Rating Beer Beyond A-F

Are you a craft beer enthusiast looking for an unbiased opinion on the latest brews? Think twice before relying on beer scores. A-F rating systems have been adopted from the wine and spirits world, and are not designed to give independent feedback. Are we advertising, or actually measuring quality? It's time to re-assess the problem with beer scores.

The Problems with Beer Scores

Beer scores are numbers assigned to a beer or brewery meant to represent the quality and potentially popularity of said beer or brewery. The idea is to give customers, particularly new customers, a scale of which beer or brewery is better than another. A universal method of score is a great system, but with beer scores, many issues have arisen which make it hard to give a truly fair and accurate rating.

A-F Scoring System

Many beer scores follow a dated, A-F standard borrowed from the wine and spirits world that was basically designed for marketing. One of the first major problems is the issue of the A-F system. This system was easily converted for beer ratings, so that instead of a beer having a “B” rating, it could easily become a “7” on a ten point scale. This certainly made the rating process cleaner, however, the A-F system seems outdated, and could be open to bias.

Subjective Evaluations

Another problem with beer scores is that they are often very subjective. Beer judging is done through sensory evaluation, or the act of tasting and smelling a beer to gauge its quality. Everyone's palate is different, so one individual may rank a beer differently than another. Also, judging may be done at different dates, in different styles, different tempertaures and different glasses, in different atmospheres. All of these things can affect the subjective aspect of the beer score.

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Accuracy and Consistency

A large part of the beer scoring process is the accuracy of the rating. Even the best seasoned beer judges can misjudge a beer or brewery due to the subjective nature of the process, mentioned above. In addition to the accuracy of such ratings, another issue is the consistency of the ratings. The beer scoring system has often been called a bit of a “numbers game” in the past, as some breweries and beer judges may be inclined to give a beer or brewery a higher or lower rating depending on various factors.

Extreme Ratings

Perhaps the biggest issue with beer scores is the problem of extreme ratings. Many times, beer drinkers and beer judges give very high or very low ratings for a particular beer or brewery. Whether given out of true assessment, or because of bias, these extremes make it hard for customers to trust beer scores as an accurate gauge of quality.

Solutions for the Problem

So what can be done to improve the beer scoring system? Some potential solutions include:

  • Requiring beer tasters to be certified and consistently trained.
  • Implementing a more granular scoring system than A-F, allowing for greater accuracy.
  • Limiting the sources of beer ratings to certified beer judges and reputable sources.
  • Disallowing beer brokers and distributors from having a stake in the rating system.

With the right system in place, it is possible to make the beer scoring system accurate, fair, and consistent. With all of the issues outlined above, it's important to acknowledge just how difficult this can be, but with the right system, it can be accomplished.

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Conclusion

Beer scoring is a great tool to help customers understand which beers and breweries are the best. However, many issues have arisen over the years with the current model which greatly reduce the accuracy and trustworthiness of such ratings. Fortunately, potential solutions exist which can improve the rating system and make it more accurate, fair, and consistent for customers.

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