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Monday, February 27, 2006


One thing that arises with an enterprise like a beer blog is how to rate beers. On the one hand, I think it's a kind of fake endeavor--is a 9.0 hefeweizen really better than an 8.5 IPA? I mean, a lot of it is subjective and it's style-limited. On the other hand, having a rating does tell you something. Yesterday, when I was reviewing the Supris, what rating do you think I would have given it (on a ten-point scale)? I'd probably have gone something like a seven, with extra points for creativity and rarity. I'd probably buy a sixer rarely, but I'd recommend it strongly for people who haven't tried it. Would it have been more helpful to add that, or just go with the description.

There are a few different models. RateBeer uses this system (the link takes you to ratings of Supris):
Aroma 1-10
Appearance 1-5
Flavor 1-10
Palate 1-5
Overall 1-20
Scores work out to .5-5.0. The problem when you have a large sample set, though, is that ratings tend to flatten out. Westvleteren 12 gets the highest user rating 4.51, whereas 2,500 beers in, and the ratings are still around 3.4--which seems not very useful. But I digress.

The Beer Advocate has a similar system for its members (again, link is to Supris). A ten point scale for appearance, smell, taste, mouthfeel, drinkability. The site operators then convert users scores into a score similar to wine ratings, ranging from the 70s to 100, which seems more useful.

Homebrewers, for what it's worth, have a similar system.

Somehow I'm not so high on the aggregate based on component elements of the beer. You get averaging that way: a beer that smells awful but is actually kind of unexpectedly delightful might get a 3.5, along with a completely forgettable beer you wouldn't pay a plug nickel for. Finally, big beers always get better ratings because there's so much more to push the envelope higher (every beer in the RateBeer top ten is a big beer).

I'm at a loss. Any suggestions?


  1. There's probably a scale that appeals to every beer lover, so don't sweat it over disagreements over points. I had some fun comparing the two systems that you linked to, and was happy to see there were already people around the country enjoying a beer I had a hand in producing (and to Wayne at the Beer Advocate site: There is a code somewhere around the band where the neck meets the body on a BridgePort bottle. The first numbers are the Julian date, the 5 or 6 is the year, and the last number is the Bright Tank it came from. The batch # would be printed on the mother carton which most distributors discard when they stock shelves with six-pack carriers)
    Need contributors, Jeff? Perhaps an "Ask The Bottler" column?

  2. Actually, I think Beervana would benefit from more voices. I am in no position to drink every beer or go to every pub in Oregon, so it would be great to have other folks ring in.

    And you have an interesting behind the scenes perspective.