: Comparing “Best Beer” of the Last Two Years

RateBeer-header 2013 vs 2014

In the first post analyzing RateBeer’s 2015 “best beer” list, which covers beers in 2014, a few things stood out:

The Expected

  • 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.

The Unexpected

  • 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.

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RateBeer Ranked: An Analysis of 2014’s Best Beer

ratebeer header JPG

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…

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Goodbye, Summer: August 2014 Beertography

bud_cameraIt’s the end of the month, which means it’s time for my regular roundup of beertography from the last few weeks.

Below you’ll find some of my recent shots, which you may also come across on my Instagram page, Twitter account or even Untappd. If you like these, you can find all of my beertography shots on Instagram or in my running archive.

All my shots are taken with my iPhone 5 unless otherwise noted. The space where I shoot my photos – around the house – offers somewhat limited opportunities for pretty backdrops, which is why I try to get inventive with my photo ideas.

Let’s see what August had to offer…

Cigar City Jai Alai – Juiced

cigar city-jai alai-beer-beertography-ipa-india pale aleTroegs Sunshine Pils – Waning Days of Summer

troegs-sunshine-pils-pilsner-beer-beertographyBlack Raven Wisdom Seeker – Thirst for Knowledge

black raven-wisdom seeker-ipa-india pale ale-beer-beertographyGuinness – A Perfect Pint

guinness-beer-beertography-stout-irish-ireland-pubHardywood Capital Trail – Let’s Go For a Ride

hardywood-pale ale-capital trail-beer-beertography

As always, you can go back to see previous beertography posts:

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

What This Maple Bacon Ice Cream Stout Taught Me About Our Expectations of Beer

maple bacon imperial stout-fullsteam-brewdogs

We all are individual snowflakes.

Our identities are unique, enhanced by our various shapes, sizes, thoughts, beliefs and whether we say “soda” or “pop.” Our backgrounds and histories ground us and help us become the people we are today.

But the winter that forges us doesn’t last forever. The climate from which we create our individuality ebbs and flows like seasonal temperatures as we grow and are exposed to the world. What makes us different in winter inevitably changes come spring, when snow melts and we find ourselves less an individual snowflake and more a drop of water, careening toward everyone else, where we join together as a flowing mass.

As beer drinkers, our tastes are personal but were still part of the larger group – the beer-drinking community. As a single person, we are able to determine our own shape and preferences, but it’s hard to shake the pull of others.

Last week, I took part in a shoot for Brew Dogs, the Esquire TV show featuring Scottish brewers James Watt and Martin Dickie. They visited Durham, NC to film an episode in which they wanted to brew the most “calorific beer ever.”

I wanted to be a part of the shoot to support Durham and Fullsteam, my favorite, local brewery, who hosted the eclectic pair. As I left, I had a feeling an event like this – by no fault of James, Martin or Fullsteam – can cause our beer-loving, individual snowflakes to melt.

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A Whole New World? The Geography of RateBeer Rankings


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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Cigar City Hotter than Helles Lager

helles for web

Ahh, the lager. The “scourge” of American craft beer.

Except for when it’s done well. And actually tastes good. And is pleasantly refreshing.

If anything, the lager’s profile is simplistic. Subtly is the name of the game. That’s how Cigar City’s Hotter than Helles Lager plays it, with light aromas of Pilsner malt, freshly ground corn and low-bitter hops like Hallertau or Spalt that gave such a touch of cut grass.

The brew’s flavor was light and crisp, but with a fluffy mouthfeel that cascaded across my palate. Sweet grains mix with barely a hint of hops, leaving a refreshing leafy aftertaste that washes away quickly. That’s a big difference between Hotter than Helles and any mass produced American lager, which lingers with its stale flavor. Cigar City hit a home run on this one.

For as basic as this brew was, there’s no denying that tons of attention and detail went into it to get all these aspects just so. Cheers to Cigar City for doing it right … and well.

+Bryan Roth

Cigar City Maduro brown ale

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“Brown ale has never been the most popular beer, but there always seem to be customers for a beer that is a little toastier and less hoppy than pale ale.”
– Randy Mosher’s Tasting Beer

Some beers are made to simply not offend and that’s OK. Some beers offer an array of smells and tastes, but nothing remarkable.

Sometimes that’s the point.

Cigar City’s Maduro brown ale is an expected malt-forward entry into the brown ale style, leading with a base of bittersweet chocolate malt aromas, brown sugar and molasses. It’s simplistic, straight-forward and easy. On the tongue, Maduro brings forth tastes of hazelnut, caramel, toffee and more of that chocolate malt. Light carbonation keeps mouthfeel smooth. Cigar City insists espresso is part of the package, but only as the beer warmed considerably could I get a sense of that.

This brown ale is easy-drinking and sessionable, although at 5.5 percent ABV, it technically isn’t British “Sessionable.” With it’s unoffending characteristics, it does, however, have potential to please a wide array of palates.

By Bryan Roth

+Bryan Roth

Cigar City Florida Cracker

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Local beer is great, but comes with the drawback of being just that – local. That’s why it’s handy to have a middleman.

Over the fall I used LetsPour.com to order a set of great pumpkin beers from Elysian Brewing and just recently, had a special delivery of Cigar City brews, which don’t come anywhere close to the Triangle.

The Florida-based brewery has garnered plenty of attention for beers like their Jai Alai IPA and Marshal Zukhov imperial stout, but I decided to start with their Florida Cracker white ale, which has a 86 on Beer Advocate. Named after nickname given to the original settlers of Florida, this beer firmly planted Cigar City as a new, favorite brewery.
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