What if beer ratings didn't exist?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by AlcahueteJ, Feb 15, 2017.

  1. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Defender (629) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    What if beer ratings didn’t exist?

    I imagine the “New England-style” IPA and barrel-aged stout would still be popular, because they do taste good. There isn’t a highly rated beer out there that I know of that flat out tastes awful.

    But would there still be lines for beer? Would certain styles not be as popular (IPA/stouts as mentioned before)? It’s sort of a, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it…” scenario. If no one rates a beer highly, would as many people seek it out?

    People would have to…you know…go to a brewery or buy a beer and try it. And if they like it, they buy more.

    How else would this effect the beer landscape?
  2. MNAle

    MNAle Crusader (792) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    If you are suggesting an imaginary world without hyped beers, then you'd need to eliminate more than ratings. Twitter, etc., would also have to go! :wink:
  3. JakeScully

    JakeScully Crusader (737) Dec 10, 2015 France
    Supporter Beer Trader

    I often pick up my new beer according to BA ratings, sure, but I also read beer news, WBAYDN and so on to get a clue on what I could or couldn't like.

    Honestly, I used to be more 'adventurous' in my younger years and buy things without looking up, BA, RB or not.
    BigMike, Roguer and Harrison8 like this.
  4. Harrison8

    Harrison8 Meyvn (1,463) Dec 6, 2015 Missouri
    Beer Trader

    This. People can't chase and idolize a beer they've never heard about. Ratings and social media are a big part of that.

    Without ratings, I think there would be a lot more arguments about who makes the best IPA right now.
  5. Squire123

    Squire123 Meyvn (1,466) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Supporter Subscriber Beer Trader

    You would first have to effect a change in human nature. Beer ratings have been around since before the invention of paper. The ancient Sumerians scribed their thoughts on wet clay tablets and no doubt someone complained about 'real beer' being adulterated by the addition of adjuncts like dates and honey.
  6. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Defender (629) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    That's simply word of mouth. While a powerful tool, it's completely different than a hard number surrounding a product.

    Everyone talked about and knew about Westvleteren 12 and Heady Topper because they were both number 1 for so long.

    For example, Cantillon sat on shelves and collected dust for years in the US...then their ratings increased. I could tell people Rothaus Pilsner is the greatest beer in the world until I'm blue in the face (and I hear about this beer raved about at bars, and on Beeradvocate), but no one will line up for it unless it shows up somewhere in the top 250.
    PatrickCT, ceeg, DrumKid003 and 4 others like this.
  7. Urk1127

    Urk1127 Meyvn (1,252) Jul 2, 2014 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    It would make no difference to me. I follow certain people who have same tastes as me and if I'm unsure if I want to buy something I'll read their reviews. The 1-100 numbers do nothing for me. And actually, it just creates hype.
    neenerzig and ElijahSF like this.
  8. Mothergoose03

    Mothergoose03 Poo-Bah (1,808) May 30, 2005 Michigan
    Supporter Subscriber

    The ratings make no difference to me - I never look at them. It's the hype train that always leaves the station and visits these forums here on BA, and that is where the alert flags get raised to give me some guidance (if I like the hype).
    Harrison8 likes this.
  9. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,091) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    I'd very much like to see the data to support the idea that the Cantillon ratings increased before the social media word of mouth gave it a certain mistique and desirability.

    Similarly it is my understanding that Westvletern 12 was regarded as being one of the best beers in the world before the advent of social media. The difference between then and after the introduction of social media was that back then one had to be interested enough in beer to go buy the written materials being produced by folks like Michael Jackson.
    #9 drtth, Feb 15, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2017
    IKR, FBarber, Roguer and 6 others like this.
  10. ebin6

    ebin6 Disciple (347) Jun 11, 2009 California

    As mentioned above you'd pretty much have to eliminate all social media. I peruse Instagram to see what people are drinking and see as "whales." I think this is slowly replacing ratings (maybe replace isn't the right word).

    Then, there's the local element. People didn't start lining up for hours at Monkish because of ratings. The local hype spread, and was fueled by social media. You'd have to get rid of people in general.
    aquabears likes this.
  11. tlema1

    tlema1 Meyvn (1,262) Nov 19, 2008 South Carolina
    Beer Trader

    Up until a few years ago, I drank a shitload of unknown beers without the benefit of ratings...those were good times
    PatrickCT, Jaycase, beerluvr and 7 others like this.
  12. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,091) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Ratings are simply one way of collecting evaluative judgments from several people so they can be quantified to produce numerical values.

