Draught Diversions: Beer Ratings

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

This is probably something I should have posted earlier in the life of this blog, but I thought giving a brief overview of how I rate the beers from a number standpoint and how that translates into what the beer actually fits into my refrigerator rotation. I’ve recently started rating beers on Beer Advocate, but this post is mostly about my ratings on Untappd.

Untappd, for the uninitiated is a social media platform for sharing thoughts and ratings on beer with their friends, both in “real life” and on the intarwebz and social media. There are various “rewards” like a badge for checking into distinct beers of a specific style; every 5 distinct beers gets you a level in the badge. There are also some promotions for local beer fests and similar beer-related things.

Most sites / apps like Untappd feature a ratings scale of some sort. Untappd uses “bottle caps” rather than stars, allowing users to rate from one to five bottle caps in increments of quarter bottle caps. The ratings scale at Beer Advocate is even more granular than untappd. Understandable since BA is THE online institution of beer communities. Another example, though not for beers, is goodreads, an online book sharing/rating community where I’ve been a member for quite a few years. The rating scale for goodreads is a scale of 1 through 5 whole stars.

So, how do these “bottle cap” ratings translate for me?

4.75 to 5 Bottle Caps
The Best of the Best for me, beers like Founders KBS and Backwoods Bastard, Carton Brewing’s Regular Coffee and Weihenstephaner’s Hefeweissbier. Most cases, these are beers that are limited release but I always try to get them when they are released.

4 to 4.5 Bottle Caps
These are the beers I’ll consider “go-to” beers in constant rotation. For example, I usually get about two six packs for myself when I visit my local bottle shops. Often, one six pack may be of something new, but usually, the other six pack is for one of my favorites that is always good to have available and pairs with just about anything. Beers like River Horse’s Oatmeal Milk Stout in winter, Victory Brewing’s Kirsch Gose in summer, or Great Lakes’s Edmund Fitzgerald Porter and Two Roads’ Honeyspot Road IPA year round. Like the above grouping, I’ll check beermenus.com to see where I can find these beers.

3.5 to 3.75 Bottle Caps
Middle of the road beers for me. A 3.75 is a beers that I liked and might try again but probably won’t go out of my way to hunt down. Something in the beer worked well enough for me that I’ll get it again when I see it among the sea of craft beers, beers like Brooklyn’s Oktoberfest or Magic Hat’s #9. These are beers I’m happy to see among the choices at a bar with limited taps.

3 to 3.25 Bottle Caps
These are slightly below average beers for my palate. In many cases, the exact rating of 3.25 Bottle Caps is an indicator of a beer that isn’t necessarily to my taste but still a quality beer. One example is Saranac Caramel Porter, a style I like, but one that had one thing very off about it, in this case too much of a cloying sweetness. Similarly, the 3.25 I gave to Sixpoint Brewery’s Bengali IPA: a beer not particularly to my palate, but I recognize the beer is well made.

2.5 to 3 Bottle Caps
Anything below three bottle caps didn’t do much for me. In a case like Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale which I gave 3 Bottle Caps, it isn’t something I can even drink, but I recognize that the hop level is what people want. Brooklyn’s Summer Ale is listed as a Pale Ale with an IBU of only 18, but I recall a very strong aftertaste that wasn’t refreshing at all. Another good example in this range is Great Divide’s Hibernation Ale which I liked on the initial taste, but the aftertaste threw the whole beer out of whack for me.

Below 2.5 Bottle Caps
These are mostly drain pours. I haven’t rated many beers in this range, to be honest. These are perhaps poorly made beers or some combination of ingredients and style that didn’t work for me. Lagunitas’s Dopple Weizen is an example of a beer I rated .5 bottle caps. This was perhaps the most disappointing beer I’ve had in years. I was expecting a smooth, sweet, caramelly, low-IBU weizenbock but what came out of the bottle was a mild IPA. It was the exact opposite of what a weizenbock should be in nearly every way imaginable and just about made me gag. The only reason I gave the half star was because it actually looks like some other weizenbocks I’ve enjoyed when poured into the glass.  Thinking about this beer months later still has me angry at it. Another one was Long Trail Brewing’s Summer Ale which was a bland, bitter Golden Ale.

I suppose the bottom line is that it is easier to rate a beer I really like high, a beer I strongly dislike low, while those middle of the road beers are the toughest to “rate.”

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