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Beer "style bias" in your reviews?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by tectactoe, Nov 1, 2012.

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  1. tectactoe

    tectactoe Mar 20, 2012 Michigan

    After a while of rating my favorite beers, I decided it was time to get more involved and actually start to reviews them - new ones, as well as re-trying some of the ones I've had before.

    Does anyone else notice themselves having a huge bias towards a certain type of beer when they review? Looking at my top 5 beers, they are: Founder's Breakfast Stout, Espresso Oak Aged Yeti, BCBS, Ten Fidy, and New Holland's The Poet - all stouts. And I do love stouts, absolutely. Stouts are, without a doubt, my favorite style of beer. But I feel that since I have such a love for stouts, I'm being slightly unfair to other styles, because they won't stand a change to score as high as the stouts.... does that make sense? It's like my own personal bias is reflected in my reviews, even though I can't help it.

    Anyone else notice this in themselves? Certain affinities towards a specific beer style that essentially makes that style dominate your "top beers" according to the score you give them?
  2. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    This is why many BA's claim you should review to style.
  3. coreyfmcdonald

    coreyfmcdonald Nov 13, 2008 Georgia
    Beer Trader

    Of course you should review to style, but there will always be inherent biases based on tastes.
    Hornet2003 likes this.
  4. Brunite

    Brunite Sep 21, 2009 Illinois

    Understand the point. But in reality.....who are you really worried about being true to? Beer? Others? Yourself?

    Rate' em how you like them is how I see it.

    I, likewise, love stouts. I also enjoy an occasional APA. Why should I care if I rate my 11th favorite stout above my 1st favorite APA? Yes; take into account what a particular style "should" taste like....but personal preference and taste trumps style guidelines. Case in point: GI MILD WINTER. Is it a brown ale? A rye beer? A winter seasonal? Who the hell cares? I love the stuff and buy it by the case, when available. Likewise; I could care less what anyone thinks when they see me drinking one in the summer (heavens forbid!), or when it is beyond its BB-date. For me....taste trumps all. I guess that is also why I eat my fish cooked when I see the rest of the world (it seems) eating theirs raw and paying a high price for the "luxury" of doing so!
    Duff27 likes this.
  5. cbeer88

    cbeer88 Sep 5, 2007 Massachusetts

    This has been discussed and analyzed quite a bit over the years. Long story short - BA reviews have a huge bias towards "extreme" beers, and also tend to be more harsh on some of the more common styles.

    A barrel-aged imperial stout, for example, has to borderline suck to get an average lower than a 4.0 on here. On the other side of the coin, there's literally only one Czech Pilsner and two Kolsch Ales with an average over 4.0. A 3.5 on a Czech Pilsner means it is a good beer.
    Duff27, Hornet2003 and Grohnke like this.
  6. ao125

    ao125 Dec 1, 2010 Virginia

    One thing I will say is that I've found myself becoming biased towards barrel aged beer vs. regular beers. Even when it comes to the same beer, I find myself showing preferential treatment toward the barrel aged version - even more so when it's bourbon barrel aged.
  7. JM03

    JM03 Nov 12, 2010 Ohio

    Of course you are going to rate the beers that you like the best with higher scores. Reviews are a matter of the drinkers opinion, and if you love the beer - the higher the review (regardless of style)

    I personally use my reviews/hads for my personal benefit. Basically a tracking tool for myself so that I know what I had and if/how I liked it.
    albertq17 likes this.
  8. Knapp85

    Knapp85 Dec 25, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    This is something I struggle with also. I try really hard to be fair about reviewing most beers. Sometimes there are ones I just really don't care for and I feel that I need to give them a lower score. It's tough but we all have our favorites (mine being IPA's)... some people love sours and personally I think it's all hype, so is there a right or wrong answer to how we score things? I believe it comes down to the people themselves to decide.
  9. jacewg

    jacewg Jan 7, 2012 District of Columbia

    I absolutely struggle with this. A huge majority of all my super highly rated beers are massive beers: stouts (barrel aged or otherwise), huge IPAs, belgian quads. The only "outliers" of sorts are beers like Supplication, Saint Lamvinus, etc.