    Evaluative judgments existed and were communicated to others thousands of years before the development of statistical analyses and/or ratings scales.
  13. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Defender (629) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    I do not have any hard data to support this. Nor do I that ratings, or the absence of them, would impact lines at breweries. Simply speculation and discussion.

    But yes, Cantillon could have simply gained popularity for other reasons.

    Michael Jackson held many beers in high regard. Prima Pils for example. But no one is lining up for that beer. But I may be missing your point with this part of your reply.

    He also enjoyed Cantillon. :wink:
    PatrickCT and Roguer like this.
  14. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Defender (629) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Right. But do you have data suggesting that beer ratings do not influence beer purchases, or if they do, can you quantify how much they influence beer purchases/popularity?
    drtth likes this.
  15. Roadkizzle

    Roadkizzle Initiate (196) Nov 6, 2007 Texas
    Beer Trader

    You can't tell us that groupthink doesn't exist. It is documented throughout our entire society.

    Ratings are not just a passive collection of data. Most people want to belong. If a beer is rated really highly but they don't like it for some reason there are a great many people that will give it the benefit of a doubt either thinking that they are missing something or wanting to be accepted with the crowd.

    People do search out the "top beers". Most people don't want to admit that something they put effort into acquiring is bad so it likely will get boosted a little.
    Jaycase, Roguer, cjgiant and 4 others like this.
  16. Squire123

    Squire123 Meyvn (1,466) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Supporter Subscriber Beer Trader

    Peer pressure, or the perception of it, is a very strong influence because we all want to have some standing in the group to which we wish to belong. If I were new to craft beer I would be reluctant to post here unless I was pretty sure what I said would be well received.
    beertunes, ebin6 and Duckaduck like this.
  17. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Defender (629) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Rethinking/rewording this too, I'm not trying to be difficult, simply saying, there isn't a way to quantify this. It's just a hypothetical situation. Although, if someone had numbers regarding this, I figure you would (or @jesskidden ).

    I think my original question was either worded poorly, and/or viewed too specifically. It was really just a simply question of, without beer ratings (from Ratebeer, BA, Untappd), what kind of impact would that make? If any? I think some may be looking at this from a personal perspective, in that ratings do not effect their purchases.
    Harrison8 likes this.
  18. Harrison8

    Harrison8 Meyvn (1,463) Dec 6, 2015 Missouri
    Beer Trader

    Is Prima Pils as hard to get?

    Rarity plays a large part in beer hype as well. Today, someone buys Hopslam and posts on social media and that store is out by the end of the day. Before social media, you'd have to call or text a friend what you found, and he/she may do the same with one other friend. it wouldn't snow ball as quickly as a post on social media with a couple hundred followers.

    Now if brewers could brew enough of a beer to get every customer a bottle (ending rarity), the beer world might flip.

    I'd also speculate that by Michael's high regards of Prima Pils, it got a lot more attention, but was more attainable then Westvleteren. While it may help substantiate Michael's reviews since folks could tangibly reflect on his notes with the same beer, it also develops a bigger aurora around the beers readers couldn't pick up at a corner shop. Is it really that good? Are each of those notes really that deep? Or balanced? Doesn't matter - they'll build it up in their minds and chase it until it becomes a reality.

    Of course, with more folks trying Prima Pils come more ratings, which may drop the average - thus also arguing your point. I don't think ratings are a single factor that drives beer popularity contests though.
    Roguer, drtth, champ103 and 1 other person like this.
  19. Squire123

    Squire123 Meyvn (1,466) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Supporter Subscriber Beer Trader

    A significant impact I'm sure. I just don't see how we can speculate on matters of such depth. I still can't figure out why women find it so difficult to pass up a shoe store.
  20. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Defender (629) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    I also suppose another way of looking at this, is from another country's perspective.

    When I visited other countries, I went to popular beer destinations, but I never encountered lines like I do here. For breweries or beer releases (not that beer releases really exist across the pond, that I know of).

