Great American Beer Festival versus BeerGraphs

Eno Sarris, September 30, 2015

There are those in the industry that prefer the experienced taste buds of the Great American Beer Festival tasters, and there are those that think the masses should have the final say. Sales means really that the second has to be true, but there's still the matter of winning awards. 

So let's put the people up against the awards. There were 273 winners, so we just took a sample of 30 in popular styles. Here are the Style+, Beers Above Replacement, and Untappd stars for the medal winners in ten of our most popular styles. 

Medal Beer Name Brewery State Category BAR Style+ UT
Gold Revolver IPA BNS Brewing & Distilling Co. CA American-Style India Pale Ale -0.1 96 3.57
Silver Pernicious IPA Wicked Weed Brewing - Candler NC American-Style India Pale Ale N/A N/A 4.09
Bronze White Rajah The Brew Kettle Taproom and Smokehouse OH American-Style India Pale Ale 9.3 116 4.05
Gold Monterey St. Pale Ale Central Coast Brewing Co. CA American-Style Pale Ale N/A N/A 4.00
Silver Hoppy Palm Track 7 Brewing Co. - Natomas CA American-Style Pale Ale 2.6 108 3.73
Bronze Featherweight Pale Ale Cannonball Creek Brewing Co. CO American-Style Pale Ale 1.5 104 3.75
Gold Savant Blanc Perennial Artisan Ales MO American-Style Sour Ale 3.4 103 4.24
Silver Ensorcelled The Rare Barrel CA American-Style Sour Ale N/A N/A 4.39
Bronze Apropos of Nothing The Rare Barrel CA American-Style Sour Ale 3.7 106 4.21
Gold Turbulent Consequence, Peche Block 15 OR Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale 4.5 109 4.28
Silver Feral One Firestone Walker Barrelworks CA Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale 6.6 111 4.30
Bronze Viejo Rojo Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co. - Truckee CA Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale 0.7 97 3.99
Gold Zumbar Chocolate Coffee Imperial Stout New English Brewing Co. CA Coffee Beer 3.6 107 3.97
Silver Mocha Machine Beachwood BBQ & Brewing CA Coffee Beer 5.8 110 4.26
Bronze Bacon and Eggs Pizza Port Ocean Beach CA Coffee Beer 3.6 106 4.17
Gold Pivo Firestone Walker Brewing Co. CA German-Style Pilsener 5.5 111 3.49
Silver Pilsner pFriem Family Brewers OR German-Style Pilsener 3.0 109 3.58
Bronze Pilsner Dry Dock Brewing Co. CO German-Style Pilsener N/A N/A 3.46
Gold Hop JuJu Imperial IPA Fat Head's Brewery OH Imperial India Pale Ale 9.3 113 4.33
Silver Eazy Duz It IIPA Laurelwood Public House and Brewery OR Imperial India Pale Ale N/A N/A 3.86
Bronze Teahupo'o Breakwater Brewing Co. CA Imperial India Pale Ale N/A N/A 3.88
Gold Double Negative Grimm Artisanal Ales NY Imperial Stout 1.1 99 4.01
Silver Russian Imperial Stout Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant - Lancaster PA Imperial Stout 0.8 99 3.98
Bronze The Miller's Toll Raleigh Brewing Co. NC Imperial Stout 1.0 100 3.92
Gold BJ's LightSwitch Lager BJ's Restaurant & Brewery - Temple TX Session Beer 1.1 98 2.92
Silver MCA 21st Amendment Brewery Cafe CA Session Beer 1.7 103 N/A
Bronze Guillaume Pizza Port Ocean Beach CA Session Beer N/A N/A 3.57
Gold Ctayt AC Golden Brewing Co. CO Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout 2.0 103 4.15
Silver Sherry Ink Rhinegeist Brewing OH Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout N/A N/A 4.15
Bronze Dosvidanya DESTIHL - Champaign IL Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout 2.8 105 4.22

The beers that I have personally had on this list are all excellent, and beer by beer commentary won't get us anywhere, especially with the missing information. Beers are often brewed especially for GABF, so it's no surprise that there are some beers missing enough sample to get on our leaderboards. 

But let's see how these Gold, Silver, and Bronze beers did, on average. 

  BAR Style+ UT Stars
Gold 3.37 104.3 3.90
Silver 3.40 106.7 4.04
Bronze 3.22 104.9 3.92

Well, that's strange. The Silver medalists look like they are the people's champions, though all of these are super close and our sample in each category is ten. 

There isn't a great takeaway except that it looks like there's little correlation between the judges and the populus. Look especially at the session and stout styles, where the judges picked beers that the beer drinking population has already deemed below-average. 

As much as these are well-respected judges with well-trained taste buds, they come with a much smaller sample than the statistics on our leaderboards. They move faster and can tell you something in a smaller sample, but once you get thousands of people to weigh in on a beer... would you still take the opinion of a small group of judges over thousands of ratings? 

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