The Replacement Level Pacific IPA and Saison

Eno Sarris, August 15, 2013

The idea is that there's a beer that is publicly available and reasonably popular for every style, and that every beer should be judged against that beer in their style. That 'replacement level' beer changes in every region -- think about your local beer aisle at the super market. But since availability changes from region to region, so should our concept of 'how good' a beer is -- in the land of giants, Randy Johnson is a midget.

We've settled on a method, and it's time to test it with a couple different styles, particularly now that we have more data downloaded. So, with our most recent data dump, I thought it was time to test our method high and low. The Pacific Region IPA pool might be the land of giants, and then, since Saisons are on our minds, let's try a sparser landscape by finding the Replacement Level Pacific Region Saison. Hopefully the results won't be all out of whack.

To recap: We're calling the beers that make up 60% of the sample 'readily available.' This keeps all the beers with fewer than 100 check-ins out of the group, or all the smaller beers that nobody can find and can not be replacement level. There might be a few brewpub beers in our group, but what can you do. Brewpubbers are a loyal lot.

We can't list all of the beers in our Pacific Region IPA sample, but let's show the top ten by check-ins just for fun:

Beer Name Brewery Name Average
IPA Southern Tier Brewing Company 3.3948
Sculpin IPA Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits 3.89262
Racer 5 IPA® Bear Republic Brewing Co. 3.68442
Stone IPA Stone Brewing Co. 3.59018
West Coast IPA Green Flash Brewing Co. 3.56997
Blind Pig IPA Russian River Brewing Company 3.68485
Total Domination IPA Ninkasi Brewing Company 3.44387
RPM IPA Boneyard Beer Company 3.81077
Union Jack IPA Firestone Walker Brewing Company 3.53257
Torpedo Extra IPA Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. 3.45314

Yes, bartender, I'll have any of those beers.

But we're talking about replacement level, which isn't as fun as most of these beers. It's the "meh, sure" beer. And, in this sample, that makes up 60% of the check-ins for Pacific Region IPAs, the replacement level beer is Long Hammer IPA from Redhook Ale Brewery, with a 2.8 average rating. Sure!

Let's... saison.

There were 809 returned Saisons that got check-ins in the Pacific Region. That 'pales' in comparison to the 2234 IPAs we found in the same region. Here are your top ten by check-in numbers:

Beer Name Brewery Name Average
Seizoen Bretta Logsdon Farmhouse Ales 3.53741
Saison Funkwerks 3.162
Hennepin Farmhouse Saison Brewery Ommegang 3.46429
Evil Twin / Stillwater / Stone "The Perfect Crime" Stone Brewing Co. 3.1982
Sneak Attack 21st Amendment Brewery 3.09908
Honey Saison Almanac Beer Co. 2.83173
Noble Rot Dogfish Head Craft Brewery 3.24112
Red Barn Ale The Lost Abbey 3.01862
Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale Boulevard Brewing Co. 3.47399
Zymaster Series No. 4 Fort Ross Farmhouse Ale Anchor Brewing Company 3.22293

I'm a saison hound and I'll admit, there are some losers on this list. I love Almanac's sours to death, but the Honey Saison is only okay. And Anchor... Anchor shouldn't make farmhouses maybe. Giant of the industry still. I have yet to have The Perfect Crime -- a black smoked saison which is just crazy, and probably not really a Saison -- but I know it's available this weekend in San Diego at the Stone Fest.

But when it comes to the replacement level Saison on the west coast, it comes to the Saison Extra from Brouwerj West, at 2.6 even. That's an LA beer, so maybe not readily available to everybody on the west coast, but you can find it out here. It definitely isn't my favorite saison, or even on my top ten. I like the brewery, but don't love the beer. This passes my smell test so far -- especially since it's lower than the IPA replacement level.

So let's recap the replacement levels so far, re-run with the newest data set. Tell us what you think of the method and the results so far. It'll be tough to implement, but judging scores regionally against style may give BAR a boost.

Type Region Brewery Beer Avg Rating
American Pale Ale Northeast Saranac Big Moose Ale 2.51
American Pale Ale Upper Midwest Bell's Captain Spontaneous 2.65
American Pale Ale Pacific Region Mendocino Blue Heron Pale Ale 2.73
India Pale Ale Pacific Region Red Hook Long Hammer IPA 2.8
Saison Pacific Region Brouwerj West Saison Extra 2.6