Copy Cat: A ‘Best Beer’ List Loves IPAs, ABV. Again.

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Last week, Zymurgy, the official publication of the American Homebrewers Association, released its latest update to its annual “Best Beers in America” list.

The compilation of top-50 beers, voted on every year by readers of the magazine, typically stands out slightly from other such lists from Beer Advocate or RateBeer because of general lack of imperial stouts, which so often dominate other polls. There were seven this year and one imperial porter.

Despite that difference, Zymurgy’s voters do have one thing in common with just about any other “best beer” list you’d find – they love IPAs.

zymurgy best beers-ipa and dipa

After last year’s dissection of Zymurgy’s list, I took additional data with hope to better analyze the outcome of historical votes, offering context to any shifting preferences and patterns from over the years.

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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

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

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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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Stretching Your Dollar: Local Brews and the Beer Economy

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I’ve lost track how often I do it – standing alone, head bobbing back and forth from one beer to another.

It seems absurd, but in reality, it’s also a growing “problem.”

Do I want to spend $8 on a 22-ounce bottle of locally-produced pale ale or stout or $6 on a seasonal specialty beer from a national brand?

For me, like many beer enthusiasts, “drinking local” is more than a mantra thrown around. It’s a key part of my passion toward appreciating beer. I like knowing exactly where a beer came from, but also that I’m supporting a small, local business.

But the fact of the matter is a penny saved is a penny earned and this is an expensive hobby.

More important, this kind of cost-benefit analysis is pivotal for the vast majority of shoppers: those unlike me, who don’t overthink the malt and hops in a beer. Often, the choice is simple – find a good beer for a good price. Or, rather, find a good price and plan for the best.

So why is this something to worry about, anyway?

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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

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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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December 2013 Beertography

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I’ve made a pledge to myself. One that I hope will force my creative juices to flow a bit more freely.

Each month, I want to share a “beertography” roundup of four or five shots I’ve taken. While I love writing about beer, it’s nice to mix it up.

Below you’ll find some of my favorite, recent shots, which you may also come across on my Instagram page, Twitter account or even Untappd. All my shots are taken with my iPhone 5 and because I typically shoot right where I drink, my inventiveness can sometimes be kept to a minimum.

Obligatory: Sound Brewery Entendez Noel – The Sound of Christmas

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Spiegelau IPA glass – Beer is proof God loves us and he sent an angel to prove it

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Spiegelau IPA glass – A Vanishing Act

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Pliny the Elder – A White Whale, Found

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Ithaca Apricot Wheat – A Taste of Home, Here

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Got any photo tips or stories to share? Please post them below. I’m excited to see what I come up with next month!

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

Here’s a Dirty Little Secret About Russian River Pliny the Elder

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Psst.

Wanna know a secret?

Pliny the Elder isn’t as good as you think it is.

[Pause for audible gasps of shock and horror]

OK. Well, it is good. In fact, it’s kind of amazing. But it’s not for the reasons you might think.

And it’s not necessarily the best IPA or double IPA out there.

[Pause for screams of terror]
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Gotta Get Up to Get Down: What ‘Worst’ Beers Tell Us About the ‘Best’

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Before we wrap up this series on RateBeer’s “best beer” rankings, be sure to check out previous posts on declining ABV and geography of top beers.

Today is a bit of a hodge-podge collection of bits from my look into people’s beer preferences and appreciation via RateBeer.com. I suppose it would fall into the “Potpourri” category on Jeopardy.

As explained in part one, I looked into the top-20 rated beers from 2006 to 2013 because I felt keeping solely to the top 10 wouldn’t produce enough variety to show significant differences from year-to-year. However, I assumed that the bottom of each list wouldn’t suffer from any such drawbacks.

Essentially, if there’s going to be a group that would show volatility of beer brands, I’d expect it to be at the bottom of the list, where beers may come-and-go more freely thanks to new entries into the beer market and less of a group conclusion on how epic a particular beer really is.

While imperial stouts still fill up the ranks – they dominate throughout each list – looking at the “bottom” beers showed me some funny behavior of RateBeer’s users.
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