    People love beer in other countries, and many of these places are well populated, but there isn't nearly the buzz over specific beers like there is here. They have social media, cultures that love beer, and they definitely have some great beer...so why the difference?
    lic217, PatrickCT, Jaycase and 6 others like this.
  21. champ103

    champ103 Poo-Bah (3,783) Sep 3, 2007 Texas
    Beer Trader

    I would love it if actual numeric numbers did not exist, but also really enjoy reading and writing reviews. Just get rid of the numbers, lists, top 250, or whatever. Then read and understand the content of what people write. It would be like going back to how Rolling Stone use to review new albums (you know, back when they were good :wink:).
  22. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (2,973) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I would venture a guess that it would vary depending upon the individual. I personally do not take great heed about beer ratings (i.e., a number). Most of the input that I pay attention to is qualitative. For example, I actually have verbal conversations with other beer drinkers and ask questions like:

    · Have you had any ‘good’ beers lately?

    · What do you think of brewery x?

    · Etc.

    Based upon these inputs, from people I have a personal relationship and trust, I will make future purchases.

    Maybe I am not a good person to respond to this thread since I am ‘old school’?:astonished:

  23. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Defender (629) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Very good point, and you're absolutely right.

    However, if Prima Pils were a higher rated beer, I imagine it would be more difficult to obtain. It would fly off the shelves every time a store received it.

    It's a good question. Is a beer rated lower because it's easier to get? Or is it easier to get because it's rated lower? And vice versa. Is a beer rated higher because it's harder to get? Or is it harder to get because it's rated higher?
    Gemini6 likes this.
  24. dcw6363

    dcw6363 Initiate (64) Nov 11, 2009 Wisconsin
    Beer Trader

    I don't get it when people say "I never look at ratings." Why wouldn't you? It's just another data point. You don't have to treat it as gospel or anything. You can ignore it if you disagree with it.

    For the people who say they never look at ratings, when you go on a road trip to another state, and want to buy some good local beer--how do you pick which beer to buy? Do you just grab random beer off the shelves?

    Maybe it has to do with age/consumption levels. Back when I was 25 and drank a ton, I bought lots of stuff just to try it out. If you are drinking a lot, then a couple duds are no big deal, just part of the fun. But now, I drink 1 beer per day. Maybe 2. I'll be damned if I'm gonna just pick some random shit off the shelves and hope it's good. I gotta make every beer count!
    Gemini6, cjgiant and AlcahueteJ like this.
  25. Roadkizzle

    Roadkizzle Initiate (196) Nov 6, 2007 Texas
    Beer Trader

    Well that partially depends on why is a beer hard or easy to get?

    Is it supply or demand based?

    Is Trillium hard to get because of high demand or because there is low supply?

    Is Prima Pils easy to get because of low demand or high supply?

    Is demand for Trillium high because supply is low?

    Is demand for Prima Pils low because supply is high?
    AlcahueteJ and Harrison8 like this.
  26. NCMonte

    NCMonte Aspirant (291) Jan 28, 2014 North Carolina

    I can honestly tell you, I don't look at a beers rating when I'm looking over a tap list. I do it the old fashion way. I ask for a sample. If I like it, I drink it, if I don't I make a mental note and never taste it again. However if it is fantastic, then I do look it up to learn more.
    beertunes likes this.
  27. Harrison8

    Harrison8 Meyvn (1,463) Dec 6, 2015 Missouri
    Beer Trader

    I don't have the stats to prove this, but there does seem to be a correlation between hard-to-get, rare beers and higher rating numbers. As my 8th grade science teacher would say, "correlation does NOT prove causation!" Digging through the top 250 beers, and so many of them are produced in small, limited batches. Often times, those are the same breweries that feature hour long lines or are from the "most difficult brewery to get to" (Hill Farmstead). In the top 5, you'd have to win TWO raffles with the odds of 1/5,000 for each separate lottery (according to the last thread on Toppling Goliath Serving Whales on Taps). That's pretty dang limited. Now that Heady Topper is on shelves? It's rating a little lower (it could also be that it's not the "it" beer anymore). Take Cantillon, what's their highest rated beer? Their annual release of Fou Foune.

    There has been a recent thread asking if folks just seek out "good" beer anymore. There are a few posts where people say they pass on beer they know they can get regularly in order to get something limited. While that doesn't link them to rating that beer higher, it does show folks are flocking to hard-to-get beers. Those limited beers carry an arorua, whether their brewery buys into it, or not. If you told someone every day for a year that Julius was the best IPA in the world, and then finally gave them a glass, they might find it easy to agree based on previous experiences.