    Outside of lighter beers that are truly special for their style: GL Dortmunder Gold, Allagash White, Weihenstephaner Hefe, etc. I struggle sometimes with how to evaluate lighter, smaller beers.
  10. MN_Beerticker

    MN_Beerticker Jul 10, 2012 Minnesota

    I try not to write reviews just for the simple fact that I would rather drink beer than write about it.

    I do however use the hads review system and I think I tend to be more partial to Trappist Ales and Belgians but I try to keep an open mind. I usually read the top 5 scores and the rAVG score and determine whether my experience was greater, lesser or equal to that number.
  11. BigCheese

    BigCheese Jul 4, 2009 Massachusetts

    Its natural, its difficult to give an "average" DIPA/RIS a lower ranking than an "above average" AAL. I cant get myself to rate high life/Narragansett (one of the better AAL) higher than say Hop Wallop (for me middle of the pack in DIPA class, still a fabulous brew).
  12. frazbri

    frazbri Oct 29, 2003 Ohio

    When I review (which isn't often), I try to take into account what the style is supposed to look, taste and smell like. Personal preferences always come into play, just don't critique something too harshly for being exactly what it's supposed to be.
  13. herrburgess

    herrburgess Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Beer Trader

    I truly believe that the "Pepsi Challenge" effect plays a role here. Back in the 1980s, Pepsi conducted a blind taste test, wherein consumers were given a small sample of Pepsi and Coke and asked which they prefer. The majority chose Pepsi. Since Coke outsold Pepsi by a wide margin, researchers began to investigate what was behind the surprising findings. What they discovered was that tasters will generally prefer the sweeter of two beverages based on a small sample size.

    With the prevalence of group tastings, rare beers that are limited or shared, and even homebrew competitions where quality is judged based on small samples, the inevitable "winners" are those beers that are frequently sweeter and more intense tasting. Have a look at the Top 100 popular beers here: you have the coffee, vanilla, chocolate, bourbon stouts; the sherry/rum, raisin, dark fruit Quads and barleywines; the mango, citrusy, fruity IPAs and DIPAs; and the sweet and sour lambics. Until U.S. craft beer culture moves away from the 2 oz. snifter samples, online trade forums, living room tastings, and homebrew shops, this will likely remain the case.
  14. tobelerone

    tobelerone Dec 1, 2010 New York
    Beer Trader

    There's a lot of good points in this thread. I feel people should do their best to review to style while also taking their personal tastes into account and should generally avoid reviewing beer styles they know they don't like.

    Herrburgess makes a great point above. A 3oz sample of Bramble might be delicious, but I didn't enjoy drinking the entire 22oz bottle on my own and hated the aftermath of all that booze and sugar. On the other hand when I go to the beer garden and have fresh German beers on tap I can drink them by the liter without hesitation or negative consequences. Not saying I don't love a lot of big beers, BA stouts, and the like but the ratings might be totally different if one had to drink say, a full pint alone before rating.

    Also my wife recently quit drinking these massive beers with me so now my cellar is full of bombers and 750s I don't usually want to open and drink alone so I'm sitting on them for tastings and bottle shares while grabbing singles and sixes of more drinkable beer to fill the gaps.
    Hoptometrist likes this.
  15. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    A rating score done by one person is suspect in my book, just due to the fact that we all have strengths and weakness in our palates. Some can be hyper sensitive to diacetyl and blind to DMS. That is why a production brewery tests the palates of people on their QC tasing panels to make sure they know the panel has the defects covered.

    If you have a style bias, is it fair to the brewer? I do not like bourbon barrel aged beers. I would do my best to judge those to style if I had to.

    The Pepsi Challenge was studied after New Coke bombed. They found that Pepsi was liked for small samples, and Coke was liked more if you drank a whole bottle. The palate fatigue was quicker with the sweeter soda.

