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A Guide To Our Sortable Beer Leaderboards

Eno Sarris, January 07, 2014 -   

It's a new year, and BeerGraphs is just starting to crawl if it's an infant. That's a good time as any to do a refresher course on Beers Above Replacement, and to give y'all a sense of what the BAR landscape looks like.

We have wOBAR -- changes might be coming to the stat, but we'll keep the idea if not the exact iteration it's in now -- in order to put a beer up against the members of its style. Seems unfair to compare a mead to an IPA. Better to see how the mead does against meads and the IPA against IPAs. Then you can actually compare the two beers, in their own context.

Because a beer that sells thousands and remains highly-rated has both a more believable rating and a more impressive rating than a brewpub beer with a five-oh rating and 25 dudes that swear it's the bomb, we have BAR. Beers Above Replacement takes a beer's rating compared to its style, and then uses a logarithmic function to give it some credit for the amount of checkins on the site.

It's a counting stat, in a way. It continues to add up as our leaderboards update, multiple times daily, and people continue to check in to the beer. Since it's a counting stat, we may break beers into beer seasons, where 2013 Heady Topper might have 15 BAR and the 2014 version fewer or more. That'll allow us to compare vintages, but also to track how a beer does over time as the brewery adds capacity and distribution. This seems like a good idea, no?

The leaderboards do a decent job of providing context. You can limit your beer search to BARS in certain ranges, for example, so you can see what it means to be a 15 BAR beer. But let's describe the data here in a table so you have further context for the numbers.

BAR Range % of Population Lowest-Ranked Member Descriptor
10+ 0.10% Fat Heads Head Hunter IPA Hall-of-Famer
8 to 10 0.40% Ithaca Beer Flower Power IPA MVP
6 to 8 1.10% Russian River Supplication All Star
4 to 6 4.70% The Bruery Bottleworks XXII Very Good
2 to 4 18.60% Rogue Brutal IPA Above Average
0 to 2 45.70% Left Hand Stranger IPA Useful to Average
Below 0 29.40% Wolf Brewing American Brown Not Good

If it seems a little light at the top, that's by design. One of the frustrations of the 0-100 scale is that every great beer seems to be crammed into the 98-100 area, and differentiation at the top is difficult. But we can push that number around if there's a groundswell of well-reasoned support in the other direction.

The beers listed aren't really the *worst* beer in each section, just beers rated at the bottom number of the range that people might recognize. You may want Bottleworks to have a higher number associated with it, but it's in the top 6.3% of beers! That's excellent!

The longer-term vision of the site is to continue to help you filter available rankings for your region and your particular likes and dislikes. This will include distribution data and some interactive elements that help us help you use this information to pick your next beer. But hopefully this guide, and the changes coming shortly, will make that easier as you continue to explore the craft beer aisle.

Thanks to Julianna Schroeder for the image.

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