Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Says Who?


Do you want to know the top ten beers in England in 2009? It is only February I hear you say, how could there be such a list? OK, let's assume it is "so far", which isn't very, which makes this sort of nonsense even dafter.

Here they are:

1. Old Chimneys Good King Henry Special Reserve Old Chimneys
2. Dark Star Six Hop Ale Dark Star
3. Moor JJJ IPA Moor
4. OHanlons Thomas Hardys Ale (vintage 2003 and later) O'Hanlons
5. Fullers London Porter Fullers
6. Samuel Smiths Oatmeal Stout Samuel Smith
7. Old Chimneys Good King Henry Old Chimneys
8. Samuel Smiths Imperial Stout Samuel Smith
9. J.W. Lees Harvest Ale J.W. Lees
10. J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Port) J.W. Lees

There is plenty wrong with this list, but one or two things stand out. At number four we have not even one beer, but several. At number ten we have a beer that isn't even available in England. At number nine, the vintage isn't mentioned and they don't all taste the same, so same issue as number four. Is there an ordinary drinking beer as opposed to strong bottled beers there? No! Is this list compiled mainly by a load of Americans from the list of imported bottles they can get? Yes.

Is this by the Ratebeer organisation that people rate (no pun intended) so highly? Yes. Another good reason to take what they say with more than a pinch of salt.

While I don't doubt there are excellent beer tasters within its ranks, compiling this sort of silly stuff does nothing to make me think well of the organisation. Nor does this quote which certainly shows its American home drinking bias, which in turn slews the lists they compile:

"With the cost of a pint ever increasing, the savings of buying in bottles and drinking at home with your local and non local friends online can be very substantial. A $4 pint with a $1 tip five times a week versus a top shelf six pack is $100/month versus $40/month, a $60 difference. That's a big win. And besides saving money and improving beverage quality, spouses will be thankful that RateBeer can be enjoyed from the home, without a block of driving. "

Your local pub and bar will be pleased about that no doubt, but maybe the kind of people who sit rating beer online with their virtual chums are best kept out of pubs anyway!.

40 comments:

Velky Al said...

So friends and atmosphere are rated at $60 a month?

The phrase about knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing springs to mind.

Gazza Prescott said...

To be fair there are some knowledgeable people on RB but, I agree, this makes it look like some Americans-only club with little taste in beer apart from it must be strong.

What people have to realise is that most of the rating, as you say, is done by Yanks from bottles which skews the ratings to the strongest, hoppiest, most over-the-toppest beers around which kind of encompasses 1,3,4,7,9 & 10 then you have their obsession with Sam Smiths beers which, frankly, is a bit embarrassing when you consider how average most of them are, but the reasons lie in the wide availability SS's beer has in the states.

Yanks don't have the drinking many pints in a pub scene we do as, generally, their beers are over 5% and often way over that meaning beer is drunk in far less quantities than we do with the result that subtlety and balance are meaningless - beer in the USA has to leap out the glass and smack you in the face whilst screaming "WHO'S THE DADDY???" to be considered good; Lees Bitter and suchlike would never compete with 10% 100IBU IIPAs, plus session bitters and milds rarely get bottled and, even when they do, pasteurisation ruins any complexity they may have had before staleness finishes them off by the time they make it over the pond.

So, I'd just laugh at this list, safe in the knowledge that 95% of those who rated these beers will never know the joy of cask Pictish, Phoenix or Marble beers. Let 'em drink dodgy Old Chimneys beer, I know what I'd rather have...

Rednev said...

Do Americans really give a $1 (67p) tip for every pint? On the day I went to the Winter Ales Festival, that would have cost me nearly £11!

Tim said...

It does not mention if these beers are served cask or bottle. Fullers Porter for instance is awesome when served from cask, but nothing spectacular when from a bottle. Actually that could be applied to most beers on that list.

John Clarke said...

Gazza,

I know we don't always agree but your comemnt here is aboslutely bang on, I may quote it elsewhere if that's OK with you.

All,

"Beverage quality"?!

Tyson said...

