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Oakes Weekly - July 21, 2005

How’s that personal Top 50 looking?
Oakes Weekly July 21, 2005      
Written by Oakes

Vancouver, CANADA -

I wrote a rating the other day where I said a beer was “not bad”, but the score came out to 2.1. Being that the beer in question is not a macrobrew pale lager or malt liquor, that score is actually pretty bad. In fact, the beer ranks in the bottom 10% for the style for me, over a point below the style’s average. If that’s “not bad”, I don’t think I’d want to try one that is bad!

But scores bounce around for me. For a couple of years there, it seemed that anything over a 4.0 was a world classic. I know in the pre-Ratebeer days a standard international lager would get two stars out of four, whereas today that’s probably more like a 1 or 1.5 if it’s not horrifically flawed.

Scores fluctuate. Rate long enough, without paying much attention to benchmarking and you might find the same thing. So what?

Right now I tend to clobber beers I find to have any sort of flaw and I’m throwing around high scores like they’re going out of style (relative to the past few years). What does that mean? Well, I’ve been thinking about the upper echelon. My list of beers I consider to be the best.

It’s true that in the earliest days my approach was to consider any very good beer a world classic, as long as I thought it was the best of style that I’d tasted. For some styles, the “world classic” would be replaced every couple of months or so. At some point, I settled on a list I was fairly comfortable with and for a few years it was almost impossible to crack that list. When I look at my all-time favourites, the highest-rated on Ratebeer, that list is still evident.

There are problems with that, though. One is that I haven’t had some of those beers in eons. They might not be as good. In a few cases, like Rogue Hazelnut and Trois Monts, I have had them since I rated them and they weren’t as good, but I never re-rated at the time because I bought them to enjoy them, or I had them in a big tasting session. Complicating matters are the ones I’ve had several times since, still think very highly of, but haven’t updated to reflect that I still feel the same way (Old Rasputin and Old Ho come to mind). There are even some “glaring omissions”, like Hair of the Dog Adam, a long-time favourite that I haven’t sat down and rated since I discovered it circa batch 4.

The net result is that the top of my list is a hodge-podge of recent favourites, old favourites, former favourites and even one or two retired beers. I suppose my entire list, much of it being 4-6 years old, is like that. But people don’t pay attention to my, or anyone else’s for that matter, beers ranked 350-400 list. What I rave about does get noticed, though.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that when the question of my favourite beers arises, I’d like to have a readily-available answer. This means going back and re-doing the whole process of discovering the classics. Actually sitting down with a pen, my notebook and a bomber of that Rogue Hazelnut or a pint of Alpha King.

Some of those beers will be a pain, though. Contrary to public opinion, I’m not rolling in dough. I can’t just jet off to London for a re-rate of Fuller’s Chiswick. I won’t necessarily be there in the next five years even. You don’t want to know how long it’s been since I was in Belgium or Germany. Seriously.

It’s a funny thing, seeing really great beers largely ignored at a party because people want to try new stuff. If you’ve ever walked into a brewpub and ordered the new seasonal raspberry or hefeweizen instead of the oatmeal stout you gave a 4.2 to last time you’ll know what I mean.

You guys are the serious beer lovers of this world. You represent beer to web surfers from all over. Enjoyment of beer means more than just hunting new beers. It’s a tough habit to break, don’t get me wrong. Especially when you have to hit the road to find some of those old favourites and there’s a shelf full of really cool new stuff and you can only take so much with you…yeah, I’ve been there. It sucks.

I posted earlier this year about potential re-rates. That list is several hundred long! But I at least want to start at the top. I want what I present as the finest beers on Earth to be a list I’m comfortable with today, not historically speaking.

I may look back six months from now and wonder what I was smoking today, but to hell with new beer, bring on the old classics!


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