How do I decide my favorite breweries?
An exploration of what it means to have a favorite brewery in the face of imperfection and changing tastes.
This article was tagged with: Beer
There are 1223 words in this article, and it will probably take you less than 7 minutes to read it.
This article was published 2024-01-04 00:00:00 -0500, which makes this post and me old when I published it.
The Changing of the Guard
Recently I’ve been able to get cans from The Veil, which is something that I haven’t been able to do before. Before this month I was only ever able to get it on tap at a few restaurants/bars or in-person at their taproom in Richmond. I have always cited The Veil my favorite brewery, although I’m not quite sure when I started saying that. When I look back at my reviews of their beers I had a fairly positive first impression followed by a very strong middle relationship that cemented me as a fanboy, but I’ve had a rocky relationship since then which brings me to the current time. I’ve had a few highlights since visiting them in Richmond in June of 2023, but other than that, I’ve been mostly disappointed with what I’ve had from them. Nothing about The Veil has changed about their brand nor how they brew their beer, instead it’s me who was changed. I don’t mind if my favorites shift, and it doesn’t erase the fact that I have liked a lot of beers from The Veil. I just wanted to reflect personally on what it means for a brewery to be one of my favorites. Regardless of my gustatory experiences, I love The Veil’s brand and can design, but is that enough to cement it as my favorite brewery?
I think the main thing is that I am a picky beer consumer and I am glamorizing The Veil in my mind to such a point where they couldn’t possibly deliver on my high expectations, especially when I am not always the intended audience. Some of their hop medleys have been ones that haven’t agreed with my palate, which isn’t their or my fault. They don’t make beers for me and I couldn’t have really known that I wasn’t going to like it. While you can get a semblance of an idea of which hops you like and don’t like, I don’t think that you can ever know for sure because there are so many variables in the brewing process that can affect the flavor expression of the hops overall in the final beer.
At the end of the day, I think I will have to swap my first place in my breweries list from The Veil to Other Half Brewing Co. They are a titan in the craft brewing industry and make excellent beers. They are the brewery that I’ve had the most beers from and I have mostly learned what I like and don’t like from them. While I don’t love all the beers that I have tried from them, I think that they make beer that I have most consistently enjoyed throughout my beer journey.
What Makes A Favorite Brewery?
After my mini “existential” crisis about what my favorite brewery was I started to think how do I judge my favorite breweries? I had compiled a list of my favorite breweries awhile ago, but it wasn’t really based on anything other than my personal thoughts. If I had to guess, I would think that my favorites were influenced by the branding (names, can design), memories associated with the brewery/drinking their beer, as well as the actual taste of the beer.
While we humans like to think that are rational, we don’t really have much of a window into why we think things or make decisions, so I thought it would be interesting to put my list against one according to data. Luckily I already had my data downloaded and I was ready to comb through the data. The next question was what metrics to use? I immediately went to average beer rating but would my ratings would trend down as I try more beers from a brewery? The more things I try means the higher likelihood that I try something from them that I don’t like. For this reason I wanted to try mean as well to see if a measure that is more resistant to extremes would fare any better. Read on to see the other metrics I examined, and let me know if you think I missed any.
My Favorite Breweries (According to Me)
- Other Half
- The Veil
- Maine Beer Company
- Crooked Crab
- Vitamin Sea
My Favorite Breweries (by # of Beers Tried)
- Other Half Brewing Co. (31)
- Aslin Beer Company (23)
- Väsen Brewing Company (19)
- Crooked Crab Brewing Company (19)
- The Veil Brewing Co. (18)
- Nepenthe Brewing Co. (16)
- Big Oyster Brewery (15)
- Burley Oak Brewing Company (14)
- Dewey Beer Company (12)
- Cape May Brewing Co. (12)
This is from a table I produced for my retrospective of 1,000 beers tried. It has some of my favorite breweries, but not many of them and not close to the order that I put them in. That is because it can be a lot harder to get cans/try beers from my favorite breweries, a lot of my favorite breweries are unfortunately quite far away from me.
My Favorite Breweries (by Mean Beer Rating)
- Ocelot Brewing Company (4.55)
- Belleflower Brewing (4.45)
- Commonwealth Brewing Company (4.44)
- Trillium Brewing Company (4.40)
- The Veil Brewing Co. (4.37)
- Equilibrium Brewery (4.36)
- Maine Beer Company (4.29)
- Foam Brewers (4.21)
- Other Half Brewing Co. (4.11)
- Crooked Run Fermentation (4.08)
These are the averages of ratings across all beers I’ve tried from the brewery, and I made sure to filter out all the breweries where I’ve had less than four beers from. I thought the size of a beer flight would be a good sample size to see if I’ve felt enough of a brewery. This is very close to my list according to me and there weren’t too many surprises here except for the fact that I didn’t think Crooked Run would be so high, nor Foam Brewers. They both make solid beers but none that I really loved, which is why they didn’t make my Top 10 list, but they are probably in the Top 20.
My Favorite Breweries (by Median Beer Rating)
- Ocelot Brewing Company (4.50)
- Belleflower Brewing (4.50)
- The Veil Brewing Co. (4.50)
- Trillium Brewing Company (4.25)
- Foam Brewers (4.25)
- Commonwealth Brewing Company (4.25)
- Equilibrium Brewery (4.25)
- Other Half Brewing Co. (4.00)
- Crooked Crab Brewing Company (4.00)
- Maine Beer Company (4.00)
There were 10 breweries at 4.00 alone, so I just picked the ones that had appeared in my other lists. The median list composition looks very similar to the Mean Beer Rating list, although it does shake up the rankings a bit, as well as dragged down some of the rating numbers.
My Favorite Breweries (by # of 5/5 Beers)
- Commonwealth Brewing Company (3)
- Other Half Brewing Co. (2)
- Crooked Run Fermentation (2)
- The Veil Brewing Co. (2)
- Equilibrium Brewery (2)
- Maine Beer Company (2)
- Trillium Brewing Company (2)
There were 27 different breweries that I have drank a 5/5 beer from, most of which have only produced one 5/5 beer, so this is the list of all the breweries that did it more than once. This list is a proper subset of my favorite breweries according to me list, and all of my favorite breweries on that list had at least produced one 5/5 beer for me.