Beer Offseasons, and the Problem of Vintages

Eno Sarris, May 11, 2015

I'd love to have 'beer seasons' on the leaderboards. 

Think about Stone IPA, and all the different iterations it's had. Think about Hopslam and how different it's been every year. Every big craft beer changes a little from year to year, based on what ingredients are available. 

Wouldn't it be great to look at the page for Hopslam and see how it has done every year? What years were great? What years were merely okay? 

We can do that, and probably will, but the 'how' is interesting.

Those beers already have 'vintages,' already have different versions. But more people just check into the generic "Hopslam" entry and don't bother with the year, which creates some problems. 

For one, it clutters up the leaderboards. How many different Hopslams and Bourbon County Brand Stouts are there in the top 100? Too many if more than one, maybe. 

Since the generic terms get the most checkins, we'll probably group the vintages under those generic terms and leave only the generic checkins on the leaderboards. That will tighten things up and also let you see all the vintages under one beer page, which is fun. You'd head to the Hopslam page and see the generic numbers, and then below the vintages will be listed somehow.

Problem solved? Well, sort of. 

Because I'd also envisioned having 'beer seasons.' Like with baseball, the leaderboard would reset with each offseason, and you'd literally be able to sort the leaderboard for the different versions of Stone IPA. That's an interesting example, because there aren't many vintages of Stone IPA in untappd. But with Beer Seasons, you'd be able to see on the board which beers were gaining steam, and which were losing. Even if people don't check into them as vintages.

But does beer have an offseason? When should we reset the beer season? If we reset on the first of the year, we'll reset in the middle of a bevy of winter beers, nonsenically. It would be as if the NBA kept stats by calendar year instead of seasonal year. Nobody really wants to know who led the NBA in threes in 2014. 

I thought I'd look at one flawed measure of interest, Google Trends data for the search term 'craft beer.' 

This mirrors our data, in that the first couple of weeks of January do actually hold a significant downturn in action. Using the calendar would mirror interest in craft beer measured by checkins and google searches, which both reset a bit every new year. 

But creating beer seasons every calendar year would be crude. There would be beer hurt by the random reset, beers that get halved right at their peaks. They might hurt in the seasonal BAR. 

So maybe it's a bad idea to split every beer every year. 

At least we'll try to group vintages in the generic pages, for fun. I'm sure there are going to be unintended consequences, even with this smaller move. 

But if you have a feeling about how vintages should be treated on our leaderboards, now's the time to let that feeling be known.