BeerGraphs' Rookie Of The Year

Eno Sarris, December 09, 2013

What we are trying to do at BeerGraphs is come up with better ratings, not "solve" beer with numbers. That's impossible, it's still such a subjective experience that's also subject to contextual forces that are impossible to know.

At the heart of this effort are three separate ways that a beer's ratings can be misleading. There are well-rated beers, that happen to be in today's favorite styles. There are well-rated beers that only rated by the locals at a local brew pub. There are lesser-rated beers that sell well that deserve credit despite their ubiquity. There, at the intersection of quality, hype and quantity, is the possibility of a correctly-weighted rating that can correctly convey the wisdom of the masses.

Right now, our wOBAR rating is only a beer's rating with respect to its peers -- the other beers in its style. BAR then adjusts those ratings for quantity, on a log scale so that the best-selling beers don't get *too* much credit for selling well. You can use our regional filters on the leaderboards to adjust for availability, and we have other plans for the future to help personalize and adjust to different phenomenon. We're just starting out.

All of that is preamble! It's time to award BeerGraphs' first Rookie of the Year. Since quantity is important, the query returned the top 100 new beers on the leaderboard by count. Since we are looking for a truly new beer, variants and seasonals don't count (sorry Bourbon County Brand Stout and Enjoy By). And then, with our top 100 significantly dwindled, we have the different BeerGraphs tools at our disposal to try and separate out the elite newcomers in craft beer in 2013.

In reverse order, let's highlight the top five, because in a industry as exciting as craft beer is today, a top-five finish is a noteworthy finish.

5) Southern Tier Warlock
This strange beer -- an imperial pumpkin stout -- hasn't wowed all of the critics. Some thought it was a bit syrupy. Others thought it was basically their Pumking in chocolate stout form. You know what? Pumking dominates our pumpkin beer leaderboards, so maybe that's not such a bad thing afterall. And once you take quantity out, Warlock does better. It showed the second-best rating against its peers in our sample, with a .69 wOBAR that could make the top 50 overall if it had the drinkership of a Bell's Two-Hearted or Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA. But still. Is rating this beer as an imperial stout entirely correct? Would all the anti-pumpkinites rise up if Warlock was declared the rookie of the year? Is this beer really a variant, in a way? What about its eligibility for the award?

4) Founders Mango Magnifico
A fruit beer? A chili beer? A lime tart beer with notes of licorice, pineapple and salsa? It's not surprising that despite the backing of a craft monster brewery, this beer didn't have the quantity of check-ins of its competitors for the award. And, it suffers from the fact that it lives in a style with a low average. Did the label on the bottle help it, against poorer competition in the 'fruit beer' category? Its average rating fairs poorly against the top beers, for example. But, with excellent weighted numbers, the Magnifico deserves mention.

3) Widmer Hopside Down India Pale Lager
Widmer's effort actually shares some of the questions of the fourth-place finisher, despite being a much more straight-forward beer. By hopping out a pale lager, the Hopside down was a stealth pale ale in the lager category. Why does that matter? Because the lager categories have the lowest replacement levels. If it's really a session IPA, then it's 'cheating.' In the pale ale category, the Hopside Down wOBAR would drop significantly. Look at the rating for the next beer on this list -- 3.73 -- compared to the rating for Hopside Down (3.20), and it should come into focus. A good session IPA, yes. Worth a top five finish for a smart approach, yes. But not the Rookie of the Year.

2) Victory DirtWolf
The second-best pure rating in the sample, in one of the hardest styles, that's the sort of combination that deserves hardware. In fact, it has a great argument for the first spot, since it's actually in the toughest style. In the tradition of Lagunitas Sucks and Enjoy By -- surely these beers would have been in the discussion if BeerGraphs existed in their debut years -- DirtWolf aimed high and nailed it. Not as bitter as your typical IPA, DirtWolf does a great job concealing its 8.7% ABV with citrus, pine and resin and a great medium body that makes it entirely drinkable. Great mix of carbonation and bright finish with medium body and good maltiness in the middle make this a monster of a new IPA and a must-drink for anyone that can get their hands on it. This correspondent was lucky enough to have an Alex Fossi on staff to trade with so that he could get it from PA to CA.

1) Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout
You don't always agree with the numbers, but there are too many numbers that point to the w00tstout winning. The third-highest pure rating, the second-highest rating adjusted to style, and the highest quantity-adjusted rating. Some of that has to come from the names on the bottle. Stone is a behemoth in the business, and Will Wheaton brings some name recognition from Hollywood. Brewed with pecans, wheat, & rye, with one quarter aged in bourbon barrels -- that hits notes people are looking for in an imp stout. And 13% ABV? We know that ABV and ratings are well-correlated. Who cares that this writer thought it was a little boozy, and that it maybe needed some time to mellow out? The crowd has spoken: The w00stout wins.

Your top 20 in table form. These beers had the highest ratings in the top 100 beers that were new to the Untappd database this year.

Num Beer Brewer Count Rating wOBAR BAR
1 Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout Stone Brewing Co. 8912 3.711 0.63 8.56
2 DirtWolf Victory Brewing Company 6740 3.730 0.58 7.61
3 Hopside Down India Pale Lager Widmer Brothers Brewing Company 4485 3.202 0.84 6.79
4 Mango Magnifico Founders Brewing Company 3516 3.397 0.53 5.58
5 Doom Founders Brewing Company 2016 3.667 0.40 5.36
6 Twenty Avery Brewing Company 2666 3.652 0.36 4.99
7 OverRated Surly Brewing Company 2208 3.596 0.44 4.95
8 American Beauty Dogfish Head Craft Brewery 3565 3.436 0.41 4.79
9 Jack-O Shandy Traveler Beer Co. 2327 3.399 0.46 4.72
10 Sidekick Two Brothers Brewing Company 2194 3.421 0.43 4.47
11 Global Warmer Sixpoint Brewery 3528 3.358 0.35 4.02
12 Fleur De Houblon Brewery Ommegang 2384 3.261 0.37 3.87
13 Galactica Clown Shoes 2791 3.471 0.31 3.67
14 Warlock Southern Tier Brewing Company 7608 3.755 0.69 3.42
15 Falco Evil Twin Brewing 1973 3.382 0.27 2.97
16 2XRye Southern Tier Brewing Company 1895 3.350 0.23 2.61
17 Silver & Gold IPL Great Lakes Brewing Company 1910 3.224 0.18 1.92
18 Stone Suede Imperial Porter Stone Brewing Co. 5744 3.441 0.12 1.91
19 Game Of Thrones - Take The Black Brewery Ommegang 6024 3.270 0.12 1.63
20 19th Anniversary Ale Great Divide Brewing Company 1931 3.248 -0.10 -1.29