It is that time of year when RateBeer releases their Best Awards for the previous year. This week started with the Best Beers In The World – the top 100 beers in the world based on “the reviews taken last year and weighted by performance within and outside of style”, and RateBeeer will follow up with a new list each day of the week – Best Beers By Style Category, Top Releases of 2013, Best Beers/Brewers/New Brewer By Country, and Top Brewers In The World.
Like most people, my first concern with a list like the Best Beers In The World is “how many have I had?” I've had 26. Not bad. Just over 25%. I passed up opportunities to have about eight or nine others that appear on the list at different times this year, for a variety of reasons (family obligations, poor scheduling, and/or laziness), and hopefully I'll have similar opportunities again in the coming year.
With a list like the Best Beers In The World there are always those “wishlist” beers that make appearances. Those beers that you've read/heard about, dreamed about, and just haven't had the opportunity yet due to location or scarcity – beers like the seven Hill Farmstead beers that appear on RateBeer's list (tied for the most with Russian River), the Lawson's Finest Double Sunshine IPA, any of the five New Glarus beers, Three Floyds' Zombie Dust, the three Toppling Goliath Beers, and Tired Hands' HandFarm.
Of course, as with any list like this, there are going to be some glaring omissions. I have to look no further than the current state of my refrigerator and its shelf of Troeg's Nugget Nectar -- a seasonal Imperial Amber that is just so smooth and juicy that it really should be on this list. Lagunitas Sucks is another great seasonal release, a double IPA, that can also be found in my fridge but not on this list. Both are great – I'd put Nugget Nectar ahead of Sucks but that is just me, others would have it the other away – and I think a case could certainly be made for one or both to appear on a Best Beers In The World list.
For other potential omissions I turned to the BeerGraphs Leaderboards – basically our constantly, or at least consistently, updating list of the top beers in the world based on the metrics of Style+ and BAR (Beers Above Replacement -- click here and here for more info) using data from Untappd user check-ins. Sorted by BAR, the top 100 on our Leaderboards have exactly 55 beers in common with RateBeer's Best Beers In The World. That means we have 45 beers in our top 100 not on in RateBeer's top 100. Now some of this is a bit problematic with different vintages of certain beers taking up multiple spots on the BeerGraphs Leaderboards while RateBeer's list is only for 2013, but the comparison of the two lists still leads to some interesting observations.
Looking at the top 25 on our Leaderboards, there are five beers that do not appear on the Best Beers In The World list – Alpine's Nelson, Troeg's Nugget Nectar, Goose Island's King Henry, New England's Ghandi-Bot, and Three Floyds' Gumballhead. In terms of potential omissions, Alpine and New England Brewing aren't represented at all in the RateBeer list but each have two in the top fifty -- Alpine has three in the top 75 -- on our Leaderboards. Brasserie Cantillon (dominating the Lambic style on the boards no matter how you look at it) and Tamashii Brewing are two other breweries with multiple appearances in our top 100 without a single beer listed in the Top Beers In The World.
Omissions work both ways though, and there are certainly some beers on the RateBeer list whose absence from our top 100 raises some interesting points about our metrics and perhaps some questions about RateBeer's list. Toppling Goliath and New Glarus, with a total of eight beers between the two of them on the Best Beers list, appear only twice – Toppling Goliath's pseudo Sue and New Glarus' Serendipity – in our top 100. I assume this is largely a function of limited distribution. I say this because I have never seen either of these beers or breweries anywhere.
A more intriguing absence from our Leaderboards is Alesmith's IPA and Speedway Stout. The special versions of the Speedway Stout seem to do better in our Leaderboards, and perhaps RateBeer is taking those into consideration in their list – I don't think so, but maybe – so let's focus on Alesmith's IPA. How is it that Ballast Point's Sculpin is at 25 and Alesmith's IPA doesn't crack out top 500? Is the distribution that far out of whack compared to Ballast Point that their BAR is so far apart? Looking at Style+, Sculpin is at 112 (just inside the top 50 when American IPA's are sorted by Style+/Popular Beers) while Alesmith IPA is at 106 (just out side the 150 when American IPA's are sorted by Style+/Popular Beers). It is interesting that two beers that are essentially quite similar – two very good IPA's – considered two of the top 100 hundred beers on Ratebeer's list – are so far apart on our Leaderboards. Does that say something about our boards? About the users of Untappd? About the Ratebeer list?
Incidentally, the top five beers in the Leaderboards when sorted in the above manor – American IPA's sorted by Style+/Popular Beers – are Goldie Girl Golden IPA by Tamashii, Redrum and Redrum 2nd edition by AF Brew, Nelson by Alpine, and Fuzzy Baby Ducks by New England Brewing.
A similar absence from our Leaderboards is North Coast's Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout. Again, consider that it is on RateBeers Best Beers In The World List, but only garners a Style+ of 101 and BAR of 5.03 – for a beer that from what I understand has great distribution. What makes this absence, or honestly what makes RateBeer's inclusion of Old Rasputin even more perplexing is that they pretty much nailed every other amazing stout out there – 15 out of 16 of the top Russian Imperial Stouts on our Leaderboards (sorted by BAR) match the Ratebeer list in some form, vintage, or version. The lone exception from our Leaderboards not listed in the Best Beers list being Assassin 2013 (Yellow Wax) – another stout by Toppling Goliath Brewing.
Like the Player Projections and Auction Values By Position lists for fantasy baseball that are also coming out around this time, beer lists are made to be debated and discussed. For example – who would you take with the third pick in a 12 team mixed league, Andrew McCutchen or Paul Goldschmidt? And why? Or what beer do you think is missing from RateBeer's list – maybe Headhunter IPA? Maybe Nugget Nectar? Or what do you think about the inclusion of Old Rasputin? A nostalgic choice? Gateway beer bonus points?
Finally, to piggyback on Alex Fossi's article about Fantasy Beer League Strategy, specifically Strategy Hypothesis #2, it is worth noting that when sorting our Leaderboards by Style+/Popular Beers only six beers from the Best Beers list appear in this version of the our Top 100 – three are American Pale Ales, two are fruit beers, and one is a Scottish Ale. Somehow, I feel this fact supports Alex's hypothesis that brewers that brew styles with a lower replacement level can really help your Fantasy Beer team in the Style+ category. I would go into a more detailed and scientific explanation but I'm a few Nugget Nectars past detailed and scientific explanations.
Nugget Nectar, Troeg's Brewing Company
Appearance = 5/5
Looks like a beer. Amber color – like real amber from Jurassic Park – with a creamy/eggnog colored finger of head. Great lacing.
Smell = 4/5
Mostly grapefruit, then pine, and some grassiness and skunk.
Taste = 4.5/5
Sweet, malty biscuits drizzled with caramel and amazing grapefruit citrus juiciness. Citrus and pine in the bitter afterglow. And all smooth transitions. Real smooth. My nickname was J-Smooth for a very brief amount of time.
Feel = 4/5
The head starts it creamy but after that it has an ideal feel – nice and smooth – for delivering all the flavors I just told you about. Good carbonation and on the lighter side of medium bodied. Only 7.5% but you feel the alcohol and it is a good feeling.
Overall = 4.5/5
Delivers a lot and feels real drinkable compared to other Imperial Ambers or Reds – so smooth and juicy. My new nickname is J-Juice.
Follow J. R. 'Juice' Shirt on Twitter and Untapped @beeronmyshirt