    HerrBurgess - From what you say some is true with bigger and sweeter beers standing out. But judges will also taste the top beers in the flight agian to see if they got it right. Diid you know the top beer at the NHC second round this year was a Helles? That went up against all of the big beers.
  16. herrburgess

    herrburgess Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Beer Trader

    There are certainly plenty of exceptions -- and I'd even be willing to say that there has been a conscious (though slight) shift away from the extreme high ends of the stylistic guidelines recently. Nevertheless, I'd be interested to see the OG/FG/Abv. on that award-winning Helles.... My bet is that it's still toward the extreme end(s) of the style in at least one of those areas.
  17. mudbug

    mudbug Mar 27, 2009 Oregon

    Exactly. I only rate beers I like, I use rating as a personal database.
  18. brewbetter

    brewbetter Jun 2, 2012 Nauru

    This is an inherent problem at BA. You just have to take it into account when looking at the scores.
  19. mudbug

    mudbug Mar 27, 2009 Oregon

    Another problem is the ridiculous proliferation of "styles" often overlapping gobbelygeekdom, reminds me of a kindergarden olympics where everyone gets a gold medal.
  20. finado

    finado Jul 6, 2009 Minnesota

    Of course there is a bias-a built in one. The type of person who reads and rates on ba and rate beer are not your typical normal beer consumers-around 85% of all beer drinkers stick to just a few brands,have never heard of most of the brands getting all the raves here and are basically content to stay in familiar territory. So you're getting a particular type of beer drinker here that is not the norm (more adventuress-generallly unsatisfied with the bmc's-more eclectic in their taste and more involved in what their drinking). Yes-there is a built in bias-if the bmc drinkers were doing the rating the ipa/imperial stouts/apa's etc would take a beating-so the people here are escaping from the bmc's so most lagers and cream ales will take a beating. You have to take this into account when reading reviews and ratings.

  21. seplo

    seplo Sep 8, 2009 Connecticut
    Beer Trader

    i can say that i try to be objective towards styles/beers that really arnt my cup of tea, thats probably the reason i dont review beers unless i rate them on my hads list. thats the only way i can actually be fair to the beer...CHEERS
  22. RichardMNixon

    RichardMNixon Jun 24, 2012 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Don't the guidelines here explicitly request that you not review samples or anything else significantly smaller than a full glass? If you're drinking less than 8 oz., I don't think you should be reviewing.
    Can't seem to find it any more but "How to Review a Beer" returns a 404 error, so maybe it used to be there.
  23. herrburgess

    herrburgess Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Beer Trader

    Here are the guidelines: http://beeradvocate.com/articles/637. Among (many) other things, they recommend you not review from a sample of 4 oz. or less. Reading through the article, I'd wager that these guidelines are fully followed very, very infrequently here.
  24. marquis

    marquis Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    I would suggest that 8 oz is far too little a sample.First impressions are just that; many beers begin with a lot of promise and then become tiresome.
    It would be a good idea to review to style-if there was a style guideline which is worth the paper it's written on. I've yet to find one.
  25. abraxel

    abraxel Aug 28, 2009 Michigan

    I generally agree with you (though I'm not as passionate), but what do living rooms and homebrew shops have to do with it?
  26. nanobrew

    nanobrew Dec 31, 2008 California

    Honestly I don't mind bias across the board. Meaning IPAs and IRS are rated on average higher than California Common or pilsners. For those, I always look at ratings within a style. I know if I like a style or not, I want to know how that beer ranks within its style.

    What I don't like is when some rates a beer for a style they don't like. You see it commonly and it is stupid. "I don't like sours but I thought I would review this". I am not a fan of mint, so I will not rate mint beers (same with coconut). I typically don't like Wits, so I would never rate them. Will try these beers, I can usually appreciate how others might like them, but I know my opinion is skewed and has no bearing on the quality of the product.
  27. herrburgess

    herrburgess Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Beer Trader

    You should probably leave them in order to find the world's great beers as they are best consumed. (In other words, just me shooting my mouth off again...;))
  28. UCLABrewN84

    UCLABrewN84 Mar 18, 2010 California

    I try not to.
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