The Real Replacement Level West Coast Pale Ale

Eno Sarris, June 25, 2013

Mea culpa. Last week, we identified Kona Fire Rock Pale Ale as the Pacific Region Replacement Level American Pale Ale... but it's really just California's Replacement Level American Pale Ale. Just a little query mistake, and bam. This is where we stand.

It's still interesting to see the difference between California and the rest of the West Coast, right? Right? RIGHT?

Well let's do it anyway. If we run the numbers again, we find this many unique pale ales making the following benchmarks:

Check-In Level Number of Unique Pacific Region Pale Ales
1000 8
500 12
100 48
50 82

Well, it looks like 100 is our magic number again. Let's ignore the first two levels and look at the bottom six in the 100 grouping:

Brewery Name Beer Name Average Score
Kona Brewing Company Fire Rock Pale Ale 2.738377
BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse Piranha Pale Ale 2.701357
Rogue Ales Juniper Pale Ale 2.659619
Redhook Ale Brewery Audible Ale 2.606238
Big Horn Brewery (RAM Restaurant & Brewery) 71 Pale Ale 2.590909
BridgePort Brewing Co. Blue Heron Pale Ale 2.393443

Kona's on the list, but it gets worse now. Blue Heron Pale Ale drags the replacement level down another half-star. But what about these local brews from brewpubs? They can't be considered readily available. Hardly seems worth dragging this down into the 50 check-in level if we're already rocking the local brewpub beer in the 100s.

Ah-HAH. Working with the 100-check-in and above beers has us calling 83% of the sample 'readily available.' That doesn't seem right. 83% of the total check-ins for pale ales are not in my local beer aisle.

What if we move to a 50% level? That's more believable, that I might be able to find beers that represent half of the check-ins out there in my area. Between the bottle shops and the big beer stores, it's possible.

These beers make up over 50% of the check-ins for the Pacific Region. By themselves:

Brewery Name Beer Name Average Score
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Pale Ale 3.16593
Deschutes Brewery Red Chair NWPA 3.331737
Deschutes Brewery Mirror Pond Pale Ale 3.060452
Kona Brewing Company Fire Rock Pale Ale 2.738377
Firestone Walker Brewing Company Pale 31 3.166806
Lagunitas Brewing Company New Dogtown Pale Ale 3.150129
Stone Brewing Co. Stone Pale Ale 3.155576

Wow. So we're back to Kona being the Replacement Level Pale Ale for the Pacific Region. And yes, I can find all of these beers regularly. In grocery store aisles even.

That's 50%. At 60%, we add Bitter American by 21st Amendment, and Drifter Pale Ale from Widmer Brothers but the Replacement Level doesn't change. And I can still find all of them easily.

If we move the line to 70%, we add Row 2, Hill 56 from Russian River, Audible Ale from Redhook, Manny's Pale Ale from Georgetown Brewing, Juniper Pale Ale from Rogue, 1500 Pale Ale from Drake's, Blue Heron Pale Ale from BridgePort Brewing, Omission Pale Ale (gluten-free!) from Omission, and Fillmore Fusion from Lagunitas. The replacement level changes to Blue Heron Pale Ale. And I would have trouble finding two or three of these.

So it's Blue Heron or Fire Rock. The sample that begets Fire Rock is nine deep and looks good for our availability sniff test. The sample that gives us Blue Heron is 17 beers large but has a couple asterisks.

Of course, the bigger sample is better. But can you find all of those beers in your beer aisles, west coasters?

And we'll have to bring these 50%, 60% and 70% levels to other regions to see what they bring us. Maybe it'll come into focus as we include more regions.

Phew. Apologies for the mess, but getting this straight will help us when we hit up the Northeast next.