Since I took a few constructive swipes at BeerAdvocate over their "The People Have Spoken!" opinion polls, I thought it only fair that when rival RateBeer.com released their annual best of lists for 2009, I'd reflect on these lists as well.
One of my primary complaints with the BeerAdvocate list was its bias towards Stone Brewing, who landed 5 beers in the top 25 and grabbed the coveted top brewery spot. RateBeer.com reviewers seemed slightly less blown away by Stone. The California brewer still took a respectable 8th place in RateBeer's brewery list, but did not score a beer in the top 25. Instead, though, RateBeer readers found a bias of their own: Munster, Indiana's Three Floyds Brewing Company. Three Floyds not only earned the top brewery of 2009 spot, but also placed an impressive four beers in the top 25. Luckily, this feat once again gives me the opportunity to reiterate that almost any user-based poll will have its leanings. With thousands of beers to choose from, any brewery having four beers in the top 25 seems a bit over-the-top. [Writer's note: For the record, I have biases of my own, such as greatly preferring having my points reinforced rather than refuted. So thank you, RateBeer users!]
My other chief criticism of the BA list: Not much international influence. RateBeer brags that it is "truly worldwide" saying "90% of RateBeer's top 10 raters are from outside the United States." Apparently that reached them all the way into Scandinavia, landing a Swedish beer and a Danish brew in their top 10. Though RateBeer included 5 international brewers (if you're willing to include Canada, which I am) on their top 25 breweries list -- over double the number on the BeerAdvocate list -- I'm still skeptical that these user generated polls are "truly" an international affair. Do I agree that the most interesting craft brewing is happening right here in the United States? Yes, emphatically. Still, having two beers from the same brewery in Sweden find their way onto your list doesn't entirely convince me that every beer in the world is getting its fair shake.
RateBeer.com (in a similar manner to BeerAdvocate) calls these lists "The Best Beers in the World" and "The Best Brewers in the World" so I would be irresponsible to not render the same criticism: It's a bold assessment from an English speaking website. Are all these beers awesome? Yes. These brewers certainly represent some of the world's best and these lists make great guides for finding new brews. Still, I don't think RateBeer.com has gotten us any closer to deciding what the top beers in all of the world are. User generated feedback is an amazing and powerful tool, one that the internet has provided us with unprecedented access too, but more opinion doesn't always mean more valid opinion.
Below are RateBeer.com's 10 Best Brewers 2009. You can see the entire list for yourself here.
- Three Floyds Brewing Company
- Port Brewing/Lost Abbey
- AleSmith Brewing Company
- Hair of the Dog Brewing Company
- Russian River Brewing
- Founders Brewing Company
- Stone Brewing Company
- Surly Brewing Company