How many beers before I die?

Jon Abernathy has completed his “50 beers to drink before you die” series at The Brew Site. Why would I mention this given that I’ve already declared the new Ten Best list from Playboy irrelevant to my beer drinking life?

I guess I’ve figured out that looking at one person’s opinion is more interesting than a list done by consensus. The Playboy list was a committee effort. Bill Brand has more insight on the selection process since he was a voter.

Abernathy took his inspiration from a BBC feature “50 things to eat before you die” – unaware that (the venerable) British beer writer Roger Protz wrote a book titled 300 Beers to Try Before You Die a couple years ago. At the time my thought was that tracking down the 300 beers might be a fun project, although once you got to 299 it would be best to stop.

(“Wait, Mr. Angel, I’ve still got a date with the Duvel.”)

Back to Abernathy’s list. What I like most is the spirit in which beers were chosen.

For No. 49 he picks homebrew, writing “Yep, just ‘homebrew.’ Any homebrew. I’m not going to quibble about style, or presentation, or region, or any of that. (Well, I hope it will at least be good.) But I don’t think anybody can call their beer drinking experience complete without drinking some homebrewed beer.” And No. 50 is “You local brewery’s beer.”

There are also “on the scene” picks – meaning go there (say Belgium) and drink beer unique to the region (say lambic).

What I like least – other than the presence of the godawful Cave Creek Chili Beer – is that there are only 50. I take one look at his American West Coast picks and think, no North Coast, no Lost Abbey, no Bear Republic, no Elysian … (stopping to wipe the tears) no Lost Abbey, no AleSmith, no Russian River (finally overcome and unable to go on).

What I thus decided is that my favorite list might be the one with the most beers. Thus this one is five times better than Playboy’s, but Protz has assembled a list that is 30 times superior.

7 Responses to How many beers before I die?

  1. Jon January 29, 2007 at 7:22 pm #

    Thanks Stan, this is a good write-up. I was indeed unaware of Protz’s book when I started the 50, though I’m going to seek it out now.

    The American West Coast is becoming something of a Mecca for beer, isn’t it? Perhaps a good sub-series of this would be something like “50 American West Coast beers to drink…” although, I could go on and on too. I think I’d have trouble limiting to 50 for Oregon alone, even. I hear ya.

    Perhaps the best approach is to take the BeerAdvocate.com way: user collaborative ratings, and show the top X beers in each category as well as overall…

  2. Stan Hieronymus January 29, 2007 at 9:47 pm #

    Jon,

    I’m not a big fan of the Beer Advocate and Rate Beer way of coming up with a rating. I think the sites are terrific and am fine with the individual ratings. However, they are presenting a consensus.

    I DO like the idea of collaborative filtering. The sort of thing Netflix does/did (I first paid attention to them because of collaborative filtering, in fact). There the host sets up an algorithm and suggests “if you like this then you might like that” based on how other people rate the same beers you have rated.

    Not the world’s best explanation, but I think you get the idea. Similar to what Amazon does as well. So you get some good recommendations and some pretty strange ones.

    Of course what I’m ofcusing on is hooking people up with beers they might like, rather than worrying if they are the “best.”

  3. Steve Beaumont January 30, 2007 at 4:10 pm #

    “…and think, no North Coast, no Lost Abbey, no Bear Republic, no Elysian … (stopping to wipe the tears) no Lost Abbey, no AleSmith, no Russian River (finally overcome and unable to go on).”

    You really do like Tomme’s beers, don’t you? Or was it the grief making you stutter?

    (BTW, on the subject of Lost Abbey, I opened a bottle of Angel’s Share for a group of prominent wine and spirits writers last night and impressed them greatly. We also discovered how remarkably different — and, in some views, better — it is when the yeast is added rather than left in the bottle.)

  4. Stan Hieronymus January 30, 2007 at 4:34 pm #

    I don’t even think it was written with beer (Lost Abbey or otherwise) in hand, but I do think I meant to put Alpine between North Coast and Bear Republic.

  5. Loren January 30, 2007 at 1:02 pm #

    “I’m not a big fan of the Beer Advocate and Rate Beer way of coming up with a rating. I think the sites are terrific and am fine with the individual ratings. However, they are presenting a consensus.”

    A consensus based on some sort of bias you might add. Since each site has a diverse core of members from a concentrated area of the US, mainly. BA is East Coast heavy and RB is West Coast heavy.

    Forget the ratings (score) and read the words. Words speak volumes. And remember…it’s all opinion anyway.

    My list is my list…and yours is yours.

    And nothing in this world would EVER make me want to try Cave Creek Chili…

    Cheers!

  6. Jon January 31, 2007 at 4:19 pm #

    Stan, gotcha. A Netflix/Amazon recommendation engine is a good idea; as far as I know, nobody’s doing that yet. BeerAdvocate has an “Other [style] Examples” column next to a given beer, but that’s about it.

    Loren- interesting, I didn’t know RB was West Coast heavy… or BA East Coast, for that matter– they seem to really like the West Coast beers on BA, though. :)

  7. KevBrews February 7, 2007 at 11:35 am #

    I’ve also noticed that BA tends to weigh Extreme Beers more heavily–it’s the same problem when judging homebrew competitions–the beer with the biggest characteristics of a given style gets the awards, while beers with more subtler flavors get slighted. This phenomenon isn’t surprising on BA though, given the Alstrom’s very vocal advocacy of the extreme beer movement.