Beers that ride on a flagships coat tails.

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by PrimustheOne, Mar 19, 2017.

  1. PrimustheOne

    PrimustheOne Initiate (38) Nov 23, 2016 New Hampshire

    So today, I tried a beer from a brewer who has a small group of very popular flagship beers and fairly recently has been expanding outside their skill/comfort zone. (IMHO)

    The beer was decent but nothing special, but my fellow BA's gave it very high marks.

    So my question, is do you think that it's reasonable to say that some beers get the benefit of the doubt when being rated just because they are made by a brewer who makes a widely popular flagship beer?

    (disclaimer: yea, I know taste is very subjective, and I'm intentionally not naming names to avoid a flame war.)
  2. Maestro0708

    Maestro0708 Aspirant (246) Feb 27, 2015 Kentucky
    Beer Trader

    I definitely think that can impact your opinion of a beer. If you go into a new beer with a lot of love for the brewery, you might have already formed opinions about how much you're going to like that beer. On the flip side, you might set really high expectations and be dissapointed when a new beer from a brewery you love is just okay.
  3. Shroud0fdoom

    Shroud0fdoom Poo-Bah (1,561) Oct 31, 2013 Maryland
    Beer Trader

    I just tried a brewery only release from a local brewery who has an outstanding Flag Ship lineup. Long story short, I was slightly disappointed with this new release.. Moral of the Story, I keep it honest in everything I do. If I love a beer I love it, regardless of the brewer or their beer portfolio.

    P.S. As you will see, some beers get high marks from the Homer Class beer reviewers.
  4. BeastOfTheNortheast

    BeastOfTheNortheast Initiate (74) Dec 26, 2009 Pennsylvania

    Of course. I try not to be biased, but it's hard to not give a brewery credit who is local and has very respectable brewers/employees even if the beer isn't that great. I usually have in my mind that the beer will be good.
    Eamonn-Cummings3 likes this.
  5. rypkr

    rypkr Zealot (581) Nov 19, 2011 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Do you mean like how lizard of koz and frootwood did?
  6. Harrison8

    Harrison8 Meyvn (1,266) Dec 6, 2015 Missouri
    Beer Trader

    Absolutely. While I don't like bias, and I try my hardest to avoid it, I can say the same scheme from above is true for grading student work, sports teams, and brands outside of beer. They developed a track record, and a positive one at that. So they are afforded the luxury of a miss or two when their brand, their work, or their performance isn't spot on with the high consistency and performance they've achieved before.

    For real world examples, just as Trillium has developed a brand, a mystique, and a high rating average on here, car manufacture Mazda has achieved resounding scores on Consumer Reports, and continuously high praise from average daily drivers. As such, they can slip up a bit, or jack up their prices (as they did with the new Mazda 3).
  7. kculrich

    kculrich Zealot (528) Jun 21, 2014 New Hampshire
    Beer Trader

    Alchemist could can parking lot runoff and the first ten ratings would be over 4.25.
  8. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (2,818) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    As @THSdrummer so nicely describes in his post it is not only possible but it is almost guaranteed that there will be a "halo" effect for a new beer from a brewery with well liked or popular flagships. It also works the other way for breweries with not so good or unpopular flagships. They're in a hole they can't dig themselves out of and their new beers which can be much better still get "tarred with the same brush." This is why blind grading/tasting can sometimes be very important.

    What can be of equal or greater interest is that quite often judges/raters fail to recognize that their own internal standards or judging criteria can change over time. This internal change can lead the raters/judges to think that it is the beer (or other things in the world we make quality judgments about) that has changed rather than their own tastes or the judging criteria inside their own heads.
    utopiajane, kculrich, Ranbot and 4 others like this.
  9. HopsDubosc

    HopsDubosc Initiate (165) Apr 24, 2015 Vermont
    Beer Trader

    Maine Beer Co.
    Gemini6, kculrich, matthewp and 2 others like this.
  10. Zorro

