Everyone loves lists. Everyone hates list. Top Ten and “Best of” lists are always the worst. Hotly debated, whether it’s the Best rides at Disneyland, Top Ten Ballpark Hotdogs or the Best IPAs in America, someone is gonna be disappointed. In today’s social media society, those people get to express that dissatisfaction.
When Buzzfeed or whoever do a Top Ten or Best of list of beers it’s almost universally panned by the beer community. There’s so much beer out in the world to try to whittle it down to 10 is impossible, but someone will always complain. All ten are from the Northeast/Northwest/California, X brewery has three of the top ten, all ten are IPA’s, all ten are barrel aged stouts 10%ABV and higher. The list goes on ad nauseum. Most complain that they are just popularity contests, best selling, most name recognition, most sought in trade etc. Most of them are right. Sales focused lists do have “hard data” to back it up.. but come on… we all know what’s #1 on that list. Budweiser. And it ain’t about taste.. it’s called 9$ for an 18 pack suitcase so you can get lit up like the fourth of July (and it will take all 18….)
Zymurgy (The magazine of the American Homebrewers Association) publishes a list once a year that is absolutely a popularity contest. They urge readers (AHA members) to “vote” (read: create a list) for up to 20 of what they think are the best beers in the US. (read: personal favorites). Beers with “cult followings” have held the top ten for years and everyone complains but it never changes. Russian River’s Pliny the Elder had the #1 spot for 5 or 6 years, it dropped to #2 this year being barely edged out by Bell’s Two Hearted. Pliny is barely available outside San Diego, so I have a hard time believing that many people have had it to list it as a favorite, I wonder if it’s just the mystique of the “best beer in the world” type status. Tied for 6th is Alchemist’s Heady Topper, which is another one of those cult beers that everyone seems to love, but no one seems to be able to get.
Did I vote in this? Of course I did. Did I game the system? Of course I did! They encourage it. I don’t remember what all beers I voted for, but I used my votes mostly for beers that I feel don’t get the recognition they deserve. Is Foothill’s Jade IPA ever going to make this list? Probably not, but I’ll keep trying. I think Deschutes Abyss is possibly the only one I voted for that made the list. And that’s OK.
I don’t totally remember the “requirements” for the list, but the main one is “Commercially available in the US”. I don’t know if they specify “readily available” or not. One beer that snuck on the list that should not be on there is Westvleteren 12. As much as it’s touted as the “best beer in the World” it’s not sold in the US. In fact it’s not sold anywhere besides the brewery at the monastery. Yes, some people resell it, but that’s technically against the law, both in Belgium and the US. You also sign an agreement with the monks that you won’t re-sell, and do you really want to piss off a bunch of monks who make the best beer in the world? Westy 12 is on the “Best imports” list which is not part of the top 50, but it still shouldn’t be on there.
My personal opinion, which I’m sure others will disagree with, is that draft only, brewery only, beers that sell out in one day and people camp out for, shouldn’t be on the list, because you can’t just go out to a store, or even visit the brewery and buy that beer across the counter. Obviously, the whole camp out and sell out in a day deal is a testament to how good these beers are, but they aren’t what I would refer to as “readily available”. Do I have to go to Wisconsin to get New Glarus Spotted Cow? Yeah, but it’s available year round. Do I have to go to Texas to get Jester King? Sure. Some of the stuff on the list like Founders KBS and RR Pliny the Younger maybe don’t belong on the list. I’m sure I’m the only one who thinks that because now people will seek out these hard to get beers. They do suffer a little though from availability. Pliny the Younger is all the way down tied for 27th. It’s supposed to be “better” than Elder, yet Elder is #2.
Anyway, that’s just my thoughts on it. Your mileage my vary. Relax don’t worry have a (home)brew.