More Bests -or- The Blogger Whinges Yet Again

I'm just getting around to the latest round of "bests"--RateBeer's tally of highest-scoring beer and breweries in a number of different categories. I no longer spend much time on RateBeer--I find the reviews and the overall ratings to be less-informed that BeerAdvocate. These kinds of ratings are plagued by a number of problems: sample bias (raters of NW-distributed beers are more knowledgeable than, say, Ohio-distributed beers), style bias (19 of the top 25 highest-rated beers are imperial stouts), and so on. But the ratings really come down to the quality of the rater.

(In BeerAdvocate's best-beers compilation, stouts are also favored, but not quite as disproportionately. Only 12 of the top 25 are imperial stouts. That list also includes a fair number of abbey ales, two sour ales, and IPAs.)

So, it's not too surprising that I have lots and lots of problems with RateBeer's best beers by style, best breweries, and best beers by nation. For example, Three Floyds occupies three of the top four slots, and Cigar City bourbon barrel stout is cited as the best. Now, not to harsh on Floridians, but the effusive three pages of ratings suggest that beer drinkers in South Florida may not have as large a beer palette as drinkers elsewhere. Maybe this is the best beer in America, but I'd feel a lot better about those ratings if there were a few Midwest and West Coast beer geeks among them.

Or take it out of the realm of homerism. In the best beers of Belgium list, Orval doesn't come in until 26th (twice as low as the inferior Chimay Bleu, which snagged 13th), Saison Dupont is 38th, Rodenbach Grand Cru is 49th, and Duvel doesn't make the top 50. It's just not a useful list.

But let's leave the hating aside and note a few of the locals who managed to find themselves on various lists. Because, while I have no doubt that lots and lots of good stuff got left off the list, the names that got on them by and large are excellent. In one sense, you can tell something by these lists. Oregon did very well in the brewpub and brewery-to-visit lists (a distinction RateBeer botched somewhat), which is exactly right. And special commendation to Heater Allen, whose score in the pils category I can't begin to explain. Here we go.

Best Beers by Style
Pale Lager - Heater Allen Bohemian Pilsener, first place
English Style Pale and Bitter - Rogue Brutal Bitter, second place
Dark Lager - Rogue Chatoe Dirtoir, first place

Best Beer Bar
Brouwer's Cafe (Seattle), 7th out of the top 50
Uber Tavern (Seattle), 8th
Beveridge Place (Seattle), 39th
Naked City (Seattle), 42nd
Concordia Alehouse, 45th

Best Beer Retailer
Bottleworks (Seattle), 11th out of the top 50
Malt and Vine (Redmond, WA) 13th
Belmont Station, 47th

Best Restaurant for Beer
None (!)

Best Brewpubs
Walking Man (Stevenson, WA), 15th out of 50
Pelican, 24th
Raccoon Lodge, 44th
Deschutes (Portland, 48th

Best Breweries to Visit
Hair of the Dog, 2nd out of 50
Hopworks, 25th
Widmer Gasthaus, 28th
BridgePort, 29th (doesn't distinguish between NW and Hawthorne)
Rogue Newport, 34th
Full Sail, 42nd
Maritime Pacific (Seattle), 45th