Why I Log Every Beer That I Drink
How and why I rate all the beers that I drink.
This article was published , which makes this post and me old when I published it.
It took an estimated to develop this article from conception to publishing.
There are 1207 words in this article, and it will probably take you less than 7 minutes to read it.
I’ve tried to log every single craft beer that I’ve ever drank. I’ve missed some non-craft beers, but even if I just taste some of a friend’s beer, I put it into Untappd and rate it. I use it as a second brain, and also as a way to contribute to a public resource for other beer drinkers. I liken it a bit to citizen science (What is Citizen Science?), where I am trying to contribute information from my palate to alert other beer drinkers about what I think about the beer, and if they would enjoy it too, more about my process on how I do that later.
What do I like about craft beer?
Don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t be so passionate about craft breweries if I didn’t actually like the beer, but the main thing that I really like about craft brewing is all of the variety. I value the “exploration” factor, finding and trying new beers, rather than “exploit” factor, drinking many of the same good beer (Explore vs Exploit Trade-Off). The names and can arts found in craft brewing are so fun, if sometimes a bit over the top. I enjoy them so much that I actually recently began scrapbooking with beer can labels. I peel the stickers off cans after I drink them and then I cut out the parts I like the most about the can and then stick them onto a piece of paper into a sort of collage on printer paper. I have a three-ring binder and place the pieces of paper into plastic sheet covers that have hole punches so that they can be easily put into the binder.
The first page from my scrapbook.
Another page from my scrapbook.
If you are not familiar with the zeitgeist of beer branding, then I think this TikTok allows you to grasp the naming sense of breweries:
@gordonwithersmusic Post-Rock Song Title? Or Pretentious Limited-Edition Craft Beer That Just Dropped at Our Local Specialty Retailer? #beer #craftbeer #postrock #songtitles #gameshow #absurdity #pretentiousness #limitededition #mogwai #silvermountzion #hammock #belch ♬ The Sun Smells Too Loud - Mogwai
Additionally, most of the publicly available mass-produced beers (Bud Light, Corona, Stella Artois, etc.) are lagers, a style of beer that I don’t even particularly like. When producers are able to make products that don’t have to appeal to all of America at once, they are able to make better products that specific groups of people will enjoy much more. This kind of specialization also leads to innovation, I think that there is always a lot of interesting experimentation going on in craft brewing. I would reckon that a lot of my favorite styles of beer would not have existed ten to twenty years ago.
How does Untappd reviewing work? How do I approach rating?
Untappd is out of 5, with a step value of 0.25 (you can get a .1 step with Untappd Insiders) and you cannot rate something a 0 out of 5. 4+ is order again for me, 3+ is drink again if I had to, 2- is would not drink again. I rate mostly out of personal enjoyment, not just on how well-crafted I think the beer is. There are plenty of beers with a balanced hop medley that just don’t jive well with me, and that’s alright. I think the problem becomes that everyone is rating on their own personal system that it can be hard to interpret ratings on Untappd. Most beers are fairly middling, so if I see a 4+ beer I usually know that it’s pretty good. I don’t see a lot of low values though, because I think that for a smaller brewery, bad beer means that they would no longer be in production. In fact, the only really badly rated beers I really see on the platform are mass-produced beers from the large mega companies.
I’m not quite sure where I got this quote from, but I for sure know that I didn’t make it up, but it is something that I take into account when rating beers, “You don’t have to like something to like something.” I’ve been trying to score beers by recognizing that it is a good balanced beer and that it’s just that I personally don’t like the style or components of the beer. This is particularly pertinent to certain flavor profiles of beer that I don’t personally prefer, like overt sweetness or sourness.
My Favorite Styles: New England IPAs, Sour IPAs, Fruited Sours, Milkshake IPAs
My Least Favorite Styles: Belgian Tripels, Saisons/Farmhouse Ales, Porters/Stouts
The score isn’t all for me because I also take note of the hoppiness, bitterness, sweetness, tasting notes, etc so I can have a rough idea of why I did or did not like a particular beer. For the most part, this is just for my own memory since it is so poor, in fact, my bio line in Untapped is, “notes to self.” However, I also do these write-ups to help out future buyers by providing a better idea of what they are getting themselves into. You can see an IBU number and list of tasting notes when you look at a beer on Untappd, but that varies by beer and person to person because of perception and preference.
The Power of Ratings
Beer ratings matter (Source). People like me use it as a general heuristic, but I have a friend who will look for the highest rated beer out of a menu and order that. I would call this archetype of consumer a “Prestige Seeker” (maybe colloquially or pejoratively referred to as a “bandwagon”) which I am sure is present but not the main type of consumer. I think that people in general defer to highly ranked things, something that I think is best demonstrated by Pliny the Younger. In a mixture of high quality product and a limited supply, they are literally able to bolster their entire town’s economy when they do releases of this beer. Read this article to learn more about it because I think that it is a really fascinating story about how local brewing can help the local economy.
Cursed with this knowledge, I think that I may sometimes go easy on the beers I drink and give them a slightly higher rating than I think that they actually may deserve. Additionally, there is the problem of being perceived on the platform. I have had breweries “toast” (Untappd’s equivalent to liking a post) my reviews, and the prospect of a brewery seeing a bad review of their beer fills me with an immense feeling of equal parts embarrassment and sadness.
If you want to check out my reviews, you can see my Untappd profile here.