the look criteria

Discussion in 'BeerAdvocate Talk' started by stevepat, Jun 30, 2018.

  1. stevepat

    stevepat Disciple (359) Mar 12, 2013 California

    Thinking back on rating beers it occurs to me that I don't think I've ever rated a beers 'look' below a 4. Not 100% on that but I don't often encounter beer that is waaaay off of what I would expect for the style. Is there a way to look at the lowest rated beers by individual criteria? Does anyone remember a beer that they gave a super low 'look' score to? What would a beer that ranked a 3 in terms of 'look' even look like?
  2. BruChef

    BruChef Initiate (191) Nov 8, 2009 New York

    NE/Milshake IPA.
  3. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (2,104) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Premium Trader

    I usually start at 3.75 for looks. I'll knock a stout down a bit for being watery or having little or no head. I'll knock a clearer beer down for no visible carbonation or head. I'll give bonus points for a large persistent/sturdy head, and extra points for a dark beer if the head is a deep brown, or foamy white head on a lighter beer.

    Someone will chime in and tell me I'm doing it wrong, but hey - it's subjective. I don't think I've ever given below 3.5 for looks, because it doesn't impact the flavor. I don't know how you'd give a 3 unless perhaps there were some questionable floaters.
  4. thebeers

    thebeers Poo-Bah (2,275) Sep 10, 2014 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    If a beer in a style that should have a nice head has no head, a small head or a super fizzy head, I'll mark that down. Body color and clarity are more subjective, IMO.
  5. islay

    islay Aspirant (201) Jan 6, 2008 Minnesota

    I don't rate here, but I do at the other site, which asks users to rate appearance on a 1 to 5 whole number hedonic scale. 3 is my standard and most common appearance rating, but I give quite a few 2s and occasional 1s, usually for unappetizing murkiness (as in many "hazy" IPAs that go well beyond mere haze), lack of head, or stillness of liquid (lack of noticeable effervescence in non-opaque beers). If the sight of the beer makes me want to drink it less than I did before I saw it, I'm giving it less than a 3.
    johnInLA likes this.
  6. stevepat

    stevepat Disciple (359) Mar 12, 2013 California

    So I guess the corollary I would pose to you is; what would a beer have to look like to get a 5?
  7. stevepat

    stevepat Disciple (359) Mar 12, 2013 California

    Just to flesh my first post out too, I usually look for a color in line with the style, a clarity that corresponds to the style, the quality of the head, and the presence/absence of flotsam and jetsam. I find it very rare for a beer that is commercially available to rate below a 4 for me still (which I suppose means that I usually rate beers as looking 'world class'?)

    I should also note that I brought this thread up because I realized that I had given a beer a look rating of 4.75 and a taste rating of 2.75 or 3. It occured to me that this beer's rating was being inflated over how I would think of it because it looked like it 'should'
    hopsputin likes this.
  8. islay

    islay Aspirant (201) Jan 6, 2008 Minnesota

    Long-lasting, substantial, thick, uneven (though not excessive) head helps a lot. I doubt I've ever given a 5 to a beer that doesn't have a color or shade I find aesthetically pleasing. If the beer is at least somewhat clear, I'll want to see a lot of effervescence. I very rarely give 5s, but apply the same rules in less stringent form for 4s.

    I encourage everybody here to be more stringent in their ratings. There's no reason to default to a 4; to me, a 4 indicates a remarkably good appearance (or beer as a whole), not just ho-hum acceptable. Also, I encourage people to ignore totally how much they enjoy the aroma, flavor, or palate effects of the beer when rating the appearance. There are many ugly but tasty beers and many attractive but otherwise unlikable beers. The attribute ratings should reflect that dichotomy when it occurs and not be corrupted by halo effects.
  9. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,633) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina

    Lousy looking but functional AALs Id suppose, really not much to look at, and really no nose worth mentioning. But on a hot day they work just fine.
  10. cjgiant

    cjgiant Poo-Bah (4,253) Jul 13, 2013 District of Columbia

    Perhaps its my reading but this seems confusing on two fronts:
    1. You say a 4 represents a remarkably good appearance (or beer as a whole) but then say to ignore everything about a beer when rating appearance
    2. A question in the form of an example: let's say I have a Pilsner that is clear and has a nice sustainable head (qualities that I understand it should have by a few "guidelines"). So it's totally nailed what it's supposed to. Is that a 5 (nailed it) or a 3 (did what it's supposed to)?
    I think on point one I understand where you stand, but I'm just confused enough to point it out. The second point is actually a curiosity, because I actually agree with the OP - most beers are not so far off in looks than their intent. Since we "eat with our eyes first" I doubt most breweries would distribute something completely out of line with expectations.

