Finding Gems with Sortable Style+

Eno Sarris, January 15, 2014

Co-founder Matt Dennewitz can blow the smoke off his finger guns because he just checked a major to-do list item: The leaderboards now feature sorting for Style+!

Style+ is our simplest statistic -- it's just a beer's rating divided by its style's average rating, times 100 -- but it can be powerful. Just say it in a sentence: Cigar City's Strawberry Shortcake is 36% better than your average American Light Lager. Chills.

It can also be powerfully misleading in small samples. It takes only 25 check-ins to get on the leaderboard here, so if you don't filter for popularity (see that filter? you can toggle between 'all' and 'popular,' which takes 100 check-ins) you'll get some weird beers. Look at the aggregate pale ale leaderboards, sorted by style, with no filter for popularity. I'd love to try some of those beers. I've never heard of most of those beers.

Of course, that's fine. It could lead to some fun diamond in the rough discoveries. (Do I need to go to Capitola Brewing? And hello Bellingham, Washington, you're on the map!)

But 26 people could be a friend set. It could be ten family members, ten friends (a few with multiple accounts), three brewers, and a small set-up in the middle of nowhere. Not to denigrate. Just to point out -- things tend to get more stable when you up the sample sizes.

So click "Popular Beers." What happens now is that the Big Littles are on the same stage as the Little Bigs. The international board has some surprises that bubble to the top with this sort. Anybody been to St. Petersburgh to enjoy an AF Brew Red Rum? How about Australia's Cosmic Highway? pseudo Sue by Toppling Goliath has long been on the peripheries of my consciousness -- someone somewhere told me about it, once. A hearty congrats to Alpine Brewing, the little engine that could in San Diego. They've got no distribution, a tiny capacity, but obviously they make great beers. Check out how crazy Alpine gets when you limit the Style+ sort to pale ales on the Pacific Coast.

And, really, the story of Alpine -- which will be told in a few ways in these electronic pages over the coming weeks -- is the triumph of Style+. If you'd like to spot a rising star, a prospect on the peripheries, a beer that hasn't quite gotten the love it deserves just quite yet... you might do it by sorting by Style+.

Thanks to Michael Donk at Brewbokeh for the header image.