Thursday, 28 January 2010
Thoughts on Beer Rating.
This post started as a comment in reply box to this post. It grew and grew and I thought it deserved a space of it's own.
You see for me, the one fatal flaw with any kind of beer rating is that beer, by nature beer is variable. As brewers we spend most of our life trying to eliminate as much of that variability as possible but there are things outside of our control. Take hops for example. English hops are a seasonal crop, picked and dried in September. Naturally they degrade and oxidise over the course of the year, the beer you drink in August will have nearly year old hops in. Recipes can be adjusted to compensate, but the exact same beer can never be generated. Shortages in hops can also have a ruinous effect on the consistency.
Once the beer is out of the brewer's hands there are many more variables that can have an effect on the beer. Whether cask or bottle, age plays a large factor. Massive U.S. style hopping in a bottled beer that is sat on a shelf in a shop for six months is not going to taste the same as one stored cool for a month and then drunk. By the same token, an imperial stout is not going to taste the same if drunk fresh rather than suitably aged in a cool, dark place. Casks also change in flavour profile depending on how long they have been tapped and spiled. Certainly with the beers I produce, hop character mellows over the life of the cask.
I think it is unfair to rate the 'same' beer that is in different condition. Also I would like to know how much of this beer rating is a numbers game. This guy, RateBeer's top rater claims to have drunk 15,862 since 2002. That is 5.4 new beers every day. How is that possibe? Does he/she do nothing other that sit around opening bottle after bottle? How do they pay for it? If they have had 5.4 beers every day, I'd argue that theyre probably wasn't enough quantity of the beer to get a sense of what it was actually like. I think a 3rd of a pint for session beer, maybe a little less for stronger stuff is about the minimum quantity needed to get a real idea of how a beer tastes.
This list has been published. Who cares? Not me really. I know a lot of people enjoy the fun of seeking out new beers, hallowed and legendary beers, myself included. But please don't take it too seriously.