Sadly, Ratebeer should be renamed "Geekbeer" as it doesn't represent the real world as UK drinkers know it. On this matter, I find myself in total agreement with Gazza and John Clarke.

Matt said...

I agree with Gazza's comments particularly:

subtlety and balance are meaningless - beer in the USA has to leap out the glass and smack you in the face whilst screaming "WHO'S THE DADDY???"

It is all about ABV and IBUs.

Tandleman's comment about drinking at home is also spot on. As one rarely runs into a ratebeer dork at a brewpub or at a good beer bar. They tend to sit at home with their bottles.

Obscurity (at least as to the US market) also seems to increase the rating of beers on ratebeer.

Matt said...

Rednev,

A $1 tip for a bottle of industrial quasi-lager is not uncommon. Even when you go up to the bar and order.

Artist formerly known as Wurst said...

Seems like there's a correlation between ratebeer.com dorks, CAMRA, dorks, and blogger dorks. Doesn't matter where they're from. I paint them all with the same brush. Birds of a feather.

Tandleman said...

Since you are a blogger too though you'll likely deny it and a blogger commentator and a beer rater - your own admittedly - you must be a dork too. As you say "Doesn't matter where they're from. I paint them all with the same brush. Birds of a feather."

Welcome to the club.

Matt said...

The worst of the lot have to be the know it all homebrewer. Who fancies himself a brewer and that his beers are amazing. Ron Pattinson stirred up a few of them on beeradvocate a while back.

I brew my own so I may have to join the club as well.

Artist formerly known as Wurst said...

The thing you're missing is I don't pick sides like you do. You pick sides like UK vs US. Then you bitch about US drinking culture because it's not like the one in England. Then you go further by giving people shit who drink at home to save money. The whole idea of rating beer is a joke. I do it tongue and cheek, and frankly could care less if people enjoy my writing style, taste in beer, etc. I seriously doubt people look at Master of Ale as a serious beer blog. It's a bunch of contrived bullshit, created as an antidote for the miserable, beer geek, beer blogger know-it-alls.

Tandleman said...

Sausage. I remark about it. I comment on it. Whatever though.

Paul said...

I have actually found some very good beers through RB. In particular, the Danes on the site are quite informative when it comes to beer and gives me some idea of what to expect for when I go on holiday for example. The American dominance does rather spoil it though.

Artist formerly known as Wurst said...

"The American dominance does rather spoil it though." Well, it was started by two Americans. Has anyone ever thought of starting ratebeer.com UK or something comparable?? I suggest you look up the definition of grassroots.

Gazza Prescott said...

Sausage bloke - I'm sure you know everything there is to know about beer, brewing, the laws of thermodynamics and all that, but how can anyone take your claim that you're being ironic seriously when you talk such utter crap?

Mr Clarke - us, not agree?...

Artist formerly known as Wurst said...

See part of previous post that mentions "contrived bullshit." That would be a good indication. I'm approaching 4500 hits, so apparently there's a market for contrived bullshit. And you think I talk "utter crap?" You haven't been around much have you?

maeib said...

I have a beer blog. I've become active in CAMRA over the last twelve months. I'm one of the four British admins on RateBeer. I must be the nerdiest geekiest beer person on Earth :-)

maeib said...

I do have an issue with the top 10 list and raised it on the site. It was not calculated the same way as last year.

Most, if not all the emphasis last year was on British raters rather than worldwide.

The Fullers Porter is the bottled version not cask which has a separate entry.

Tandleman said...

Maeib. It is daft and indefensible. Why not just say it unambiguously?

Zak said...

Having recently trawled my way through a couple of dozen bottled stouts and porters, I can say without fear of informed contradiction that Sam Smith's Imperial Stout is a really crasking beer.

It has the advantage over a lot of other imperial stouts in that you can actually walk into a shop and buy some.

Velky Al said...

Approaching 4500 hits? Per day? Since you started?

Erlangernick said...