    So, back to OP - generally flat looking beers get a 3 tops. Given BA and sours and all the things we know can detract from head production, I probably do give a little too much leeway. But if your stout is dark - you've hit that part of the guidelines - so about 50% of it - putting you at a 3, which is kinda how I think of it. I'm not sure that's right - maybe there should be a tighter line for some beers. For instance, it seems easier to find and ding a golden ale for being too dark than to find a stout that is too light (based on my experience). So should there be a different scale?

    Rambling and rambling on.... yet again, I am. Sorry.
    LeRose and dcotom like this.
  11. islay

    islay Aspirant (201) Jan 6, 2008 Minnesota

    I just meant that a rating of 4 for appearance suggests to me a remarkably good appearance. Similarly, a rating of 4 for a beer in total as rated as an aggregate of aroma, appearance, flavor, palate, and overall (or whatever the criteria are here at BeerAdvocate) suggests to me a remarkably good beer, yet people give out 4s in aggregate scores left and right around here. I've given an aggregate rating of 4 or above to 7% of the beers I've rated, and even that's more generous than I would prefer.

    I don't rate to style or to intent, only to how much I enjoy the beer, so I don't care at all if the brewer hit his mark. Very few people who rate beer are qualified to take style into account in anything but a cursory way, and therefore I think it's misguided of this site to ask them to do so. Plus, judging by style or intent is a measure of the excellence (or lack thereof) of the brewer, not the excellence (or lack thereof) of the product he created. And it's often a poor measure even of the brewer, because many brewers intentionally ignore, proudly stray from, or seek to push style guidelines, which themselves are totally unofficial and, in practice, ever in flux.

    Did a beer with remarkably turbid liquid deserve a 1 for appearance when the beer was considered a plain old IPA but a 5 now that it's considered an NEIPA or "Juicy or Hazy IPA?" What about an identical beer that the brewer intended to be clear? What if the brewer said he was making a West Coast IPA but intentionally made it turbid or said he was making an NEIPA but intentionally made it clear, perhaps to point out and mock the superficiality of the dueling obsessions with clarity and haze? What if we have no idea what the brewer intended and/or there's legitimate disagreement about the proper style guidelines? Then how do we judge? Are we finally allowed to use our discretion and exercise our own aesthetic preferences? These are questions of semantics that, in my mind, should have zero impact on ratings, as is the case when using a hedonic scale.
  12. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (2,104) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Premium Trader

    Here is an example of a stout that I gave a look rating of 4.5, Evil Twin Even More Coco Jesus. Granted, sometimes it's as much the pour as it is the beer. I like bubbles I can see vs. a vague foam. Again, subjective.

    Stoutmaster9, FBarber, eppCOS and 7 others like this.
  13. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (6,202) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
    Premium Trader

    Looks like a 4.5 to 5 to me.
  14. GetMeAnIPA

    GetMeAnIPA Zealot (541) Mar 28, 2009 California

    I’ve always rated appearance high too. I find most commercial beers to look very appealing. I rarely find beers that look dull or have terrible head.
    FBarber, dcotom and drtth like this.
  15. dcotom

    dcotom Poo-Bah (2,000) Aug 4, 2014 Iowa
    Premium Trader

    I can't remember giving anything less than a 3 on appearance. Nothing could be so visually revolting to me as to rate a poor score on this criterion.

    I've given tons of 5's on appearance.
  16. NeroFiddled

    NeroFiddled Poo-Bah (10,334) Jul 8, 2002 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    My rating system is fairly simple: #1, does the color meet the guidelines for the style (and I'm pretty loose one that), #2 how does the head rise, hold, and then decline, and #3 how much lacing is left.

    #1 - color is generally not an issue but I have come across beers that were either too dark or too light.
    #2 - Head retention is the biggest thing that follows color. A nice head that holds up is great.
    #3 - Lacing is the thing that pushes it forward or pulls it back. The more lacing the better, but keep in mind style is always the guide - sour beers, for example, will never leave a lot of lacing.
  17. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,648) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Glad to hear you say this since that's pretty much the approach I worked out for myself.
    Bitterbill likes this.
  18. Smakawhat

    Smakawhat Poo-Bah (6,675) Mar 18, 2008 Maryland

    While different styles, produce different appearances, the reality is beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    When it comes to appearances I've hit everything in the spectrum.

    The question is how does it make you feel?
    maximum12 likes this.
  19. TrojanRB

    TrojanRB Meyvn (1,202) Jul 27, 2013 California
    Premium Trader

    Just looked at the beers you’ve drink mostly decent/good beer.

