AleSmith ales have garnered nearly 3,500 reviews on BeerAdvocate, averaging an impressive A- among 23 various beers.
Mikkeller owner Mikkel Borg Bjergsø deserves a fair amount of credit for Denmark’s rise in the beer world. When it comes to designing his beers, he insists “my wants always come first… After this I think mostly about the beer geeks.”
And they keep his beers in their thoughts―and glasses―to the tune of over 8,000 reviews among 70-plus beers on RateBeer. He keeps his local RateBeerians busy.
Papazian noted of Denmark’s ascension in the beer geek world, “Some of the pioneers took notes about what happened in the U.S.A. a decade ago and helped lay the foundation.”
What does this mean for the beer geek? As is the case with all viruses, geographical borders mean very little.
For Bjergsø’s part, he revels in his homegrown status, especially considering Denmark’s embarrassment of riches. “Raters here have access to more beer than anywhere in the world. Last year alone we had 647 new Danish beers and at least 1,000 new imports. Therefore, you can drink five to eight new beers a day and never get back to one you already drank.”
While he is firmly a Danish brewer, he has developed a reputation as a “gypsy brewer,” practicing his craft at breweries throughout Europe and America.
RateBeerian Forsgren enjoys the variety to be found in Stockholm, but is fortunate enough to travel as part of his job. He travels off the clock as well. He has drunk beers in about 90 countries. That’s lucky for him since in Sweden, only Systembolaget―government controlled stores―are allowed to sell alcoholic beverages over 3.5 percent.
Many of these and other beer geeks are avid travelers. Between the bottles and growlers the Danish tasting group fetch from foreign lands to local shelves is, as Ungstrup put it piously, “heaven to me.”
But lacking local bounty isn’t a deterrent to Riley. How does someone from the Hawkeye State―Iowa’s home to only 16 breweries including 13 brewpubs―become the most prolific reviewer on BeerAdvocate.com? “Iowa is a terrible state for craft beer,” he acknowledged, pointing to the Prohibition-era beer laws. At least he doesn’t have to contend with Systembolaget. While committed beer lovers find ways to bring good beer home (Riley never reviews pub pours!), he makes periodic trips to his native Ohio (hence “BuckeyeNation”), Chicago, Twin Cities and more adventurous points throughout the Midwest. Legal online vendors help fill in the rest.
As a matter of happenstance, beer trades violate federal laws prohibiting unlicensed shipping of alcohol.
We all like to drink, and exploring a variety of flavors is understandable. But these guys get more out of it than intriguing tastes and a buzz. Sure, RateBeerians like Ungstrup maintain a bottle cap collection, and Papsø, until last year, soaked his empties to get the labels off and adhered them next to the ratings.
Riley said, “I love the reviewing as much as I love the beer (the good ones, anyway). It’s my only creative outlet. To fellow advocate Brennan, it’s a kind of meditation.”