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Oakes Weekly - October 14, 2005

What is Your Statute of Limitations on a Rating?
Oakes Weekly October 13, 2005      
Written by Oakes

Vancouver, CANADA -

So, how long are your ratings good for? I ask because people post questions that involve looking at one’s ratings, perhaps their Top 50 but not necessarily. It may be a question of what is best in a certain state, or from a certain country.

I have trouble giving a straight answer to these types of queries for the simple fact that I’ve been tasting beer for a long time. Not only am I Ratebeerian #195, a rank bested by only a select group of active members, but worse yet I rated beer before Ratebeer.

Most people’s early ratings don’t mean a whole hell of a lot. This is especially true for those who discovered good beer via our website. Those first few palate shockers either blew you out of the water or kicked your ass up and down the block. Either way, the rating is going to reflect a certain immaturity of palate. The average score for Guinness Draught is something I always point to as an example of this. But even if you were an experienced drinker, if you didn’t rate beers before you’d still have fairly weak ratings in terms of your ability to judge a beer’s characteristics and weigh them against a pool of similar beers.

But I don’t have that problem. My problem is that my early ratings are so bloody old. Five years old for ones that were entered fresh. But when I started I had a two year statute of limitations. In other words, I decided to enter pretty much everything I’d had in the two years preceeding as well. So some of those ratings go back to 1998.

Looking at them today, the comments or lack thereof doesn’t really concern me too much. I’m working to fill those gaps. But those numbers – I just don’t trust them. These days, I struggle to trust numbers from 2002. That wasn’t even a long time ago, but it’s crossed a barrier for me.

Beers change. Breweries change. As you add to your experiences, your impressions of a beer, or a style, change. Road trips can be especially rough on your impressions. You can try a lot of really great examples of a style in a short amount of time if you go to the right place. All of a sudden, that 4.3 you gave the year before looks silly. But I think it’s a bit unfair to lower a beer so long after last tasting it. So after visiting England in 2002, I got stuck with a rating on Fuller’s Chiswick that I don’t entirely trust because I didn’t have one on that trip to give it a fair chance to measure up to all those other bitters I had.

I had my little IPA list but since I’ve moved back out west those former favourites have been put under some serious pressure. The style has drifted a bit out here, the bar raised in terms of quality, and all of a sudden I’ve found some examples I used to think were pretty good don’t measure up. But until I sit down for a re-rate, the old rating stands.

What I’m getting at is a pretty simple question, one that each person who writes notes on beers should ask – at what point are your ratings worthless to you? And by that I mean in the sense that you would feel you didn’t need to retry a beer because you didn’t think your opinion would change much. Forget historical value. When does yesterday’s rating become useless in the context of today?

I’d say I only trust the last three years myself, but even that depends on my travels, what I’m hearing about the beer or brewer with regard to possible changes, and yes, my tastes.


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start quote My problem is that my early ratings are so bloody old. end quote