Foaming at the mouth, eyes spinning like beer barrels, shirt torn to the crotch, he lurches toward you with a bottle of Bud clutched in his snot-stained paw. “This is the best goddamn beer in the world!” he proclaims, before staggering off to piss over your car while throwing his head back to burp as loudly as a rogue elephant on heat.
<P>At the other end of the scale you are trapped in a corner at a party by the geek with round glasses and paisley shirt who prods your right nipple every few seconds while slurring, “Did you know? The monks who make this - the actual monks themselves, bless them - use the scrapings from their toenails. Huh? It adds that hint of cheese to the aroma. Cheese! Mmm. This is the best goddamn beer in the world!”
<P>One man’s cheese may be another man’s piss, but there must be some way of drawing up an unarguable set of criteria for what constitutes the best of a product. At the Beer Olympics, the contests for Fastest Yard of Ale Drinker and Biggest Beer Belly are easily judged, while the contestants for Longest Projectile Vomit (who are limbering up by drinking Cave Creek followed by Florisgaarden Chocolat) know how they will be assessed. The brewers, however, must wait a moment before the judges hold up their score cards, and - as usual - the judge from Iraq has given the American entry a zero, while the British judge, carefully hiding his crooked teeth beneath a bushy beard, has given all the English beers perfect scores.
<P>If we shrug our shoulders and whimper, “Well, beer taste is a subjective thing - the best beer is what tastes best to the drinker,” then the Bud drinker would be right. And he would be right on such a mammoth scale that in a mass voting contest Bud would come out top, grinning and smirking, nodding smugly to itself as it whispers, “True.”
<P>“Well now, j-j-j-just hang on there a doggone minute, “ we stammer. “The Bud drinker hasn’t drunk enough beers to make an educated choice. He’s not experienced enough to be a beer judge.” And it’s a good point, well made. So how experienced does the beer judge have to be? Ten different beers? A hundred different beers? A thousand? And even then, how does he decide? How can he compare the 1,000th beer with the 1st beer he had several years ago? Well, Ratebeer would allow him to note his comments on each beer as he drank it. Over time he would have his thousand beers all nicely rated with little comments, and he could compare his notes. With such experience he could make his pronouncement on the best beer in the world.
<P>Well, of the top people on Ratebeer who have drunk over 1,000 different beers the top beer for each is:<P><P>
omhper - Westvleteren 12
Oakes - Orval
Bov - Rochefort Trappistes 10
Gusler - Abbaye des Rocs
austinpowers - Lindemans Peche
ecrvich - Westvleteren 12
jbrus - Girardin Lambic
otelpogo - Krakonus Svetly Lezak 12%
Crit - Sam Smith’s Nut Brown Ale
joet - Edsten Triple
argo0 - Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
Beerguy101 - New Glarus Belgian Red
jazz88 - Westvleteren 12
Volgon - Westvleteren 12
JPDIPSO - Schneider Aventinus
daboskabouter - Kalamazoo Bells Expedition Stout
muzzlehatch - Delafield Okauchee Scotchie
bierkoning - Girardin Lambic
eczematic - Ellezelloise Hercule Stout
alcfron - Westvleteren 12
aubrey - Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
Radek - Augustiner Lagerbier Hell
Kaya161 - Samuel Smiths Oatmeal Stout
duff - Trubbel de Yards
<P>An interesting range of beers in which only Westy 12 and Girardin Lambic appear more than once. And of that range of 19 different beers only six (Westy 12, Rochefort Trappistes 10, Kalamazoo Bells Expedition Stout, Abbaye des Rocs, New Glarus Belgian Red and Ellezelloise Hercule Stout) appear in the Ratebeer Top 50. The Girardin Lambic doesn’t even appear on the overall listings, despite being given best beer in the world scores by two experienced drinkers, because so far it has only been sampled by five people.
<P>So what does that tell us? I think it tells us that it’s each to his own regarding beer - that while Westy 12 may have a huge reputation, the man with the most respected opinion on Ratebeer doesn’t even have it in his top 50 (Oakes has the Westy at number 59 on his list). I think it tells us that while a committee may be able to design a donkey, that committee can’t replicate the passion of being 5'd by a beautiful beer. That moment of trembling personal pleasure of sipping a cold pilsner tasting of pineapple while gazing across a beautiful valley at Saladin’s castle, that excitement of discovering a new Imperial Stout, Lambic, Rauchbier (insert your favourite style) or that moment of standing in a stream with a glass of locally brewed premium lager and realising that it is beer that is beautiful rather than one particular bottle.
<P>The best beer in the world? Let’s face it, it’s beer in general - from the tramp in the gutter with his can of malt liquor to the geek in the Ratebeer T-shirt with his monk’s diarrhoea, it is beer we love, the dark mistress we serve, and the thing that unites us all. The best beer is the one you had last night, the one you’ll have tomorrow and the one in your hand right now.
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Foaming at the mouth, eyes spinning like beer barrels, shirt torn to the crotch, he lurches toward you with a bottle of Bud clutched in his snot-stained paw. “This is the best goddamn beer in the world!”