The Pointlessness of Top Beer Lists

Lists of top beers are entirely subjective, utterly pointless, and completely meaningless – but you knew that already. And if you’re like me, you still couldn’t help but take a squiz at the Local Taphouse’s Hottest 100 Aussie craft beers of 2011.

The list was released on Australia Day with Stone & Wood’s Pacific Ale winning the coveted top spot on the day, continuing its run of success after topping the Beer Lover’s Guide Critics List earlier this year.

The list itself was a strange mixture of beers. The the big boys of the craft beer scene and their classic ‘gateway’ beers went very well. At no.2 was Little Creatures Pale Ale, no.10 White Rabbit Dark Ale; no. 13 Matilda Bay Fat Yak, and no.16 Coopers Pale Ale. These beers certainly aren’t rocking any beer geek’s world but they still do well in a popularity contest.

And then there was a sprinkling of ‘Beer Geeks Wet Dream’ beers popping up along the way too like Kooinda’s Black IPA at no. 9, Bridge Road’s India Saison at No. 14 (it got my vote), and Mountain Goat’s Thorny Goat at no. 15.

The surprises for me were the successes of McLaren Vale, who took no.7 and 11 with their Ale and IPA respectively, and 4 Pines, who came in at 4,6,17,19,20,40 and 77.

The cynic in me wonders whether some brewers did a better job of ‘marketing’ to pull votes than others, and there was indeed some talk during the voting process over vote-getting tactics employed by different breweries, including brewers using incentives to pull votes, and even voting for themselves.

Beyond the question marks surrounding the voting process, I think the format of the list itself could do with a little tweaking. No one wants to see the classic ‘gateway’ beers topping the list year-in, year-out. We know Little Creatures do a decent pale ale, we don’t need the point rammed home every year.

I would love to see more emphasis placed on new beers. Seasonals, collaborations, one-off batches, and new releases are what invigorate the craft beer world and there’s enough new beers out there, and enough knowledge amongst drinkers, to focus on new beers alone.

Another alternative, could be to segment the voting according to styles? This way the envelope-pushing IPAs and Imperial Stouts that will never win a popular vote can get a fair shot at an award and some rightful attention too.

Speaking of envelope-pushing beers, RateBeer also released its list of Top Beers for the year and, as usual, the more extreme beer styles rated well, while the list provides a great guide to the highest quality beers around.

If you haven’t already, check out the top beers from Australia/New Zealand. As expected, the Kiwis cleaned up, showing that we’re still playing catch up with our smaller neighbour when it comes to brewing top quality craft beer. 8 Wired, snaffled the top two spots and three out of the top five, while the top ranked Aussie beer was Murray’s Wild Thing.

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