Fantasy Brewery Scouting Reports: Three Thoughts on Strategy

Alex Fossi, February 03, 2014

I'm back with some more super-cool babe-attracting fantasy brewery content! You can find the game rules here, and parts 1 and 2 of the scouting reports here and here -- signups here

I'll be honest with you guys -- there are a LOT of breweries in tier three and four. I can't profile all of them, though it'll be a project for next season. Instead, I figured I'd use this third installment of Fantasy Brewery Scouting Reports to talk about some preliminary strategy thoughts, using some of these breweries to illustrate what I'm talking about. If you've got some specific breweries you were hoping to find info on, just let me know in the comments and I'll do my best impression of a guy who has something useful to say. You have until Friday to sign up!

Strategy hypothesis #1: It's easier to make up ground in Style+ with your later picks than the other categories. You can find breweries like Jack's Abby, Karbach, Alpine, and New England Brewing Co. in tier three, all of which score very well by Style+. In fact, Jack's Abby and NEBCO both score as well as just about any of the tier one options by that metric, so pairing them with a Mikkeller or similar top-tier pick will balance out the downsides of each.

Compare this with the alternative: starting with a brewery like Cantillon or Hill Farmstead might give you a solid Style+ anchor, but it's much more difficult to find breweries that will add lots of BAR and variety as you move into the lower tiers. It's not entirely impossible, of course.

The exceptions to this rule are breweries like Pipeworks: newer, but with at least a year's history of releasing a wide variety of new beers. These are rare, because they need to be new but not too new. Pipeworks makes an effort to release a new beer every week, but it's hard to find many similar options that are as open about their release plans. Trying to find a brewery in the lower tiers that will provide BAR and variety if you went for Style+ with your first pick isn't impossible, but it's a gamble.

Strategy hypothesis #2: One of the best ways to find breweries that will help in Style+ is to look for breweries that focus on styles with a lower replacement level. Just like a mediocre hitter can be a useful fantasy baseball player if he plays the sparse positions at middle infield or catcher, a so-so brewery can help if they work primarily in weaker styles.

Jack's Abby is hardly a "so-so" brewery, but they're a great example of how this can help you; they focus on lager styles, and their Style+ scores benefit from it. Their flagship Hoponius Union is a pale lager that averages a 3.96 on Untappd, good for a 130 Style+. Compare that with Flying Dog's The Truth, an Imperial/Double IPA, which averages 3.98 on Untappd--good for just a 101 Style+. For reference, here are the common styles with the highest replacement level, along with the replacement-level Untappd score for that style:

  • Gueuze (3.95)
  • American Imperial/Double Stout (3.94)
  • American Wild Ale (3.93)
  • Russian Imperial Stout (3.91)
  • Belgian Quad (3.85)
  • Imperial/Double IPA (3.79)
  • Sour Ale (3.76)

And here are the common styles with the lowest replacement level:

  • Malt Liquor (2.58)
  • Pale Lager (2.75)
  • Blonde Lager (2.98)
  • Winter Lager (2.99)
  • Golden Lager (3.02)
  • Pilsner (3.04)
  • Helles Lager (3.26)

Need a more concise version of this idea? It's as simple as this: draft somebody that brews good lagers. If you've come across a newer brewery that makes good lagers, they could make for a great value as a utility pick. Otherwise, look at Jack's Abby--more than any other brewery, they benefit from this lager boost.

Strategy hypothesis #3: When in doubt, go with a newer brewery, especially if they've put out a large number of beers in a short time. To illustrate this, let's look at a couple breweries that one of Eno's chatters asked about last week. Both of these have a cumulative BAR of around 30, meaning that they're eligible for your <45 BAR utility spot.

  • Almanac: Almanac has 29 beers listed on Untappd. 19 of those have the 50 checkins required to show up on our leaderboards, with the best being their Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine (106 Style+, 5.64 BAR).
  • Cellarmaker: Cellarmaker has 18 beers on our leaderboards (meaning those have at least 50 checkins apiece) and 31 total on Untappd. Their best is probably their Jagged Little Pale Ale (112 Style+, 3.18 BAR).

At first, these look like similar options: 30 or so beers on Untappd total, nothing too exciting by Style+ or BAR, and while both have a little variety of styles, neither will be exceptional in that area. Almanac has a slight edge in BAR, Cellarmaker a slight edge in Style+. However, I would take Cellarmaker over Almanac in a millisecond, because Cellarmaker has been open for all of three months, compared with three years for Almanac.

30 beers in three years isn't that useful to us; 30 in three months, however, is a great sign for a fantasy pick. Lots of releases means more variety, more opportunities for BAR, and more certainty of providing value. The fact that Cellarmaker looks like a better bet for Style+ is icing on the cake, but the real key is quantity of releases, and that's a lot easier to find when you look at younger breweries.

When in doubt, keep one thing in mind: two of the categories are dependent on quantity of beers released. Don't totally forget about Style+, but remember that picking a brewery that might release just a few beers is severely limiting your team's upside.

You can find Alex on Twitter @AlexanderFossi.