What’s the Deal with “Best Of” Beer Lists?

Recently, UPROXX ran an article where “Beer Drinkers Ranked These Craft Beers As The Best Of The Class.” I’m always up for a “best of” list and this one boasted more than 18,000 votes from Ranker.com, a website that offers users the opportunity to rank lists in a variety of subjects. While ranking things is nothing new, it does certainly seem like the idea has really taken off as social media has become the behemoth we know it as today. These lists are always interesting to see, but just how useful are they to craft beer drinker? Let’s take a look…

Ranker.com

On Ranker.com, people vote on anything from the “Best Chips in the World,” to the “Greatest Scientific Breakthrough in 2017,” to “Who Should Replace Beyonce at Coachella.” So right away, this should tell us something about the people voting on their favorite craft beer. They are probably not the craftiest of craft beer nerds and while some might think this will create a lack of legitimacy with this list, maybe it’s value is that it offers a different perspective. Here are top 10 beers on Ranker’s Best Of Craft Beer list:

  1. Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA 9% ABV
  2. Sierra Nevada Stout 5.8% ABV
  3. Stone IPA 6.9% ABV
  4. Lagunitas IPA 6.2% ABV
  5. Goose Island IPA 5.9%
  6. Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ 7.5% ABV
  7. Harpoon IPA 5.9% ABV
  8. Stone Arrogant Bastard 7.2% ABV
  9. Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin IPA 7% ABV
  10. Stone Ruination Imperial IPA 8.5% ABV

First of all, props to Stone brewing for making this list three times. Interestingly, five out the top ten are craft breweries that are no longer technically “craft,” because of their ownership. This list reads like an average beer drinker voted on it. Maybe not the average San Diego craft beer drinker, but we should remember to peek outside our craft beer bubble on occasion.

Ratebeer.com

Ratebeer.com has been around since 2000, and boasts that their website is “widely recognized as the most in-depth, accurate, and *most-visited source for beer information.” Let’s take a look at their top 10 beers list:

  1. Toppling Goliath Kentucky Brunch Brand Imperial Stout – 12% ABV
  2. Westvleteren 12 Quad – 10.2% ABV
  3. Toppling Goliath Morning Delight Imperial Stout – 12% ABV
  4. Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout – Double Barrel aged – 11% ABV
  5. Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout – 15% ABV
  6. Russian River Pliny the Younger Imperial IPA – 11% ABV
  7. Alesmith Speedway Stout – Bourbon Barrel Aged – 12% ABV
  8. Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout (Bourbon Vanilla Bean) – 14% ABV
  9. Bell’s Black Note Imperial Stout 15.5%
  10. Alesmith Speedway Stout – Bourbon Barrel Aged: Vietnamese Coffee – 12% ABV

While Pliny the Younger being on this list is expected, what’s interesting about this list is that it’s heavily dominated by Imperial Stouts. Those are strong, heavy beers, not for the faint of palate. In fact, there isn’t one beer on this list that isn’t in the double digits for ABV. Furthermore, unless you are heavily into the craft beer scene, you probably haven’t heard of most of these beers and wouldn’t know where to get them. Consequently, this list is nearly useless to the average beer drinker.

Beer Advocate

This website is branded as the “go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.” Let’s take a look at their top 10 beers listed on their “best of” list:

  1. Toppling Goliath Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout – 12% ABV
  2. Tree House Brewing Good Morning Imperial Stout 8.4% ABV
  3. Tree House Brewing King Julius Imperial IPA 8.3% ABV
  4. Tree House Brewing Very Hazy Imperial IPA 8.6% ABV
  5. Russian River Pliny the Younger Imperial IPA – 11% ABV
  6. Toppling Goliath Brewing Mornin’ Delight Imperial Stout – 12% ABV
  7. Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout – Double Barrel aged – 11% ABV
  8. The Alchemist Heady Topper Imperial IPA 8% ABV
  9. Three Floyds Marshmallow Handjee Dark Lord (Bourbon Barrel) Imperial Stout – 15% ABV
  10. Tree House Brewing King JJJuliusss Imperial IPA – 8.4%

This list shares 5 of the top 10 beers with the Ratebeer.com list which makes sense being that the people voting on these two websites are probably from the same demographic of beer drinkers. Tree House Brewing from Massachusetts makes a strong showing on this list by filling 4 spots and again, this list is Imperial heavy, whether it’s Imperial IPA or Imperial Stouts being represented.

Are Best Of Beer Lists Useful?

Just how useful are these lists? Well, that depends on who you are. One of the main factors in which beers make these lists is the population voting in them. For something like RateBeer or Beer Advocate, you are probably getting serious craft beer drinkers that take the time to rate beers on these websites. Right there, that breaks down the demographic to a specific type of craft beer consumer. It’s someone who is social media savvy and cares deeply enough about their opinion of a beer to share it with others. There are plenty of craft beer lovers who are very educated and well-versed about beer, but just don’t care to take part in the whole online review scene.

On the other side, Ranker.com states their list is also voted on by beer drinkers. They seem to be the type of beer consumers who like to rank anything. Likely, not only have they ranked the beer on this website, but they probably ranked a few other things too.  It’s fun to share opinions and people feel like they are part of something.

This change in voter population shows in what they have picked as their favorite beers which on the Ranker list is heavily dominated by IPAs. This makes sense because IPAs are still by far the best-selling craft beer and even at beer competitions, the IPA category is always the one with the most entries. The list from Ranker.com is going to play to a much larger population of beer drinkers and the beers are way more accessible in terms of wide distribution, but when five out of their top ten aren’t even technically craft beer, it loses legitimacy with the hardcore craft beer club.

So while beer lists are fun, they are not one-size-fits-all. You need to think about the people who are voting on the beers and weigh that to what sort of craft beer consumer you are. With such a large pool of craft beer for these lists to pull from, you aren’t likely to find many of the beers on the “best of” lists available at your local beer store. Unless you are looking at Ranker’s list. You can find all of those at most stores and so in an odd way, maybe it makes their “best of” list the most relevant to the largest population of craft beer consumers.

 

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