What's so Special about Zagorka?

Alex Fossi, July 15, 2013

If you go to our leaderboards and click through to the fourth page, you'll find that it's a bit of a mixed bag compared with the masses of IPAs and stouts on the first page. At number 86, there's Wookey Jack -- a Firestone Walker Black IPA that I've personally been dying to try. At number 82, there's Funky Buddha's Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, which, frankly, I'm a little less eager to try. If I ranked adjuncts I'd like to see in my porters, bacon would fall somewhere between chili powder and mixed vegetables. The beer that really caught my eye, though, was number 91: Zagorka Special.

Now, there are a few interesting things to note about Zagorka Special's ranking. It comes with a BAR of 6.66, which (Satanic associations aside) is pretty damn good. More remarkably, it has a wOBAR of 1.66.  That's higher than Heady Topper, our #1 ranked beer. In fact, it's higher than every single other beer on the list. That's right: the top-rated beer by wOBAR is a little-known pale lager from Bulgaria. How did that happen?

The most obvious reason is that wOBAR rates beers relative to their style, and many "pale lagers" would be more commonly referred to as "cheap beers". It's not as common a style of cheap beer as the omnipresent "adjunct lager", but we're talking about a style that includes such competitors as Icehouse, Genesee, and Carlsberg. That's not to say that there aren't some very good pale lagers (because there most certainly are), but the overall replacement level gets brought down a bit by the presence of several macros in the style.

There's more to it than that, of course, or every good pale lager would be blowing the competition away too. The minimum number of check-ins that a beer needs to be on our leaderboards is 50. Using my top secret BeerGraphs Writer Sleuthing Powers, I did some searching and found that Zagorka Special has...exactly 50 check-ins. So, we're talking about the smallest sample possible here.  

That said, 50 check-ins is a pretty decent number, and it's not like our top 100 is full of beers that are skating by on a small sample of reviews. As it happens, Zagorka Special is one of just seven beers that made our top 100 with less than 100 check-ins. So what makes Zagorka so Special?

If you check out Zagorka Special's page on Untappd, you'll find that the bar it's most often consumed at is known as Кафене "1-3". Based on some Google Maps detective work, this would appear to be something along the lines of a university bar.  

Examine the check-in data there, and it starts to become clear how Zagorka Special is so highly rated after fifty check-ins: there's one frequent patron of Кафене "1-3" who just really fucking loves Zagorka Special. That bar has 74 check-ins total, of which 73 are from an Andriyan M. In almost every case, Andriyan checks in with a Zagorka Special, and to him, this is a five-star beer.  

I don't have access to each individual rating for Zagorka Special, but it appears that its high wOBAR and #91 position on our boards is almost entirely thanks to Andriyan, who almost always goes to the same bar, and almost always enjoys his favorite beer, Zagorka Special. Virtually unassisted, his ratings have boosted this beer towards the top of our leaderboards.  

Now, this is obviously why we have to be skeptical of small samples of data. As it happens, a lot of new people have been checking in with a Zagorka Special in the last month, and the Untappd rating has dropped to a 3.13. After our next leaderboard update, you probably won't find Zagorka Special in the top 100, or anywhere near it.  

That's a good thing, too--our goal is to rank beers as objectively as possible, not to highlight beers that one guy happens to really like. Still, it's pretty cool to think of one guy in Bulgaria, steadfastly attending his local bar, checking in on Untappd each time just to share his thoughts on Zagorka Special. For a fleeting moment, his love for the beer was enough to push it to our top 100, and I think that's pretty cool.

Sadly, I was unable to obtain a Zagorka Special to drink for myself -- it's only available in or near Bulgaria. From what I can tell, it's something like Heineken, so most likely I wouldn't enjoy it much anyway. Therefore, it seems fitting to let Andriyan speak for the beer (not that there aren't other interesting reviews). 

Here's to you, Andriyan.  Keep on enjoying.