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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?

3 thoughts on “A better way to rate beer?

  1. I find a lot of people get into IPAs right away because that style of beer has really been the main standard bearer in the craft beer revolution. People hear the hype and their perceptions of the beer can be skewed because of that. I may be way off base here, but that’s kind if how I look at the IPA fad.

  2. I think that you may have something there Eric. Really an IPA is the polar opposite of the mass produced beer so I have a feeling that people swing towards it just to be different. I don’t really see IPAs as a fad, but the pendulum has swung from super hoppy IPAs towards a more balanced approach. When I first got into craft beer a solid, balanced IPA was hard to find. I am able to get my hands on them much easier now.

  3. I suppose fad was not the right choice of word. You hit the nail on the head when you say the IPA is polar opposite of mass produced beers. I do share your excitement for a well balanced IPA, I never really understood the practice of making a beer so bitter that your face puckers up instinctively. I guess it is just one way to try and stand out from the increasingly large crowd.

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