By Bob the Brit
Recently there has been some discussion about the beer review process, and there’s also been a few comments regarding how Scott and I review and rate beers. At the risk of being self indulgent, I should like to clarify how I go about things.
The photographs for my reviews here on The Brew Club are taken in my kitchen, and I always try to sample the beer at the recommended temperature and as far as possible in an appropriate glass. About which more in a future post.
Sometimes beers disappoint, in which case I will try the second bottle at room temperature, to give the nose and flavour a chance.
Personally, I rate my beer thus;
Rating: – “That was a waste of thirty minutes of my life – and a few bucks. Never again!”
An example of a zero star beer rating for me was the ‘Colomba‘ wheat beer from Corsica that I described as “a pale, insubstantial attempt at a wheat beer that disappoints in aroma, mouth feel and flavour”.
Rating: – “Something that just doesn’t do it for me.”
A recent example of this was the Biere Noel from Brasserie St Omer which had “a reasonably rewarding dark amber colour, and coffee coloured head, but that’s about it. There’s no hint of dark roasted malts, no real flavour, body or substance and not much in the way of flavour.”
In retrospect this perhaps should have rated zero, I gave it one point to encourage myself to finish the multi-pack, but the remaining bottles are still staring dolefully down from the beer shelf, and I just can’t bring myself to go back to them.”
I’m not sure who first said “Life’s too short to drink cheap beer.” – it may even have been Buddha – but whoever it was, I’m with them. And the Biere Noel stays on the shelf.
Rating: – drinkable, and not unpleasant beer, but not something I’d take to a friend’s house. Hey, I have a reputation to think of!
As well as dribbling and scribbling for The Brew Club, I’m a member of the British Guild of Beer Writers. If I take a beer to a friend they’re going to expect something special! If a beer only rates two stars, then it’s probably not worth sharing.
Rating: – a beer that does what it sets out to, I’d be happy to drink it again.
Mathematically, the mid point is 2½ stars, so on my rating for a beer to rate three stars it should do what it sets out to – if it’s an IPA then it should be bitter and hoppy, a Pilsner should be light with Saaz hop aroma and so on.
If I give a beer three stars then I would happily drink it if I saw it in a bar.
Rating: – something that does what it sets out to, and does it well. I’d search it out.
Possibly a benchmark, but I set my benchmarks high; definitely a ‘go to’ beer.
Rating: – a true classic.
This is perhaps easier to define than the three and four star ratings. To get five stars a beer must have that “wow!” factor that differentiates it from other beers in the same category. I’m perhaps more generous in my scoring than Scott as I’ve given seven 5 star ratings thus far, to his two. But looking back through them I don’t think I’d change any.
Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, Jenlain, Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier… they are all ‘stand out’ beers in their categories and all deserve their 5 star ratings. They’re all exceptional beers and, in my humble opinion, classics.
After some discussion with Scott, he indicated that my beer rating system was similar to how he rated beers, but hadn’t really been able to put into words. As a result, we’ve codified this beer rating guideline and put it into The Brew Club’s ‘About Us‘ page so that anyone can reference it!
I should also like to add, in passing, that the All Beer Experience I reviewed in December 2009 provides a fascinating framework for ‘scoring’ beer, attributing points for the various aspects of smell, taste, and feel, and then calculating the overall flavour balance and total flavour score. It’s complicated, but very rewarding in its own beer geeky way.
How does your personal beer rating system work? Let us know! Do you have a system? What’s it based on?