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A better way to rate beer?

I’ve explained in the past my views on beer rating and why there is not “rating system” on this site, but I do want to find a better way to review beers and understand them. Why are all IPAs not created equal and what makes one better then another even if they use the same recipe? Some of these questions can be answered through homebrew knowledge but it does lead to an interesting set of research. For the most part most beer reviews follow the path below:

  • Appearance
  • Aroma
  • Taste
  • Mouthfeel
  • Overall

I generally follow this as well with the addition of some background on the brewery and/or beer. I’ve been reading Moneyball recently and it has me thinking about beer.  The general preface behind Moneyball is that the “typical” ballplayer may not be the best person for the position and that the scouting system is out of wack. Regardless if you buy into the idea (it’s had mixed results) it takes on an interesting flavor when you look at it through a beer lens.

Out of all of the beer rating sites out there, not one of them can match a beer with another beer that you would also like reliably. There are a number of apps out there at that attempt to do this, but they have mixed results at best. It shouldn’t be terribly hard to come up with some hard stats on beers and find other similar beers that match, but for some reason, no one has done it yet. In Moneyball the author talks about batting average and errors being overrated statistics and that the only thing that really matters in on base percentage. The book argues that you can look at batting average, but you need to get on base in order to score. Some players might not have a great batting average but they get a ton of walks, which raises their on base percentage and therefore value.

What stats do we look at in beer that tell us about the beers we love? And what stats are overrated? We have the basics of ABV (measure of alcohol), IBUs (measure of bitterness), SRM (measure of colors), and others, but which ones really matter? Which ones haven’t we discovered yet?

We need to take a look at how beers are rated and what we are actually rating in order to get a better understanding of what makes a great beer. I can taste a beer and tell you if it is good or not, but I would like to put a bit more “science” into it. If we understood the stats to make a beer great, then we could more easily find similar beers that we like. We could also find deeper connections between beers and find the different pathways through which we discover craft beer. For instance, why do most people dig IPAs right out of the gate? I don’t have any answers to the questions I pose, but I think we should be considering them. Do you have any thoughts on ways to better view beers?

Enough bourbon and barrel aging

A little under two years ago I wrote about some trends in craft beer that I was noticing. You can read the full thing here, but the skinny of it is that oak aged and sour beers were making a mark in the craft beer world. I still think that the trend that I talked about then is true now, but there seems to be a bigger emphasis on “big” beers and frankly, I’m tired of it.

I do dig the occasional bourbon aged imperial stout, but they are becoming a dime a dozen. They aren’t special anymore and they ones that I have had range from decent to poor. Consumers seem to be getting caught up in these “special” release beers and I’m not sure that it is having a positive effect on the craft beer industry. I’ve fallen victim to this type of ploy as well, but I’m learning to shy away from it.

How many 10% bourbon aged imperial stouts can one drink and how different can they all really be? I’m getting tired of big and bold, I would prefer smaller beers with more delicate flavors. There is something to be said for a solid 5% beer. I think it shows a level of skill in brewing that a 10% stout just doesn’t showcase. As any homebrewer which style of beer is easiest to make consistently. I bet stout would be the number one answer.

Hopefully this trend starts to calm down and we can return to more “normal” beers. There is still plenty of room for experimentation, but the bourbon and barrel aging has run its course. Am I alone in this?