    Pop a Coors Light, then report back on how you rated its appearance.
    stevepat likes this.
  20. eppCOS

    eppCOS Crusader (720) Jun 27, 2015 Colorado

    Judged on style, to start for appearance, but even this is like trying to define pornography. We know what a good appearance looks like, once we see it, but trying to put words to it?... Tough. Carry on.
  21. islay

    islay Aspirant (201) Jan 6, 2008 Minnesota

    Does Coors Light not look light a light lager is expected and designed to look? I never get the people who insist on the importance of rating in consideration of style (I'm not saying that's you, @TrojanRB) but then give remarkably low ratings to flawlessly executed light lagers and AALs. I'm not suggesting that Coors Light deserves a high rating; it doesn't (at least at a consumer-driven, craft-beer-oriented site like this one). I'm saying that rating in consideration of style is silly in part because it should result in beers like Coors Light getting high ratings (even though, in practice, they don't, because people indeed use hedonic scales even though they're instructed not to do so).
    LarryV and FBarber like this.
  22. johnInLA

    johnInLA Crusader (779) Jun 12, 2005 California

    I would not sweat this one at all. Look gets a very small weighting in every rating system I have seen. Your high rating on look is not going to significantly move its overall rating. Besides, if it looks is true to style, why not give it credit.

    On a side note, .25 increments for look is overkill, even though admittedly I use it. I think whole numbers 1 to 5, is generally sufficient for look, given its minimal weighting.
  23. johnInLA

    johnInLA Crusader (779) Jun 12, 2005 California

    I agree with this.

    Not so much this.

    Rating by style is how beer competitions are conducted. Style creates a set of expectations, and yes even a bias, but it also allows similar beers to compete against each other on a level playing field. Assuming all beers should have a large frothy head seems more silly to me then rating by style. Yet, while I personally consider both style and brewer's intent when rating, I also understand other people that just prefer to rate based on what they like. And so an average NEIPA will often have a higher score then a great Pilsner.

    IMO, Both rating approaches are valid. The silliness comes into play when someone thinks they can define rating for everyone else.
  24. TrojanRB

    TrojanRB Meyvn (1,202) Jul 27, 2013 California
    Premium Trader

    I understand what you are saying, and agree with it to a degree.

    But it’s the wrong time to start this argument IMO.

    And for the record, pour glasses of Coors Light, Bud Light, and Miller Lite. Even for the style, Coors light looks like shit.
  25. HorseheadsHophead

    HorseheadsHophead Meyvn (1,469) Sep 15, 2014 New York

    Appearance is obviously the least important aspect when rating beer, but it does have its relevance. The two major factors I use when judging a beer's appearance are 1) Does it look according to style? and 2) Do I personally like how it looks? A NEIPA that looks like orange juice--opaque cloudy yellow with a pillowy white head--or an imperial stout, black as pitch with a creamy mocha head, will both get very high ratings for me. Same goes for bright pink or purple fruit beer/fruited sours.
    Floaties and poor head retention will lower a beer's scores for me. (Except in the case of goses with the latter; poor head retention is expected, although I will rate a gose's appearance higher if it does actually have some head retention) Same with NEIPAs that look like turkey gravy--grayish and sickly.
  26. LarryV

    LarryV Meyvn (1,030) Jun 13, 2001 Massachusetts

    To me, I consider look as the beer's visual appeal to me, it helps to set my expectations a bit even though in the end it's the least important aspect of the rating. One that I just rated low for look was Bell Oberon. It had big chunks of white yeast floating around like pieces of cheese and absolutely did not look appealing in the least.
  27. Stoutmaster9

    Stoutmaster9 Devotee (406) Dec 30, 2016 California

    We should not overlook the Lacing factor, or woeful lack thereof, or the "junk in the trunk" which can be grand in, say, a Belgian Farmhouse, but downright scary in most other styles ...
  28. Amendm

    Amendm Disciple (347) Jun 7, 2018 Rhode Island

    I have not gone below a 3.25 on any beer so far. I won't give pale ales a 4 if its too dark or a brown ale if its too light.
    I think grading as a 3 is a bad idea unless you can verbally present a good case as to why you thinks its dead center. Grading a 3 is like a neutral vote e.g. Strongly agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly disagree. You're not saying anything with a neutral vote and it statistically can be viewed as a negative vote, even though it's in the middle.
  29. AWA

    AWA Aspirant (217) Jul 22, 2014 California

    So am I a bad person because I couldn't care less what a beer looks like? I'm not judging anybody else, just personally I don't even notice. I only put a number down because I have to. As long as it vaguely resembles beer, I'm good.
  30. keithmurray

    keithmurray Meyvn (1,248) Oct 7, 2009 Connecticut

    4 is my default rating for look unless something is particularly stellar or off about the body of the beer.
  31. hopsputin

    hopsputin Meyvn (1,320) Apr 1, 2012 New Jersey

    Exactly. If I'm rating an Amber ale and it's looking like a Pilsner then I'm going to knock it on the appearance.
    Squire likes this.
  32. rypkr

    rypkr Champion (842) Nov 19, 2011 Pennsylvania

    Lacing, head, clarity, all factor for me. The biggest however is viscosity. I dock big stouts major points if they swirl like coca-cola.