Archive for May, 2007|Monthly archive page

BeerAdvocate’s “Judging Beer”

BeerAdvocate Magazine’s Defending Beer article in the May 2007 issue, titled “Judging Beer”, speaks directly to the problem that we at BeerRiot are trying to solve.

“Beer, by its very nature is an inherently subjective commodity,” writes Andy Crouch. The rest of the article continues to list a number of the flaws in official contests and the fickle nature of popularity.

I couldn’t agree more. No expert can cover the tastes of every individual. Nor can any majority. It doesn’t matter how many people like a beer. If you like it, you like it – the fact that someone else dislikes it shouldn’t change that.

This is the aim of BeerRiot. Rather than bore you with the opinion of yet another expert, or confuse you with yet another popularity contest, we attempt to find those people that are actually more likely to have opinions you agree with. The scores you see here are based only on the opinions of those people.

We hope it will be just like learning about beers from your close friends. You know exactly which ones to trust and which ones to question. Here we hope to enable you to filter a much larger population automatically.

(By the way, if you are anywhere near Boston the weekend of June 16, you owe it to yourself to get tickets to BeerAdvocate’s American BeerFest. Nowhere will you find more beers to taste at one time.)

The Case Against Styles

It was one of my first decisions, and it resulted in one of the first feature requests submitted. BeerRiot does not acknowledge “style” as an intrinsic property of beer. Beers are not classified by any of the terms people toss about in relation to beer today.

Here’s why.

First off, what does it matter what style the beer is? If you like the beer, you like the beer. I want to try to help people not to pigeon-hole themselves. I’ve seen far too many people decline to try a beer because, “I don’t like stout.” (or whatever the style happened to be at the time)

What do you mean by “stout”? Terms are so overused these days. I’ve had stouts that are thick, thin, bitter, sweet, and different in many other ways. About all I can be assured of any more is that a beer labeled “stout” will be dark in color. That doesn’t help me in my beer selection. The same goes for other styles, but stout comes up often.

Is that stout really a porter? Not to harp on stout more, but it seems like a brewery will choose to call a beer either “stout” or “porter” depending on which way the wind is blowing that day. I’ve not heard a good explanation for the difference other than in official contest rules. Those rules seem not to apply outside the contests.

According to many beer afficionados, that which we call porter today has very little to do with the porter of yesterday. In fact, some say we don’t even know what made up the original porter. (Yes, I know those last two sentences can be contradictory – take them in the way that they are not so.) This seems to happen with more styles daily. Just a month ago I heard some pundit refer to “brown ale” as Altbier – a personal offense to one of my favorite styles.

Finally, what about those beers that really do span styles? Many, but by no means all, wheat beers contain fruit, which would make them fruit beers. But, there are fruit beers that are not wheat-based. Clearly a fruit-wheat beer fits in more than one style, and a separate fruit-wheat style seems like overkill.

So, given that styles don’t give much information, and that information is constantly changing, I chose to just leave the whole lot out.

However, I do recognize that more than wanting to know what kind of beer is being recommended to her, a rioter may want to explore a particular style of beer. For that purpose, I think tags fill the requirement nicely.

With tags, rioters can mark a beer “fruit” as well as “wheat”, “porter” as well as “stout”, or even just “dark-colored”. No endless debates about whether a beer should be moved to a different category. If the shoe fits, put it on. If no shoe fits, make another shoe.

BeerRiot – The Blog

Hello Rioters! I realized there was a lot more I wanted to say about developing BeerRiot, enjoying beer, and other things, none of which quite fit under the category “news.” So, I’ve set up this blog as an outlet for those things.

As suggested, here you’ll find my thoughts on beer, the reasoning behind some of the features on BeerRiot, geeky discussion of some of the technology used to make BeerRiot, and probably a host of other things. I may even use this as a space to poll you all when I can’t make a decision on new features.

So, if any of that interests you, stick around.

P.S. This is my first blog, so bear with me while I learn the ropes.

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