Making Snowflakes: An Exploration into Rarity, Beer Quality and Industry Authenticity

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We find ourselves in a unique time as beer lovers. Everything and anything is available to us. Whatever we want, whenever we want it.

With a record number of breweries nationwide, more than 5,000 businesses are creating a vast array of styles and flavor experiences, often nearby where we live. According to the Brewers Association, roughly three-quarters of drinking-age adults in the U.S. live within 10 miles of a brewery.

The flip side of this freedom of choice is the natural competition that comes with it. Keeping an IPA on tap is important to satiate American drinkers’ love for all things lupulin, but today’s brewery faces challenges presented by all the other entrants into the industry, roughly two a day. Finding a niche, or, at least, creating one, is a pivotal part of the business, whether it’s as a brewery as a whole or simply providing novel experiences every time someone walks through taproom doors.

Increasingly, the process of creating something “rare” is playing a larger role for brewers. This could be a celebrated one-off beer with limited quantities or a dedicated tap on-location that serves creations never to leave the premises. As businesses grow, evolve and consider how best to position themselves, the use of rarity in all its varieties has potential to impact breweries, industry tastemakers and drinkers.

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Examining the Value of ‘Best’ Beer: BeerGraphs

HolyGrail-lager

Quantifying aspects of beer is easy. We have definitive numbers that tell us about alcohol content, color, flavor and more.

But the question at the core of my last post, analyzing the value of “best” beer, asks about the potential of determining context for rarity. Given that the highest rated beers typically share common traits of style, ABV and availability, is there a way for us to better define what a lack of obtainable bottles or cans means to beer enthusiasts applying numbers to quality?

At worst, it’s a fool’s errand, trying to get into the minds of beer raters. At best, it’s an unscientific process that may scratch at the surface of a full effort, although we do have a good idea of what rarity means when it comes to product sales:

“Scarcity has this effect of making people perceive products as more valuable simply for the fact that they’re scarce,” business psychologist Nir Eyal told NPR in 2014, when, naturally, the network was covering the hype of Pliny the Elder, the sister beer of Pliny the Younger.

To build on the analysis of what we might have learned from Beer Advocate’s top 250 beers, I thought it’d be worthwhile to also peek at what we might learn from BeerGraphs.

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Examining the Value of ‘Best’ Beer

HolyGrail-lager

As we close in on the end of the year, it means we’re soon to be swamped with a variety of “best of” lists. This website is no different … although a little.

In the last two years, I’ve created my own unscientific, objective-as-possible best beer lists analyzing the compiled efforts of others scattered across the internet. You can still read 2014 and 2015 results to find out which “best” beers you might’ve missed.

With my attention shifting in that direction in recent weeks, I’ve decided to get a head start in another corner of “best,” taking a look at ratings, style and rarity. As we’ve seen in the past, all three seem to be linked, and I’ve turned to two popular beer rating websites to gain a better understanding. First up: Beer Advocate. (You can read an analysis of BeerGraphs data here.)

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The Data Behind Your GABF Beer Samples

Heading to Great American Beer Festival? Hope you like hops.

Thanks to Porch Drinking, festival goers have an advance preview at the many beers that will be served to thirsty enthusiasts descending on the Colorado Convention Center. Want an idea of what to expect? I crunched some numbers pulled from a continually updated list at Porch Drinking, as submitted by breweries.

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These Are the Hops Changing Beer – and Your Expectations

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There’s a running joke on one of my favorite podcasts, Steal This Beer, where co-host and Carton Brewing owner Augie Carton refers to Mosaic hops as the “sluttiest” hop out there.

Of all the varieties available to brewers – and there are a lot – Mosaic doesn’t just play nicely with other hops, it also offers its own flavorful characteristics that range from tropical fruit to blueberry and even pine. Whether in a pale ale or IPA, consumers are lapping up Mosaic-focused brews across the country. As one of the hottest “aroma” hops available on the market, its popularity continues to grow as more drinkers seek out beers that move beyond bitterness.

So it comes as no surprise that Mosaic is having a moment in the spotlight. If you didn’t notice it in your beer or on a label in 2015, know that there’s an even better chance you won’t miss it in 2016.

Mosaic might have been 2015’s Hop of the Year – it definitely has my vote – but looking back on last year’s harvest, we’ve got a great idea of which hops are making a splash right now and perhaps how your favorite beers will taste in the future.

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Crunching Numbers: An Analysis of RateBeer’s Best in 2015

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Note: You can also find an analysis of RateBeer’s best new beers of 2015 here.

Earlier this month we took a look at 2015’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 website, RateBeer. Over the weekend, the site released their annual collection of best beers of the year, according the reviews of users from the last year and weighted by performance within and outside of style.

As in years past, the list of 100 beers offers a great opportunity for analysis, trying to seek out changing tastes, preferences and insight into beer drinkers and our culture.

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

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A ‘Definitive’ Guide to the Best Beer of 2015: The Beer

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Yesterday, we looked at the “best” breweries of 2015.

Today, we use the same unscientific process on the best beers we might have enjoyed last year.

To do this, I used a collection of 2015’s “best beer” lists from a variety of sources, from blogs to newspapers and prominent magazines. Criteria for selection was simple: a list had to focus on 2015 releases (new beers or new, annual brews) with a preference toward a wide geographic representation. There are more city/state best beer lists than we could shake a pint glass at.

That left me with an eclectic group of lists, ranging from three to 25 beers. In all, there were 193 total beers to analyze with a handful of beers vying for best of 2015.

Nine made the cut.

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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

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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

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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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