Das Ale Haus

Brewing and reviewing since 2012.

Bro, do you even rate?

Hang on folks, this is about to get ranty and meta.

When this site was in its infancy as Boards & Brews back in 2011 I kicked the brew side of things off with a review of Left Hand’s Sawtooth Ale. To end that review I used a simple scale-of-ten rating. However, even then I knew that wasn’t going to be enough. As the site, as well as my palate and knowledge, evolved I shifted to a categorized rating of beer. This is the rating system that I’ve been using up until my last review. But, I’ve come to realize something. Who gives a shit?

Craft Beer Doge

For the record, I’m still really stoked about this haul.

Now, I don’t mean who gives a shit about the actual reviews, because they are an important part of the craft beer culture. What I mean is why should you care about my ratings? They’re entirely too subjective to rely on for your own use. I became aware of this in just my second review, noting that while I liked Sawtooth much more than Irish Red, I rated them the same. Yet I continued to rate beers and be trapped by ratings when buying beer. I think it’s time to end that.

The most problematic question in my mind is what exactly do I rate on? Do I rate the beer as a vote of whether or not I liked it? Or do I rate it on the style itself? Take Dogfish Head 120 Minute. It’s billed as an imperial IPA, and honestly I think it sucks as an imperial IPA. Move it over to barleywine and my opinion changes of how it rates as a style. Know what doesn’t change? The amount I enjoy the beer, and the rating I’d give it the beer own it’s own merit. Another example is my review of Stoudt’s Smooth Hoperator. If I hadn’t done more research that beer would have unfairly gotten a terrible rating even though I enjoyed the beer. Even styles pose a challenge. I enjoy the aroma of an IPA more than that of a porter. Do I rate the IPA higher even though the porter is hitting exactly the notes it’s supposed to?

This dilemma just goes in circles, debating how to rate, ultimately ending with everything getting a 3.5/5. It’s a pointless mental tangle that takes away from the fun of doing a review and writing about beer in the first place. So, I’m done. I’ll leave the ratings to people with certificates and the crowdsourcing of RateBeer and BeerAdvocate. No more 5/5 – 20/20 system, no more thinking too hard about the beer to write a review. Just enjoying the brew, writing what I feel, and doing both to relax. This has gotten too serious, and it’s time to make beer fun again.

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17 comments on “Bro, do you even rate?

  1. Tommy
    March 20, 2014

    I agree. Just because it is ranked high or low doesn’t determine whether or not I am going to at least try it. Just like how if a movie has awful ratings, I may still give it a try. All too subjective. This is why I am not going to list ratings on the site I am working on: http://virginiabreweries.com

    • dasalehaus
      March 21, 2014

      Exactly, no one should discount a beer just because I or someone else didn’t like it. To each their own, it may end up being a new favorite!

      Also, slick link placement haha.

  2. Oliver Gray
    March 21, 2014

    I think this is a healthy conclusion to reach. I gave up on 10/10 reviews a while back too, mostly because a single sample size is too small. Let the hivemind of Ratebeer/Beer Advocate do what they do best.

    Here’s to hoping beer writing evolves beyond the traditional model, and reviews become something of a perfunctory hangover. We need more beer reviews that mimic book and movie reviews; reviews that challenge substance, creation, vision, and art, not just what we see and taste in the glass.

    • dasalehaus
      March 21, 2014

      Cheers to that. I think we get pigeonholed into breaking down beer based on how ratings sites do it because it’s the easy way out.

      One of my favorite reviews is your Dragonstooth Stout one, and we need more of that. Sure it didn’t give any information about the beer, but no writing has ever made me want to go buy a beer more than that piece. It’ll be a long road, and I have no idea where it’ll lead, but I hope myself and others can break out from the same old boring reviews.

      • Oliver Gray
        March 21, 2014

        Thank you! It means a lot that you took so much away from my story. I really enjoyed writing that one, too.

        My goal is to show someone what the beer inspired in me, be it a short story or a themed essay, or a photograph. I don’t really care if people know what random flavors I picked out, or what kinds of fruit the hops smelled like. It doesn’t matter.

