What Makes a Brewery Good?

Eno Sarris, February 20, 2014

What makes a brewery good?

Is it just a cumulative thing? Just googa-ounces of (good) beer sold?

Then cumulative BAR is your thing. The short version of BAR is a beer's score relative to their style with a counting factor based on popularity, but there's more in the glossary. So if a brewery makes a lot of beers that are great in their respective styles *and* popular, that seems somewhat unassailable.

Brewery Total BAR
Stone Brewing Co. 534.8
The Bruery 456.4
Founders Brewing Company 357.8
Cigar City Brewing 352.6
Goose Island Beer Co. 342.8
Hill Farmstead Brewery 320.5
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery 308.9
Brasserie Cantillon 304.1
Firestone Walker Brewing Company 295.6
Three Floyds Brewing Company 291.5

I mean, who's going to talk crap on these breweries?

But there's more than one way to be great.

Say, for example, your best beers are world class. Maybe your worst beers stink from time to time, but you're prolific and your best are soiffed all over the world by discerning craft beer drinkers. Maybe you're Mikkeller.

Brewery BAR25
Stone Brewing Co. 265.2
The Bruery 242.7
Goose Island Beer Co. 229.7
Cigar City Brewing 202.7
Mikkeller 185.2
Founders Brewing Company 178.3
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery 156.2
Bell's Brewery, Inc. 146.7
Three Floyds Brewing Company 146.5
Firestone Walker Brewing Company 145.9

You see that? By the sum of the top 25% of each brewery's beers, Mikkeller is a top-five brewery. Sure, by total BAR (281.9), they weren't too far out of the top ten by total beers. But look at their beers, especially the back pages, and you'll see that they don't always hit it out of the park. But if you're reaching for a Mikkeller you've heard about, it's a good beer.

But say you're most concerned with knowing that the brewery won't give you a bad beer. You've never had a Mikkeller, don't know much about them, and then you pick up a Sour Bitch (-7.1 BAR) and swear them off for good. You'd rather know which breweries will give you a good beer most of the time.

Well, then Solid% is for you. This is the likelihood that the beer you pick up is above 100 in Style+, or a better than average beer for its style. It's on a simple percentage.

Brewery Solid%
AF Brew 100
Hill Farmstead 100
Maine Beer Company 100
Brouwerij De Dolie Brouwers 100
Liberty Brewing 100
Toppling Goliath Brewing 100
Brasserie Cantillon 100
Sante Adairius Rustic Ales 100
Half Pints Brewing Company 100
Jack's Abby Brewing 96.7
New England Brewing Co. 95.5
Bierbrouwerij De Koningshoeven 93.3
Lakewood Brewing Company 92.9
Mornington Peninsula Brewery 92.3
Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen 91.7

Obviously, this will take a popularity toggle. But it's nice to know that if you can get a Maine Beer Company beer -- and New York, you probably can -- it's guaranteed to be better than average, no matter the style. That's refreshing.

But we're really looking for superlative beers when we reach for a craft beer. So if we haven't had a beer from a brewery before, we'd like to know how likely it is we get an *excellent* beer, more than an *above-average* beer. It only takes ten beers to make this leaderboard, and we'll have a popularity filter, but here are the top beers by SOLID with all breweries with more than ten beers included.

Brewery SOLID
Block 15 Brewing Company 100
Brasserie Cantillon 97.1
AF Brew 93.7
Hill Farmstead Brewery 91.5
The Kernel Brewery 90.5
Great South Bay Brewery 90.5
Browerij 3 Fonteinen 85.5
Sante Adairius Rustic Ales 84.8
Karbach Brewing Co 84.2
Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn 82.7
Brouwerij De Dolle Brouwers 80.9
Monkish Brewing Co. 80.8
Olde Mecklenburg Brewery 80.7
Bellwoods Brewery 78.7
The Civil Life Brewing Co. 78.2

Look at Karbach showing some Texas pride by SOLID. Also good to see Browerij 3 Fonteinen show up on a couple of these metric leaderboards. Obviously they're world-class.

SOLID is basically how high a beer's average beer is (by BAR) and how close the rest of their beers are to it. Because that number is sort of nonsensical by itself, we put it on a 0-100 scale. Or, if you're into math, it's SOLID = AVG(1/distance from mean) * mean (and then scaled).

We welcome your input on these metrics all while we thank the BeerGraphs staff for helping develop them, particularly Matt Murphy, John Choiniere, and Sky Kalkman, without whom we wouldn't have any of these fun toys. The more eyes on this the better, because the question isn't really all that easy to answer. (Really, that's always true, even once we publish these leaderboards.)

What makes a good brewery for you?

Thanks to wiki commons user Friman for the header image of Nøgne-Ø Brewery in Norway.