I’m going to start this post off with a point of disclosure, I don’t frequent or belong to sites like Ratebeer, or Beeradvocate. Not for any huge dis on them or the people who make those sites what they are, but I’ve just never been drawn to them. The basic reason being, as readers of my blog know, I don’t rate beers. And while there is more than numbers to be found, I prefer to pull up a blog post written by someone who I’ve come to know. That way as they give their opinions, I have a history and background of the review writer that I can use to better gauge the review I’m reading.
However, as a person who relies of statistics frequently where I work, I can’t deny that the users of Ratebeer represent a huge population of beer drinkers. And as in any population, if you know how to critically examine it you can get some pretty good data from it.
So when Ratebeer.com published it’s yearly “Top of” lists I couldn’t help but peruse them to see how our local beers, breweries and establishments faired compared to the rest of the US. And although we didn’t blow anyone out of the fermenter, I think we have some things that this area can definitely be proud of. So following is a summary of results from Ratebeer.com “Top of” lists. In all cases, click on the header if you want to see the full list from Ratebeer.com.
No surprise here that Top Beer goes to DFH’s 90 Minute IPA and that the Brewer award goes to Dogfish Head. I’m not going to stomp my foot to much here, although for me, 90 minute is not the best beer DFH makes. However, as the current US craft beer market is all about the hop, it’s no surprise that this beer rose above the rest of Delaware offerings on a list that contains, Maine’s Lunch, RR Pliny the Elder, and Alchemist’s Heady Topper. As far as best Brewery, well what can I say. I believe in order to have a shot at this you need to be either one of two things, either a brewery with a somewhat wide distribution so that more people can sing the virtues of your beer, or become one of those small breweries who produce a beer of limited distribution that becomes one of those “White Whales” that people travel to, or request in trades. Think Hill Farmstead. Oh, and you have to make a great beer. But that’s a given.
And obviously DFH has a little of both going on. It does have a significant distribution, allowing more people access to it, and as a result, more people to spread the word on its hoppy goodness so that those who can’t get their hands on it, definitely want to.
Interestingly no award was given for New Brewer. I couldn’t find Ratebeer’s criteria or “formula” for when this award was given out, and indeed, it appears that it was not awarded in a good portion of the states. My own thought is that most of the current breweries are indeed to old for this honor, and for the one that probably does qualify as to that regard (Mispillion Brewing) hasn’t been around long enough to get enough exposure to get noticed by Ratebeer’s system.
As far as the surrounding region, Maryland was represented by Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter (beer), Stillwater Artesinal (brewer), with Full Tilt Brewing taking best New Brewer. In PA, Tired Hands took the award for best Brewery with their HandFarm taking top beer.
When it came to the top beer places, Delaware craft beer lovers shouldn’t be surprised. Dogfish Head again scored with their Rehoboth Brewery and Eats, scoring top Brewpub, while their brewery scored top Tap Room. Best restaurant went to Fins Fish House and Raw Bar (not to be confused with Finbar, the pub next to the DFH brewpub, that DFH just made arrangements to purchase) which is literally right down the street from from DFH’s brewpub, while top bar went to the local favorite, Two Stones Pub (no indication as to which of the two locations was honored). The awards conclude with Claymont’s Total Wine taking best bottle shop.
Maryland weighed in with such well known names as Love and Regret (restaurant), Heavy Seas (tap room), and craft beer shrine Max’s Taphouse (bar). Local favorite State Line Liquors took top bottle shop honors, which shouldn’t be any surprise to anyone who lives in this area. While in PA Tired Hands continues to do well with top Brewpub nod, and Weyerbacher gets the nod for best Brewer Tap Room.
On the one hand, we could probably be a little upset that we’re not well represented in this category. On the other hand when you look at the expanse of the craft beer/world beer scene, one should probably be happy to make an appearance at all. Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA cracked the top 100 on Ratebeer, and is some excellent company in a list that includes several Farm Hillstead, New Glarus, Russian River, Bells, Founders and Cigar City beers. Again, no surprise that our most well know brewer made the list with a hop forward Imperial IPA that Esquire Magazine once described as “perhaps the best IPA in America”.
Sadly, regional beers were few on this list, with Tired Hands’ Handfarm being the only other one to make an appearance. If this post serves any other purpose, it should be that you might want to start seeking some Tired Hands’ beer, if you have not been lucky enough to do so already.
Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute, finished 11th on the Double IPA list that includes both versions of Pliny, Hopslam, Heady Topper, Dreadnaught and Amber. Great company indeed.
Flying Dog’s Gonzo finish 8th in the Imperial Baltic Porter category. While Stilwater’s Debauched Brunello Barrel Aged came in 9th in the traditional ale category. Regional brewer of amazing goodness Victory Brewing finally makes an appearance with Prima Pils coming in 11th in the Pale Lager category. Considering Tired Hands previous mentions in this post, it’s no surprise that they’re well represented here. Their Caskette came in 11th in the English Style Pale and Bitter category, with Handfarm taking 4th in Belgian Session and The Light That Spills Out of the Hole in Your Head coming in 7th in American Amber.
2013 saw a lot of new beers introduced into the market, but what were the top ones according to Ratebeer? Well, once again Tire Hands shines through. Handfarm, MagoTago, We Are All Infinite Energy Vibrating at the Same Frequency and The Light That Spills Out of the Hole in Your Head, all made the list. Sadly, no Delaware beers cracked the top 0.1% on Ratebeer’s list, but considering where we are right now in Delaware brewing, and the vast landscape of great beers out there, I’m not going to feel slighted in the least. Consider it something to shoot for in the future.
Finally, if you pull this altogether, it should be no surprise that a few of the above mentioned made the list for top brewers in 2013. Dogfish Head made the list, as did Stillwater, Troegs, Victory and Tired Hands which means that according to the way Ratebeer did the calculations, these brewers are some of the best in their system which includes over 16,000 brewers. I don’t think that’s too shabby.
When I started this post (admittedly, after reading Carla Companion’s excellent run down of how Maine faired in her post on Maine Today) I was hoping to do more than talk about DFH’s 90 Minute IPA. But the list is the list. So there you have it. Congrats to everyone who topped their respective lists, and I hope to see one or two more Delaware beers on there next year.
Time for another beer.