    Zorro Poo-Bah (4,169) Dec 25, 2003 California

    Firestone Walker 805 Ale.
    Mediocre crap in a can.
    Catracho5 and GOBLIN like this.
  11. NeroFiddled

    NeroFiddled Poo-Bah (7,928) Jul 8, 2002 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Geez, my wife won't stop buying Frootwood! Every time she sees it she picks up 2 or 3 bottles.
  12. matthewp

    matthewp Initiate (153) Feb 27, 2015 Massachusetts

    Without a doubt there's bias for certain breweries. That being said there's a difference between marking a beer up a few tenths of a point or so because you love the brewery or "its supposed to be great" and giving a beer high marks when it really isn't that good. If you give a beer a 4 or 5 and its isn't good then you are just lying, at the least lying to yourself.

    I generally only rate beers on untappd because those ratings are for myself and my friends for my impressions of the beer rather than a true review. I've gone back and changed some ratings for beers later on because I realize I really didn't enjoy a beer as much as I rated it. Usually its maybe a quarter point too high. Usually below 3 is reserved for beers I wouldn't drink again. I've rated some beers at 3 that probably should have been 2.75 because I liked the brewery. Usually I go back and fix that after some thought but its also a great reason why not to do a true review after only drinking a beer once. That's why untappd for me is my initial impressions rather than a true review. Its very hard to be hard on a brewery you like as well as its hard to be generous to a brewery you don't like as much.
    utopiajane likes this.
  13. kculrich

    kculrich Zealot (528) Jun 21, 2014 New Hampshire
    Beer Trader

    What I was thinking. Since the OP's in New Hampshire, I would point to both Great Rhythm and Henniker.
  14. PrimustheOne

    PrimustheOne Initiate (38) Nov 23, 2016 New Hampshire

    Yep, I completely agree with this.
  15. thuey

    thuey Initiate (169) Nov 13, 2015 California

    I don't understand the OP question.

    If you mean in terms of bias/rating, I feel like everyone evaluates beers on their own merits. Even OG breweries like Anchor, Sierra Nevada and Sam Adams. People like Anchor Steam, but not Liberty Ale. People like SNPA, but not Bigfoot. People like Boston Lager but not... well... nobody likes Rebel.
    kculrich likes this.
  16. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (2,818) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    You might find this an intersting read, particularly the last half of the post where he focuses more on beer.
    TongoRad likes this.
  17. LeRose

    LeRose Savant (923) Nov 24, 2011 Massachusetts

    Nice article - thanks for posting this. It points out the many sources of "bias" in pretty clear language.

    As hard as I try to rate each beer I review on its' own merit, I will admit to being guilty as charged in two ways. One - with a brewery I like, I will work a bit harder to find the good about a beer that might not be all that great in reality. Two - with a brewery I don't like, I enter "prove it to me" mode and will be looking more intently for the fault that I know must exist based on track record. What I find in reality is I buy more beer from the former and little from the latter, so maybe there is a bias even when it comes to my purchase habits. But why buy beer from a brewery that has consistently underwhelmed my taste buds?

    Overall, however, this supports the premise of the OP (and the article) that outside factors influence how a beer is rated, but at least for me it won't always drive the score up. Every great brewer could produce a dog, and for the "bad" brewers, the blind squirrel applies.

    I do go back and revisit from time to time and have adjusted a few scores. What I find is a big source of positive bias for me is environmental - where am I drinking the beer and am I generally having a good time. I've had some beers at the source or on different occasions, bought some to bring home, and gone "what was I thinking" after the fact.

    I'll drop a number-only score here based on a tasting, but do try and go back with a full sample at home to do a real review. Kind of surprised that I have 261 beers and 226 reviews on here. Some I can justify - what else can anybody write about Heady Topper that hasn't been said ten thousand times? Some I have tasting notes yet to be entered, some represent small pours that I just want to keep track of to revisit later (or not).

