In the midst of the discussion about the Wine Enthusiast list of top 25 beers, Jeff Alworth posed a question:
Stan, just to throw a hot potato back at you: if, under penalty of death, you were compelled to come up with a list of the world’s 25 best, what would it be? Actually, I don’t care what the list is as much as I wonder what criteria you would apply to come up with it.
I’d probably rather Jeff provide the criteria and I do the list, but that’s not the real question is it? So, understanding I’m bound to overthink this, here you go.
Am I changing the rules? If you look at the annual (or semi-annual) lists from Rate Beer and Beer Advocate they damn the torpedoes and if three imperial stouts, two doppelbocks and four strong dark ales fermented with yeast from Belgium end up in the top 10 that’s fine. I’d rather read a list that includes 25 beers that represent the best in and the breadth of the world. A cheat? Sorry, I want a helles to have a chance to make the list.
Whose palates will be served? Only those who love big hefty, maybe hoppy, beers? Only those who appreciate pale, delicate beers? Why not everybody.
It’s not a matter of starting with some list, say 10, of the best pilsners from the Czech Republic and hauling them fresh to a judging arena. You must go there and taste them where they are brewed. Same with wheat beers in Bavaria (though not all 1,000 or so available). Timothy Taylor Landlord is not going to be the same on cask in Chicago (site of the next World Beer Cup) as it is anywhere in the U.K. Drink multiple pints or half liters or chalices. If it’s one of the best 25 beers in the world you should rip the arms off of somebody who tries to keep you from finishing your glass.
Did I answer your question? This is another fool’s errand, so feel free to add what I left out in comments.
Curiously, the exercise has helped me focus on why I find trying to identify the very best in the world pointless. If you love beer, on any given Sunday the 343rd best in the world may be better than the 14th.