BeerGraphs 2014 Rookie of the Year

Eno Sarris, January 21, 2015

The BeerGraphs staff made their picks already, but those were just the subjective whims of a few craft beer lovers. Also, there were no rules -- they could pick a beer that was new to them, new to the world, or just particularly impressed them in 2014. 

The BeerGraphs Rookie of the Year is a product of a few rules. 

In order to be eligible, the beer must: 

1) Have appeared in our database between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014;
2) Own a new name;
3) Not have a year in the title -- it cannot be a vintage release of an already-existing beer;
4) Not be a variant of an existing beer -- it cannot be another beer, with a new adjunct added.

Simple, but not so simple. We can have our yearly argument about whether or not a new version of Bourbon County Brand Stout should be eligible, of course. But, at the cost of a few stalwart brands being pushed aside -- and perhaps the rare cost of a few lesser-known brands with a breakthrough version of an old favorite -- we'll keep this rule.

We're looking for new blood. 

Of course, I say that, and it looks like -- at least by Beers Above Replacement -- the leaders in the clubhouse all come from established breweries. But this doesn't have to be awarded by one number. So let's sort the group a couple different ways before we establish our winner. 

Here are the top 20 new beers, sorted by BAR. Of course, since there's a checkin component to BAR, these beers are popular, sought-after beers from breweries with decent distribution (or mega hype factor, in a couple cases). So that's why you'll see familiar breweries at the top. 

BAR Style+ Brewery Beer
10.23 138.5 The Alchemist Pub & Brewery Focal Banger
9.16 122.0 Lawson's Finest Liquids / Two Roads Sip Of Sunshine
8.85 126.3 Toppling Goliath Brewing King Sue
8.39 123.4 The Alchemist Pub & Brewery The Crusher
8.02 125.0 Stone Brewing Co. / Chris Banker / Insurgente Xocoveza Mocha Stout
7.52 138.9 Firestone Walker Brewing Company Bretta Rose
7.38 126.0 Lawson's Finest Liquids Triple Sunshine IPA
7.35 132.2 Stillwater Artisanal Ales Gose Gone Wild
7.27 145.5 Schramm's Mead Black Agnes
7.16 132.0 Lagunitas Brewing Company Born Yesterday
7.11 143.5 Hill Farmstead Brewery Le Sarrasin
6.98 128.6 Revolution Brewing Company Unsessionable
6.86 118.1 Prairie Artisan Ales Bible Belt
6.66 130.7 Jester King Craft Brewery Montmorency vs Balaton
6.63 138.2 Goose Island (Brewpubs) Nutulhu
6.61 135.8 Armadillo Ale Works Brunch Money
6.60 143.3 Waggewild Peltr
6.59 122.3 New England Brewing Co. Locust Reign
6.53 134.3 Otter Creek Brewing / Wolaver's Citra Mantra
6.38 135.9 Panhead Brewery Fresh Hopped Vandal

The Alchemist already owns the first spot on our leaderboards, and Lawson's not only makes a top-twenty beer, but is also top-fifteen by average beer. Toppling Goliath made a stronger version of their killer #11 beer overall, and it seems hardly fair to call these rookies, in a way. 

A moment to note that last year's Rookie of the Year was Stone with their w00t stout, another collaboration, and that this year they came up sixth-best with another collaborative stout. Of course, distribution is a big part of this -- of the top 15, the only beer that multiple BeerGraphs staff members enjoyed this year was the Xocheva stout. To further drive the point home, our staff did not have a consensus view on how good the Xocheva was. 

Once you get down to ninth-best by BAR, you find what subjectively feels like new blood. Gose Gone Wild was at the front of a wave that may not have yet crested. By pushing a re-discovered style onto our palates, the Stillater Gose not only quickly became the best of its home state, but it also may have launched a trend in craft beer. By sniff test, this beer smells right. 

Let's take the all-star beers -- beers above a four BAR represent less than 5% of the total beer population -- and sort them for Style+. This should get us popular beers that trounce their styles. Maybe it'll give us more new blood. 

BAR Style+ Brewery Beer
6.09 167.0 Wicked Weed Brewing Gluten FREEk
4.25 151.4 Deep Ellum Brewing Company Neato Bandito
7.27 145.5 Schramm's Mead Black Agnes
5.13 143.8 Jaws Brewery Jaws Lager
7.11 143.5 Hill Farmstead Brewery Le Sarrasin
6.60 143.3 Waggewild Peltr
5.77 141.9 BrewCult Beer Geek Rage Quit
5.45 141.3 Toøl Brown Paper Bag
5.77 139.5 Tired Hands Brewing Company Back Into The Emptiness
7.52 138.9 Firestone Walker Brewing Company Bretta Rose

So, absolutely we found some interesting new beers here. 

Gluten Freek is listed on many sites as a DIPA -- and it is modeled after Wicked Weed's Freak of Nature DIPA -- but on Untappd, and in our database, it's a gluten-free beer. And boy did it rout the competition. Where most of the gluten-free world is turning to ciders, this beer (with fewer than ten parts per million of gluten due to their gluten reduction) gives the celiac sufferers hope. If were were into promoting that cause first and formost, it'd be easy to make an argument for the FREEk. 

