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World’s Greatest Beer

August 9, 2010

Lo and behold, the Beer Advocate readership has proclaimed that Pliny the Elder is indeed the world’s greatest beer.  The Top 100 Beers on the Planet have been compiled into a list.  Noteworthy is that Washington and Oregon, save for the Rogue brewery, aren’t represented on the list.  The list contains quite a few breweries that are widely known from Stone to Great Divide… from Victory to Founders… from Sierra Nevada to Sam Adams.

The Top Ten:

  1. Pliny The Elder, Russian River Brewing
  2. Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Founders Brewing Company
  3. Trappistes Rochefort 10, Brasserie de Rochefort (Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy)
  4. Bell’s HopSlam Ale, Bell’s Brewery, Inc
  5. Stone Imperial Russian Stout, Stone Brewing Company
  6. St. Bernardus Abt 12, Brouwerij St. Bernardus NVA
  7. Founders Breakfast Stout, Founders Brewing Company
  8. Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, Brauerei Weihenstephan
  9. Péché Mortel (Imperial Stout Au Cafe), Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel
  10. Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock, Privatbrauerei Franz Inselkammer KG / Brauerei Aying

To their credit, Beer Advocate gives the formula on how they calculated the top 100 beers on the planet.  But the list seems to be that of a list of beers that is widely available, mixed in with some hype.

How was this list calculated?

This Best of BeerAdvocate (BA) list is generated using statistical formulas that pull data from millions of user reviews; they are not hand-picked. The general formula uses a Bayesian estimate:

weighted rank (WR) = (v ÷ (v+m)) × R + (m ÷ (v+m)) × C

where:

R = review average for the beer
v = number of reviews for the beer
m = minimum reviews required to be listed (currently 1000)
C = the mean across the list (currently 4.03)

The formula normalizes scores, that is pulls (R) to the mean (C) if the number of reviews is not well above (m). So if a beer has only a few reviews above (m), its (WR) is decreased a little if it is above the mean (C), or increased a little if it is below the mean (C) in accordance with the normal distribution rule of statistics.

Currently, a beer must have 1000 or > reviews to be included in any calculations. And (m) is calculated by averaging the number of reviews for beers that have 1000 or > reviews within the list being viewed, while (C) is the mean (average) overall score for all beers that have or > reviews within the list.

Example 1: (a beer with a 4.35 review average and 105 reviews)
(105 ÷ (105+1000)) × 4.35 + (1000 ÷ (105+1000)) × 4.03 = 4.06 = WR

Example 2: (a beer with a 3.1 review average and 11 reviews)
(11 ÷ (11+1000)) × 3.1 + (1000 ÷ (11+1000)) × 4.03 = 4.02 = WR

These lists sort of grate on me.  By day, I’m an engineer and technically inclined by nature.  This particular list is deficient.  It only takes into account beers that have 1000 reviews.  Ok, fine.  This tells me it’s a list of beers that have far and wide distribution.  The list really is about the most popular beers with significant distribution.

But then, what of the small brewery that makes excellent beer, maintains a local presence but doesn’t seek to further their reach?  Friends of mine relate to me that Redhook beers used to be much better than what they are today.  Ownership changes and expansions have affected the overall quality of Redhook beers in their opinion.  I surmise that many local breweries here in WA see that and commit to the local area first, the area that has made them successful in the community.  It’s precisely because of this local aspect that a survey or compilation of this sort is flawed from the get go.

Is Sam Adams really better than say Black Raven?  Is Anchor Brewing really better than Deschutes?  But such is the nature of craft brewing:  it’s local.  It’s fresh.  It’s smaller breweries that make up the local landscape and are part of the community.  It’s beer available here and maybe a few select other places.  It’s the beer I seek out when I find myself in another part of the country.

How was this list calculated?
This Best of BeerAdvocate (BA) list is generated using statistical formulas that pull data from millions of user reviews; they are not hand-picked. The general formula uses a Bayesian estimate:

weighted rank (WR) = (v ÷ (v+m)) × R + (m ÷ (v+m)) × C

where:
R = review average for the beer
v = number of reviews for the beer
m = minimum reviews required to be listed (currently 1000)
C = the mean across the list (currently 4.03)

The formula normalizes scores, that is pulls (R) to the mean (C) if the number of reviews is not well above (m). So if a beer has only a few reviews above (m), its (WR) is decreased a little if it is above the mean (C), or increased a little if it is below the mean (C) in accordance with the normal distribution rule of statistics.

Currently, a beer must have 1000 or > reviews to be included in any calculations. And (m) is calculated by averaging the number of reviews for beers that have 1000 or > reviews within the list being viewed, while (C) is the mean (average) overall score for all beers that have or > reviews within the list.

Example 1: (a beer with a 4.35 review average and 105 reviews)

(105 ÷ (105+1000)) × 4.35 + (1000 ÷ (105+1000)) × 4.03 = 4.06 = WR

Example 2: (a beer with a 3.1 review average and 11 reviews)

(11 ÷ (11+1000)) × 3.1 + (1000 ÷ (11+1000)) × 4.03 = 4.02 = WR

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 9, 2010 6:41 pm

    I see your point, and you are correct. Still, there isn’t really a way to get a enough data to include some of the smaller local breweries on the list, especially because some are so regional. Strangely, I’ve only tried #7, 8, and 10 on the list, but would agree with them being there!

  2. Don permalink
    August 12, 2010 7:26 am

    Lists are just lists. They do not take the place of your favorite beers, and I think it is a little arrogant the way they titled the thing, but you can’t get too hung up on them, but they make great fodder for blogs. I posted this list a couple days before you did Tex! 😉

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