We looked at Sierra Nevada Pale Ale's scores across the states last week, and one of the reasons we postulated for the difference was that some states had better options than Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and so they ranked the beer lower because of regional social comparison.
Well, we have the scores for all American Pale Ales in each state. So let's compare.
It's largely the same list. Vermont, Montana, and Idaho are near the bottom, like they were. Hawaii moves down one spot, but five of the top six are the same states.
Indiana is in an interesting spot, however. It rated Sierra's pale Ale well, but it rated all pale ales well. What to do with that sort of result? You can see the same in reverse at the top -- Virginia gave Sierra a middling score (lower than Indiana's), but it gave all pale ales a lower score, so it looks like they like Sierra more in comparison.
This seems like a more robust score to use, but maybe it's just fool's gold. By putting Sierra back in context of all pale ales, we're bringing back in the problem we sought to avoid: the state of competition in each state. Sierra is not the same beer in comparison, it's the same beer by definition.
No beer is without context -- you're drinking it a bar with a certain list, or you bought it at a store with a certain range of offerings. There's also the context of your unique palate, though. And if we start bringing in these average pale ale ratings, we're confusing these different contexts, maybe.
Return to Indiana. This is the region that boasts Zombie Dust, Alpha King, and Daisy Cutter. They do not lack in great pale ales. And yet they rate Sierra Nevada higher than Virginia, where the list of best APAs is a largely anonymous list. How can we say that this relative ranking is better than just saying -- SNPA does well in Indiana? And yet, if we use Indiana's high ranking of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale to 'downgrade' APA ratings coming from that state, we'll needlessly bring down some great pale ales.
It seems this newest look at the numbers has only muddied the water.