    It's certainly tough to be completely objective - we all have our favorites as well as breweries we don't like. To some extent, as has been discussed before, you have to believe the numbers will eventually settle about where they should be.
  18. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (2,818) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Overall an excellent case for why "blind" reviewing/evaluation is critical in some contexts. But your belief in the large numbers settling is where an amount of confidence can be obtained in the case of the type of reviews found on this site. Lots of biases (but not all) will indeed become noise in the system and disappear.
    LeRose and utopiajane like this.
  19. utopiajane

    utopiajane Poo-Bah (2,213) Jun 11, 2013 New York

    I think there is definite homering.I do it for my locals. I just put up in our WBAYDN my own local of my fav style with my food pairing. I think that as far as reviewing though we have the passionate ones here. The people who aren't going to ride a beer for it's popularity .I drink bitburger all the time. I pair it and the style so much it is almost like a sight gag. I also notice I am harder on my locals. I reviewed ithaca's daydreamer in NBS and also I tend to drink a lot of genesee. The tasting threads attract the people with favorite styles or who have beers that exemplify that style for them.
    LeRose likes this.
  20. thuey

    thuey Initiate (169) Nov 13, 2015 California

    Not sure how that addresses my examples of Anchor, Sierra Nevada and Samuel Adams though.

    I'm not denying that bias exists... That is human. But we don't have a problem filtering what beers we like vs not. Hell, I think Cellarmaker is the best brewery in the world, but I flat out dislike half of their beers, or more.
    drtth likes this.
  21. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (2,625) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Larry, I very much think you are not alone here. I read posts from many BAs where it sure appears that "beers at the source" strongly bias their sensory evaluations of those beers.

    LeRose likes this.
  22. kculrich

    kculrich Zealot (528) Jun 21, 2014 New Hampshire
    Beer Trader

    Well, um, hmm. So happens I had Smuttynose's Zinneke last night, wrote a nineteen hundred-something character review and gave it a 4.03 rating and still don't know whether or not I actually liked it.

    Smutty might be an example of a brewery where I have bias issues.
  23. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (2,818) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Filtering beers is not necessarily the same a bias in ratings. So I was responding to the point you made that I quoted about most everyone evaluating beer on their own merits. If I misunderstood your intent, my apologies.
  24. matthewp

    matthewp Initiate (153) Feb 27, 2015 Massachusetts

    I think the OP is referring more to "hyped" breweries. Say in the Tree House or Trillium level. I think in general most of us can filter good beers vs bad beers in breweries we like or dislike but it becomes much harder when you drink a beer you feel you should like. When I first tried Heady Topper I just could not rate it honestly. I haven't had a chance to try it again but its a style I should like from a brewery I should like. Was I rating it too high because I felt like I should like it more or was I being too critical because I had such high expectations?

    The first time I had Julius bias played a big role, this was over a year ago. It was the first true NE IPA I had, was different than anything else I'd had, was fresher than anything, etc. etc.. It blew my mind so I rated it a 5 which I've never done. A year went by and I had tons of other IPA's in the NE IPA style and a few weeks back I got another 6 pack of it. First one, I was underwhelmed. Now mind you it was great but it wasn't like that first 6 pack. By the end of the latest 6 pack I'd probably still rate it around 4.5 or 4.75. So two corollaries to this, first are other non IPA's from Tree House rated higher because most people drinking those are biased? I haven't had anything other than IPA's from Tree House in the 3 times I've been there so I can't comment personally (I have had Trillium Pot & Kettle which I think is good but its rated higher because its Trillium). I think this first one is what the OP is getting at, don't know the answer for it but its an interesting question. The second corollary is Wachussett Brewing, I had Wally Junior recently at their brewery. Without drinking it side by side with Julius it was a pretty close clone outside of maybe mouthfeel. I didn't rate it in the same range as Julius but I think I still rated it around 4 or 4.25. Partly because it was an obvious clone but just because its a clone should I care? Its cheaper and easier to get. Its from a brewery I really don't love any beer from. More bias but this is more to your filtering example. I'm able to enjoy one beer from a brewery when I don't love the others.
  25. thuey

    thuey Initiate (169) Nov 13, 2015 California

    Well I guess I'm unusual, because my rating for an average beer is 2.5. I've put a lot of Trillium in that scoring range...