Tipping in US pubs. It varies. At my regular places in Oregon, I'd normally run a tab. At the end of the session, I'd tip 15-20%, my norm. But also sometimes more. Tip under 10% and exepct to be asked what was wrong.

Places where you pay as you drink, UK style, it's trickier. If the beer costs you $4, then yeah, tipping less than a full dollar could make one feel cheap.

We used to tip pretty generously in our Oregon life; usually our tips started at 20% for food, whereas the norm is 15%. Wait staff there live off their tips, and we liked being appreciated customers, especially at our regular places, regardless of whether we were eating or "just" drinking.

So yeah, tipping is expensive in Yankley, but the petrol ain't.

It's funny living in Krautley where a 10% tip on New Year's Eve at your favorite Italian restaurant is a huge deal.

I've forgotten--do you lot tip when you eat at a place with real table service? What are the mechanics?

Rednev said...

Thanks for clarifying the US tipping practices. If I ever go there, I doubt it would cost me too much, as I don't think there would be much beer I would want to drink. If I did find a decent pint, I'd probably be so grateful that I'd be happy to tip at that level.

In Britain, tipping would normally be expected in proper restaurants (and greasy spoons like McDonalds don't really qualify, even though they ridiculously call themselves restaurants) and elsewhere at your discretion. It's probably expected at a posh gastropub, but possibly not in a local boozer serving pub grub. In the Wetherspoons pub chain, which does a lot of food and coffee, I understand that staff are not supposed to accept tips.

I tend to tip when buying a round, but not usually if I’m just buying my own pint. On Merseyside, if you tip in a pub by saying ‘take your own’, they usually just take 20p, which is about 30 cents US.

The problem with tipping in the UK is that in many restaurants, the staff aren’t allowed to keep their tips, but have to pool them. The employer then decides how to share them out, and often uses them to supplement the staff wages up to the level of the minimum wage. Staff have no way of knowing if all the money is distributed. The same often applies to service charges when added routinely added to a bill. I expect most customers assume the money goes to the staff member who served them, but sadly often not. It means that sometimes by tipping, you are subsidising below minimum wage levels. This is a loophole in the minimum wage legislation and is not actually illegal. It should be. In the interests of balance, it is only fair to point out that some employers don't hijack the tips in this way.

Customers who are aware of this sometimes try to get around it by putting the money in the hand of the staff member, telling them to put it in their pocket. The problem is that this can sometimes result in summary dismissal.

Tandleman said...

Nick and RedNev. Can we stick to the point please? This is a beer discussion, not a tipping or a political discussion.

Back to beer, There is plenty good beer to drink in the US. Plenty.

Rednev said...

From the original posting:

"A $4 pint with a $1 tip five times a week..."

Tandleman said...

That was a by the by as far as I'm concerned. You know what I mean here.

Rednev said...

I understand the point you're making. I regard lists of favourite beers a tedious waste of time, whoever draws them up. The mentality is rather childish (favourite colour, favourite sweets, favourite pop star, etc.), especially as no two people taste things exactly the same. I picked the one thing in the posting that was - just in my opinion, of course - worthy of comment.

Velky Al said...

When it comes to decent beer in the US, I found plenty to enjoy when I was there a couple of years back and am very much looking forward to discovering what else is available when I move there in June.

Gazza Prescott said...

"You haven't been around much have you?"

Erm - yes, thanks! Done most things in UK beer including brewing, CAMRA, almost 20,000 beers sampled, drunk beer on 4 continents (soon to be 5), had articles published, run a well-regarded beer website...

So, what have you done, exactly? You sound like the stereotypical blogger as in that you talk rubbish and know even less.

maeib said...

To answer the point addressed to me; yes the list is daft (great word) and I'm not going to defend it.

Artist formerly known as Wurst said...

Been to your country 18 times in the last 23 years, visited over 30 breweries in your country and worked for Young's in Wandsworth.

"You sound like the stereotypical blogger as in that you talk rubbish and know even less". Does my blog(if you can call it that) look stereotypical of beer blogs?? I offer refreshment to the boring, relentless, overworked, poncy crap that fills most beer blogs. Perhaps you shouldn't take your status as some big time, professional beer enthusiast so seriously. By letting everyone know your beery credentials, just proves my point. I offer alternative view points to the usual arse kissing that permeates beerblogdumb. So hang it there tough guy. There's hope for you yet.