    I sorta rambled there. My software froze at work so I just kept typing.
    Duckaduck likes this.
  28. Shroud0fdoom

    Shroud0fdoom Poo-Bah (1,580) Oct 31, 2013 Maryland
    Beer Trader

    I believe the demand is low because the supply is old/Not Fresh. (Which don't get me Wrong, I like a 5 month old Pils) but a few fresh sixers really Sing.
    TongoRad likes this.
  29. MikeWard

    MikeWard Meyvn (1,065) Sep 14, 2011 Pennsylvania

    I'd probably be buying a lot more mediocre beer. :rolling_eyes:
  30. dcw6363

    dcw6363 Initiate (64) Nov 11, 2009 Wisconsin
    Beer Trader

    Because we Americans are obsessed with material possessions, money, and being USA#1 more than other countries are. This is just a guess, not sure if there's data on which countries are the most materialistic etc.
  31. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,091) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    I wasn't saying that group think might or might not be involved, rather that it is the group think created by social media, not the ratings themselves. So we want to bring group think in to it then it should also be recognized that it is in the social media which create any group think effect.
  32. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,091) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    There is a difference between people are using beer ratings to make choices between beers and saying that ratings cause hype, lines, etc.
    AlcahueteJ likes this.
  33. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,091) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Actually there is a way to quantify it but one needs access to the existing data in ways that are not provided for on sites such as this. That's why it's an open question. That's also why I proposed that it is the effects of social media rather than the effects of ratings per se.

    If you had Ratebeer, BA, Untapped, but without ratings or scoring systems there would still be "word of mouth" and social media effects. That has been demonstrated in contexts not involving ratings.

    So perhaps what you want to discuss is the effects of sites such and other social media on the way people are choosing what to pursue and how they should pursue it. My point is that would still exist in the absence of ratings. Easy of communication is a mixed blessing.
    AlcahueteJ likes this.
  34. scream

    scream Disciple (339) Dec 6, 2014 Wisconsin

    Ratings might help if one is trying to decide between beer A and beer B. As such they are nice to have. Necessary no. I have had many a beer over the years before joining this community and liked most of them. I am also an old geezer.
  35. pro45

    pro45 Aspirant (219) Sep 11, 2016 New York

    I would drink more beer.
    neenerzig likes this.
  36. Squire123

    Squire123 Meyvn (1,466) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Supporter Subscriber Beer Trader

    When I go to a store and find something new (for me) I look to the style, who made it and the freshness code. Ratings really don't enter into it because I have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

    All information is valuable though and I do find the written reviews of other BA members useful before I write one of my own.
    beertunes likes this.
  37. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Crusader (746) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    That would be a great list to add to all the lists listed on this site!:grinning:
    Harrison8 likes this.
  38. Harrison8

    Harrison8 Meyvn (1,463) Dec 6, 2015 Missouri
    Beer Trader

    Are you working for one of those sensationalist folks and just want us to do the heavy lifting in getting the data? :wink:

    That would be a fun list just for kicks. I pulled that stat from a thread on here a few months back.
  39. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,091) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Consider some of those beer destinations. I suspect you didn't go to Belgium and try to get Westvleteren 12. :-) There are the equivalent of lines at the Abbey of St. Sixtus.

    The monks have imposed a quite rigorous procedure on what you have to do to be allowed to buy one or two cases (at most). You have to call in advance to reserve your purchase and show up with a proof of identity (e.g., car license plate provided in advance, etc.) before being allowed to make a purchase. In addition you have to sign a document stating that you will not be reselling the beer.

    Back in the day before the introduction of Social Media it was possible to just show up and buy as many cases as your car would hold. The changes in place today were made so that they could control and reduce the problems created by lines. They have not increased production much if at all, since, as they say, they are monks who brew, not brewers who happen be monks, so their goal is to have as much money coming in as is needed to support their monastery.

    Yes folks love beer in other countries and have some great beers there. One possible difference is that beer is well integrated into the fabric of their lives and their society so good to great beer is taken as a given rather than a novelty and/or rarity.
    beertunes and AlcahueteJ like this.
  40. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,012) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    I would suspect that a sort of 'homerism' would exist. Local regions and even towns would pride themselves on their products and traditions, and locals would agree (and disagree) on which beers are the best based on a variety of subjective -- and interesting -- factors. And most people would never think to consider such factors truly objective (as they never can be).

    And this would, IMO, be a very healthy, fun, and good thing.

    I also see that, even with the ratings systems we have, this same sort of dynamic is starting to emrge in the US (the way it has in Europe) as people start to ignore hype and rarity, and local brewers start to improve their craft.
  • About Us

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.