Here at the magazine we’ve been thinking a lot about numbers and how they relate to what we drink. Walk the aisles of a liquor store and you’ll see tags hanging from shelves, advertising numerical scores for corresponding bottles. While more prominent in the wine section, it’s becoming increasingly more commonplace with beer.
But what causes one wine to get a 95 rating while the bottle next to it has a 92? Are there actually any 88s available? Do I dare buy one, or will it taste like a B+? What would my friends think if I actually brought them an 88 as a dinner party gift? And have I even noticed who makes it, or am I more concerned with the number?
Numbers mean different things to different people, and in the beer industry they are assigned by various methods. One popular and widely accepted scoring method comes from the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), which is most often used in homebrewing and professional competitions. The BJCP serves that purpose very thoroughly and very well. I find that the BJCP app is an excellent tool for style review. Websites and publications have their own scoring methods, usually on a 100-point scale inherited from the wine industry. For many years this magazine had a publishing arrangement with the Beverage Testing Institute (BTI) in Chicago, a company that numerically scores beer for its members. What does a number tell us about taste? That’s the question we’ve been asking and starting with this issue will seek to answer.
All About Beer Magazine is changing how we present beer to you. Ken Weaver, an experienced beer judge and long-time reviewer, joins our team as beer editor. With his arrival, we are excited to present two new sections: Taste and Explore.
Taste is filled with beer reviews by our staff and a carefully selected group of panelists. It is not about numbers, but emphasizing the different words and phrasing our panelists use, our unique palates and preferences, and the distinct contexts in which we interpret these beers. Our tastings are held around the country, at bottle shops and bars. We want to buy and taste beer the way you do, right off the shelves or straight from the tap. We’re purposefully not judging to style. Recently, a brewer mentioned to me that the Kölsch in his hand reminded him of an early 1970s Kölsch, given high finishing bitterness found then in Cologne as opposed to today. While styles certainly still do and should have a role (particularly in consumer education and homebrewing competitions), styles have always been precarious and variably defined at best. They’re becoming less relevant in terms of how we as consumers think about and taste beer these days. Given what we see in the market, we also hope grocers, taprooms and restaurants resist selling beer by style, which is becoming far too prevalent. You can read more about our process on Page 52.
Explore highlights top events and new beer releases worth looking forward to around the country and abroad. John Holl shares more about that section here.
Much of the excitement around beer today comes from trying something new and from the very personal nature of tasting. We hope that you enjoy this big, necessary and important change in our coverage and that it helps you develop a deeper relationship with the beer in your glass.
This column appears in the July 2015 issue of All About Beer Magazine. Click here to subscribe.
Chris Rice is the President & Publisher of All About Beer Magazine.