    I'm not sure why people tend to score beers high anyway. If everything's a 4+, then it's not useful information.
  26. rgordon

    rgordon Defender (653) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    It's kind of like nepotism: It may not be wise, but it may not be wrong. Favorite breweries are normal in this new beer climate. Anyway, as @drtth points out, blind tasting keeps one honest.
    Squire123 likes this.
  27. matthewp

    matthewp Initiate (153) Feb 27, 2015 Massachusetts

    Lol, 2.5 would be the average on a normal scale. I didn't allude to the fact I was using the untappd scale which originally only allowed you to rate a beer 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5. Zero meant you didn't rate it and you couldn't do half or quarter stars. For that scale 3 is the median score. I only look at my ratings and my friends ratings on untappd for the most part. Rating on here I would do completely differently and I don't find myself qualified enough to do full reviews so I stopped until I am better at reviewing beers fully.
  28. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (2,818) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    A suggestion?

    Do a draft review for yourself only. Then sort the existing reviews for that beer by Top Raters. Read through some of those reviews and your own review. While they might not all be useful to you, I suspect you'll be able to find folks using words that capture or describe what you feel you've missed. Also doing the first half of the beer and then looking at some of those reviews you may be able to say, "Yes. That's what is there." or "Ahh, that's what I was noticing but not able to describe."
    matthewp and LeRose like this.
  29. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (2,818) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Keep in mind that across many raters combined the numbers will average out. Often such differences in rating scale use have to do with indivdual differences in how some folks use rating scales, regardless of what is being rated. E.g., There are some folks, regardless of what they are rating, who often use the numbers at the extreme ends and others who hardly ever do. Similarly, again regardless of what they are rating, folks differ in which region of the scale they treat as being "average." So the numerical average for one person might not be the numerical average for another person.
  30. JrGtr

    JrGtr Disciple (385) Apr 13, 2006 Massachusetts

    A don't disagree that there are breweries that have one or 2 "great" beers and then a bunch of half-assed ones. Then there are breweries that have as their "flagship" something mediocre, or playing to the lowest common denominator, then do some experimental things that are great, though only available at the brewery or very local limited distro. This isn;'t even limited to craft breweries - even the big guys - Bud, Coors have experimental beers available at their tours and taprooms, or at Coors Park, that wouldn't otherwise make it out, that are, by all reports, as good as any craft brewer.
    The other end of this is something that you should like but doesn't quite stack up. I have tried PtE a couple times, and while it is a very very good beer, and I wouldn't turn it down, just didn't have the "angels singing" effect that I was expecting. Were my own expectations too high? I don't know. One bottle was a week old, the other 2 weeks, so it hadn't fallen off the cliff yet... I would of course like a larger sample size to compare to. If anyone cares to send a couple cases out... :D
    Harrison8 likes this.
  31. reefer_bob

    reefer_bob Disciple (319) May 13, 2014 California
    Beer Trader

    I think this thread could use a couple examples to maybe help it along?

    Is the thought around something? (Brewery / Hype Beer / Not Hyped beer)
    Russian River / Pliny / Blind Pig
    Alchemist / Heady / Focal

    Or is the thought something like non Core:
    RR / Pliny & Pig / Shift Change & STS & OVL Stout
    Alchemist / Heady& Focal / Petit & Beelzebub

    Or something totally different like?
    Monkish / NE IPAs / Non IPAs
    Tree House / IPAs / Non IPAs

    Or even something like?
    3 Floyds / Zombie Dust & DL / Everything else
    CCB / Jai Alai & Huna / Everything else
  32. Davidstan

    Davidstan Aspirant (279) May 24, 2014 Alabama
    Beer Trader

    Only if they carbonate it.
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