        What matters is reciprocating the care the brewers took to make the beer, translating that art and passion through my voice, into something new. I try to put into my reviews the respect I have for the people that brew it. It’s an odd approach, I know, but I enjoy it.

      • dasalehaus
        March 21, 2014

        That’s a great way to go about it, I think it builds a more personal connection to the reader and beer that way. It’s a really hard thing to do well, but you’ve more than pulled it off.

  3. mouldsbeerblog
    March 21, 2014

    Couldn’t agree more. When I first started my blog, I added a little rating system to beers I would review. After a few, I realized it was kind of pointless. I would much rather talk about the beer, the brewers who made it, the ingredients it was made with, than to rate it.

    And yet, with that being said, I do have a lot of beer review sites in my RSS feed. And when I read them, I usually skip over the tasting notes to see their overall thoughts on the beer, and a rating if one is given…….

    Not sure why, to be honest.

    • dasalehaus
      March 21, 2014

      I think we skip to ratings because it’s the quickest way to get the writer’s thoughts without actually reading their thoughts. When I was starting on craft beer, and to a lesser extent today, I’d be on my phone checking ratings in the store, stressing about what beer to buy. I personally need to stop that because it took the fun out of trying something new. The ratings have a purpose, I just don’t think they have a place here.

      • Oliver Gray
        March 21, 2014

        I think you nailed something huge there: an 8/10 says more than a paragraph about the subjective tastes of one drinker. That’s the whole overarching problem with a ASTMO model; the words that are being written are completely inconsequential. No one is putting any thought into these kind of reviews, and no one is reading them as a result. It’s just like a pointless data dump where your “review” is one more blip on the graph.

        I think there might be a place for these kind of reviews from established, well respected names in beer, like BJCP judges, head brewmasters, or those few who have substantial beer street cred (ie. John Holl). I don’t think there is much place for it in the general beer drinking community. It discourages exploration and reduces the experience to a number-crunching, min/max kind of experience.

  4. mouldsbeerblog
    March 21, 2014

    Apparently I can’t reply to a reply of a reply!

    But yea, the ASTMO approach, while necessary in some venues, is boring! Boring to read, and also very boring to write!

    • dasalehaus
      March 21, 2014

      I know, I’m going to have to look into how deep a thread can go! But yea, I think that’s why I stopped doing them recently. I was boring myself, of course I was boring readers.

      • Oliver Gray
        March 21, 2014

        There’s a sneaky setting under Settings > Discussion > Enable threaded (nested) comments X levels deep.

        • dasalehaus
          March 21, 2014

          To be honest I never expected a thread to get past 3. Found the setting and changed it, thanks for the tip!

  5. {V}
    March 21, 2014

    I recently came to that same conclusion; like earlier-this-week recently. The numbers themselves become meaningless because you have to either commit to the subjective rating-based-on-style or the even more subjective rating-based-on-appeal. Or you can do both and now you’re crunching twice as many numbers, and hey wasn’t this about beer at one point?

    I thought about shifting to an A-to-F scale, but that runs into the same issue. Right now I’m thinking of a simple format of “I would recommend this beer to:” and “I wouldn’t recommend this beer to:” because I think that gets more to what we’re trying to accomplish. If we’re trying to create dialog and elevate the conversation around beer, we should be less focused on whether we think something is “good” or “bad” in our singular, subjective viewpoint and more on what the merits of the beer are.

    I talked recently with an early adopter at Beer Advocate who lamented that the vast majority of BA’s users don’t understand the definition of the word “advocate.”

    • dasalehaus
      March 21, 2014

      Glad I’m not alone in having this epiphany. Beer started to become a chore, and I really didn’t like the way that felt. I went through the same thought process you did on the rating systems, and that led me to the conclusion of skipping the ratings altogether. If I were to do it though, I think the recommendation way is the best way to go. For now, I’m just going to have fun writing about the beer I’m drinking. I don’t know what that means yet, but I’m excited about beer again so that’s a good start.

      I agree with that early adopter, it seems like the hardcores have become like religious zealots, and kind of turning new people off to the beer world. We need to be more welcoming.

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