RateBeer vs. BeerAdvocate
You may have noticed that along with my beer reviews I cite two sites, too. This is for a couple reasons; the biggest one is because I am, at best, a novice beer drinker.
WARNING, TANGENT AHEAD-> I enjoy good beer, but I am no expert. That’s part of the reason I want to write this blog, to help other novices learn while I learn as well. A lot of the beer blogs I try to read jump right into anecdotes or jokes about beer which require a lot of knowledge, and then I’m lost. Meanwhile, the few other resources out there are pretty cold (personality-wise). So I’m trying to balance the personality of a good beer blog with some more basic facts and information, which will help people bridge the gap from noobs to snobo (really, it’s all about rearranging letters) (tangent over).
So the reasoning for using BA and RB (both based in the USA) is to add in a bit of a general opinion. So who’s opinion is that, and why use both?
Well, both are essentially beer rating sites which work through social media, creating a web-based collective index of the brews of the world. In layman’s terms, they let whomever wants to rate the beer by certain metrics, and then average it out to a general score out of 100.
Appearance = 5 per cent
The first step – note the beer’s colour, carbonation, head and its retention — not the label or appearance of the bottle.
Smell = 20 per cent
Now bring the beer to your nose. Note the beer’s aromatic qualities.
Taste = 45 per cent
Take a deep sip of the beer. Note any flavours, or interpretations of flavours, that you might discover. Do they fit the style?
Mouthfeel = 10 per cent
Take another sip. Note how the beer feels on the palate. Too light? Too heavy? Smooth? Coarse?
Overall = 20 per cent
Your overall impression of the beer.
RateBeer uses a similar five point system that includes aroma, appearance, taste, palate and overall. It then includes a more complicated mathematical formula to match all the different beer styles so they can be compared on a different level. This is part of the reason the ratings can vary so much between the two sites. This is how they explain the math:
We use the same true Bayesian estimate formula used by the Internet Movie Database for calculating average ratings.
weighted rank (WR) = (v / (v+m)) * R + (m / (v+m)) * C
R = average for the design (mean) = (Rating)
v = number of votes for the design = (Rate Count)
m = minimum votes required to be listed in the top beers list (varies according to average of ratecounts for top 50 beers)
C = the midpoint of the scale (2.75 in our case)
This formula normalizes scores, that is it pulls a particular score (R) to the mean (C) if the number of votes is not well above m. In other words, if a particular beer has only a few votes above the minimum required votes to be listed in top 50 (m), the average score is decreased a little if it is above the mean, or increased a little if it is below the mean in accordance with the normal distribution rule of statistics.
The idea is that the more the votes, the more representative the average rating is.
Both use the beer’s style/design as a way to rate, as well, which is why some beers can score high with individuals, but seem to come out lower. As far as beer rating sites go, they’re the best. As far as a measurement of beer they give a decent idea, though they can be misleading. They both have huge listings; the vast majority of beers I drink are on both of them. And they both have forums, which are probably best not to venture into, due to high amounts of snobbery.
While they may enlighten somewhat, these sites give the same sort of idea that the Internet Movie Database might give, an idea of what the masses might say, but individual tastes vary. For a better idea of some of the top beers, it might be better to see who has won a medal in one of the many beer competitions. Canada has a couple of these. In the mean time, for the beers that don’t make it to these competitions, I’ll keep using RB and BA.
One further note, RateBeer has a couple of useful sheets for use while tasting a beer, which I’m going to try to start to use. I won’t be posting the sheets, but hopefully it will help me be more exact in my reviewing.