Oh, and another thing, I was one of the dumb yanks in the 80's that was taking yeast out of your barrels with a loop and transferring to a slant from the GBBF and bringing them back home to cultivate. This is while the majority of you were still brewing in the dark ages with whatever godawful dry yeast you could find to pitch into your Boot's kit.

Gazza Prescott said...

Anyone who knows me will tell you, if you bothered to ask, that arse kissing, being bothered what others think of me, doing/thinking what I'm told and acting as a "big time professional beer enthusiast" isn't what I'm about (I dislike all that as crap as much as you seem to!). I listed a few things I've done as I'm passionate about beer - wherever it comes from as long as it's well made - and am pleased that you've now done likewise as now we know that you're not some jumped-up know it all as a lot of bloggers are.

So, live and let live, eh?

But I'd not boast about Youngs - some of the worse beer ever in the UK and, ironically, it's better now they've closed although I still won't drink it...

Tandleman said...

Maeib.

Well done. Bet you feel better now!

Tandleman said...

Gazza. Your record needs no defending as far as this blog is concerned.

Whorst. If you don't care, why bang on so?

Artist formerly known as Wurst said...

I need to protect my integrity as a beer lover, and as a man. On the bright side, I hope everyone who's into logic and reason gets blasted tomorrow(Friday)and has a wonderful time celebrating the birth of Charles Darwin. Chuck, Bertrand Russell, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Huxley were all inspirational to me.
You Englanders have done very well for yourselves.

haddonsman said...

I'm a sandal-wearing-over-40-overweight-beardy blogger, Ratebeer and CAMRA member. Let's face it, I'm fcuked.

Yes, there are shoals of geeks on ratebeer who actually give two shits about the stats and the awards. But the majority of Brit raters I've met are well-rounded guys who are genuinely interested and knowledgeable about beer and fun bods to spend a day out on the lash with. They're not caught up with the nerdity of the damn site.

I love ratebeer - it's introduced me to some great topers and broadened by beer horizons. It also infuriates me - who gives a shit how many beers you've had, from how many countries... just go and enjoy the damn stuff! There are some deeply anal idiots on there. But like many pursuits in this world, there are diamonds to be found in the pig swill. You just have to muck in there and find them.

Matt said...

http://barclayperkins.blogspot.com/2009/02/not-true-to-style.html

Says it all really.

haddonsman said...

The ratebeer FAQ is fairly clear about rating to style. The answer is, don't. Doesn't stop some twonks from doing exactly that, mind.

Gory details at http://www.ratebeer.com/FAQ.asp

Mark Andersen said...

1. I've personally found ratebeer to be useless. I found this as I was scanning for various beers found in Bavaria and Franconia and found that if it was a Dopplebock it would rate high but if it were a Helles or just a simple Franconian Vollbier or Kellerbier it would gain an average rating regardless of how great the beer really is. So yeah it is exactly as you say and not really worth geting wound up about. I don't even bother to visit the site any longer.

2. Drinking at home here in the US can't be helped. For me it is not as much a cost issue as it is drunk driving laws. Most Americans like myself don't have access to a good beer pub that we can walk to or take public transport to. It's a shame but that's the way it is. I'd rather go to a pub but the reality is I can enjoy better beer including homebrew in the safety of my own home without the worry of drunk driving. I've written about this in my most recent blog entry.

3. I can't blame the folks that created that list for putting a beer like Fuller's London Porter on that list. Based on what British beers are readily available to me here, this beer would rate high. I'd love to get the great cask ales that you blokes have easy access to in the UK but for the most part they don't exist here. At the only decent beer pub within a few miles from my house Fuller's London Porter and ESB and Pride are the best beers on tap. Luckily we have an event here twice a year called NERAX and NERAX North where I can, for one night at least, drink some really good Brit cask ale.