Neato Bandito is an American Light Lager brewed with a Pilsner base. By participating in the shallow end of the pool, Deep Ellum made a splash... with a 3.48 average rating on Untappd. You might want to give more credit to Toøl's Brown Paper Bag, an imperial pilsner with a hoppy flair that averaged nearly four stars in a lighter category. 

Schramm's Black Agnes dominates a lesser style as a mead, perhaps, but that might just be bias coming through. A bias that I might not own if I'd had an Agnes, perhaps. Because by all acounts this mead is not too sweet, which has been my main problem with meads to date. So if you're going to try a mead...

If you ask for my honest opinion, ot's the last three beers on this list that pique my interest. A rose sour with brett? A wine-barrel fermented saison from Tired Hands? A European imperial pilsner? Sign me up. 

Let's slice the numbers one last way. New blood could come from a new brewery. Let's divide the beer's BAR by the brewery's BAR and see what top new beers came from the smallest breweries. In a way, by doing this, we can slightly correct for distribution. These beers did well without being available in 50 states.

So here's the top 40 by BAR, divided by their brewery's BAR. 

BAR Style+ Beer Brewery Brewery BAR bBAR/brBAR
6.60 143.3 Peltr Waggewild 8.8 0.75
6.61 135.8 Brunch Money Armadillo Ale Works 10.52 0.63
6.53 134.3 Citra Mantra Otter Creek Brewing / Wolaver's 20.52 0.32
5.91 124.9 Praline La Sirene Brewing 20.62 0.29
7.27 145.5 Black Agnes Schramm's Mead 32.48 0.22
6.63 138.2 Nutulhu Goose Island (Brewpubs) 30.65 0.22
7.35 132.2 Gose Gone Wild Stillwater Artisanal Ales 34.84 0.21
6.01 118.8 Ghost In The Machine Parish Brewing Co. 28.67 0.21
6.21 125.0 Red Machine IPA Victory Art Brew 35.27 0.18
6.38 135.9 Fresh Hopped Vandal Panhead Brewery 43.91 0.15
10.23 138.5 Focal Banger The Alchemist Pub & Brewery 73.8 0.14
6.28 125.5 Valley Of The Heart's Delight Sour Almanac Beer Co. 53.58 0.12
8.39 123.4 The Crusher The Alchemist Pub & Brewery 73.8 0.11
5.85 120.4 Mettle Trillium 71.61 0.08
9.16 122.0 Sip Of Sunshine Lawson's Finest Liquids  113.96 0.08

The new Peltr blonde makes up almost their entire brewery value! Of course, the beer has 249 total checkins and 77 of them are from one person. More than half the checkins come from the top three users. Let's put that result aside. 

Brunch Money is a stout-inspired golden ale, and while Stone's Master of Disguise has gotten a lot of play, it looks like Armadillo's version tickles more taste buds. Kudos to Armadillo for knocking this one out of the park -- that's worth an entry in the top ten for Rookie of the Year based on ingenuity and reach alone. 

Citra Mantra is a 5.75% India Pale Lager, so it's sitting between a lot of styles. Like Jack's Abby with its IPLs, many might find this a gaming of the system. Call it a pale ale, and it's average 3.59 score doesn't shine as bright. It might be more impressive that Almanac got a sour to the top of this list, considering the average sour score is near four. 

Let's note the re-shuffling of some big BAR beers -- Gose Gone Wild does, indeed, sit ahead of Hill Farmstead's BAR bashers by this metric, and Black Agnes takes another lurch forward. These beers launched the brewery, in effect, instead of the other way around. 

Now comes the subjective part. Over in the world of baseball, these things are decided by a vote, and everyone has (theoretically) had a chance to watch the players play. We couldn't turn this to a staff vote -- beer regionality means that only a handful of people would have had each beer in each case. So, instead, we'll take a look at these three leaderboards and declare a top ten. They'll echo the BAR leaderboard, with a few notable changes. 

Your BeerGraphs Rookie of the Year is Stillwater's Gose Gone Wild. We'll either look back this beer as the crest of the wave or the start of something grand, but this tropical gose deserves some hardware either way. Congratulations, Stillwater! 

The final table: 

BAR Style+ Brewery Beer Style bBAR/brBAR
7.4 132.17 Stillwater Artisanal Ales Gose Gone Wild Gose 21.1%
10.2 138.48 The Alchemist Pub & Brewery Focal Banger IPA 13.9%
9.2 122.04 Lawson's Finest Liquids  Sip Of Sunshine IPA 8.0%
8.9 126.26 Toppling Goliath Brewing King Sue DIPA 5.9%
6.6 135.81 Armadillo Ale Works Brunch Money Herbed/Spiced Beer 62.9%
7.3 145.51 Schramm's Mead Black Agnes Mead 22.4%
7.5 138.90 Firestone Walker Brewing Company Bretta Rose American Wild Ale 1.8%
7.2 131.97 Lagunitas Brewing Company Born Yesterday American Pale Ale 3.1%
6.6 138.16 Goose Island (Brewpubs) Nutulhu Imperial Stout 21.6%
6.3 125.49 Almanac Beer Co. Valley Of The Heart's Delight Sour 11.7%