It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
There are more reasons than I care to mention as to why I'm happy to see the end of 2020. I'm
also happy to see the end of January 2020. Why? It's the month for countless Best Beers of the
Year lists. They're all a bunch of pretentious baloney mainly touting beers most drinkers never
heard of and never will have access to.
The annual creation of these lists has been going on for years but they seem to have really
proliferated with the advance of the Internet. Every beer website - and there are thousands of
them- seems to have one. I can only guess that there must be a few people who actually enjoy
reading them, If not the writers responsible would be looking for another line of work. I'm proud to
say I've never seen such a list here on BeerNexus.
Bill, you're probably thinking I'm picking on beer writers since we've seen loads of these types of
lists, be it the best albums, films or, best of just about anything else. Maybe you're right (not really)
but we are beer drinkers and we read a lot about beer so those lists bother me the most. Let's face
it - they are totally subjective. And frankly a lot of the authors subjectivity isn't ground in solid beer
knowledge. I wonder how many of the writers are Cicerones or certified beer judges. How many
just pick a handful of the beers for their list that they never evaluated in a blind tasting? How many
are picking beers even they can't find but have received as "samples"? What value is it to the
reader to learn about some one-off brew made in a state thousands of miles away that even locals
there would struggle to find?
I found this year's VinePair’s “Top 10 beers of 2020 according to UnTappd” particularly annoying.
Bill, I can see you thinking here she goes again taking another shot at UnTappd. And you'd be
right. UnTappd is a site where random people with questionable beer judgment “check in” with
whatever beer they’re currently drinking at any given moment. I'm fine with that as an entertaining
activity and as a way for the beer drinker to keep accurate records but it doesn't make for reliable
information when trying to create a serious Best of list. Need proof? The new Untappd list has
Guinness as the best beer of the year and in third place they have Corona. Bill you know I love
Guinness but the best of the year? Come on. I have no comment on Corona.
By the way Bill, don't confuse my criticism of these list with legitimate beer reviews. Those have a
valuable purpose. They can guide the buyer to beers that potentially he will enjoy rather than to
waste his money on ones with flavors he would hate.
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next time!.
Hello Gina -
And a happy February to you Gina. I'd love to see your list of the Best Months of the Year now
that I know you don't like this one. Oh, just teasing. You do make some good points.
First, I heartedly agree that most of those lists contain beers that are not readily available to 90%
of the readers. I personally enjoy reading about them in the same way I like to read travel books
about countries I know I'll never visit. It's fun, entertaining, and sometimes informative. There's
nothing wrong with that.
One list I recently saw that irked me was “The 25 Most Important IPAs Right Now, Ranked.” I
might have been impressed if it was written by Michael Jackson but it wasn't. The tile of course
begs the question how do they define "important'. And does "right now" mean new or could the
beer be an old classic that still influences brewers and brewing techniques? Should the beer be
a big seller or can it be "important' if it's something that came and quickly went?
As to your displeasure with anything to do with UnTappd I'm never going to look up a rating for
you again no matter how much you want to know. I do agree with you in one sense. As I see it
Untappd ratings tend to occur on high-volume drinking days. No surprise there of course but
drinking many different beers back-to-back can make it very difficult to remain objective while
deciding on how many stars a given brew deserves not to mention the reviewer may be far less
than an "expert" as to a particular style. Untappd is basically a popularity forum. If you wonder
what historic validity that has just listen to the most popular music of the day. Beethoven, Bach,
and Mozart will not be on the list so don't be disappointed if you don't see the likes of Sierra
Nevada Pale or Anchor Steam on the list.
Having done our share of blind taste testing I think you'll agree that the order of consumption
could have a profound impact on the way people rate beers. If I drank the world-class IPA
immediately before a more ordinary “lawnmower IPA,” the second beer may seem lackluster or
even poor by comparison. I could go on but basically any user rating really doesn't tell me what is
the best in any category, nonetheless for beer.
Gina, have you ever wondered if the "expert" creators of some of these lists have personally
tasted every beer they toutt? A big no there. Did you ever wonder if they rely on unnamed
sources, secondhand opinions, brewery reputations or promotional incentives ? A big yes there.
In the grand scheme of things, I don’t believe "Best Beers of the Year" lists end up mattering very
much to casual craft beer consumers. Most people see them as a delightful fantasy, a list of
beers they would love to try but likely won't have the opportunity. As for the super serious craft
geek well it might provide some trading goals or vacation destinations and there is nothing wrong
I do submit there is one list we both would trust and believe if we ever saw it It's the one that
ranked our column as the best of all beer blogs.
Here's looking at you, Gina