Every day or two I catch up with the tasting notes of Sam, a friend of mine currently on his OE in Europe. We might go for several weeks without speaking but I always know what beer he’s drinking. Sam, aka TheGrandmaster, is a certified beerhunter (some may say he’s certifiable). One week he’s sipping Bieres de Garde during a ski trip to France, while the next he’ll be sampling the famous beer-based meal – carbonade flamande – with a Flemish Sour Ale or two, in Belgium. Week in, week out, he’s sipping the the best real ales in the world at, one of his locals, The White Horse at Parson’s Green.
I follow Sam’s travels at RateBeer, a community that is certainly one of the most popular beer websites in the world. It boasts a database of around 6,000 breweries, over 50,000 individual beers and almost 800,000 beer-lover’s ratings. The site receives a staggering 20,000 visitors each day. Looking deeper, into the workings of the site, reveals quite complex statistical processes and some superb features that will please everyone from the average beer lover to the most avid trainspotter. Ratings at RateBeer are “hedonic” rather than to particular styles (something that has been discussed in our own RealBeer forums recently). This means anyone, no matter what their knowledge, can join in and let people know what they think. It’s sort of like a democracy of beer – beer judging by the home enthusiast – it’s not perfect but it’s interesting. My main gripe about RateBeer is the lack of New Zealanders actively taking part.
So, why do I rate beer, and more importantly, why would you?
Firstly: I love beer. I make it, I drink it, I help other people formulate recipes, I enjoy talking about, reading about it and recommending new beers to friends. I rate beer for my own personal records and to increase my knowledge. I learn something new with every new beer that I rate. If you want to know more about beer, or just want a bit of a laugh, it’s a great place to look around.
Secondly: I love beer and enjoy the community nature of the drink. Beer is a communal drink, and RateBeer is a definite community. I’ve chatted with other beer lovers, got tips on bars to visit or odd beers to try and I’ve even met up with fellow enthusiasts when visiting other cities. People here even send each other rare beers as Christmas presents. If you want a total stranger to send you free beer, join up and start rating.
Thirdly: As you’ll probably appreciate – I really do love beer. I appreciate the brewers who make such wonderful creations, so this is my feedback – my recommendation, or occasionally my red flag. My thoughts are there, good or bad, right or wrong, in black and white, for any brewer or beer drinker to look at (or to ignore). I know that at least a couple of NZ’s most prominent microbrewers are regular visitors to the site, and that they enjoy the feedback. Let them know what you think, and feel free to be as poetic or as concise as you wish.
Some people might think, and one even has even gone so far as to write, that my head’s up my own cellar. However, since I began rating beer I’ve made new friends, made much better beer myself, discovered some absolutely outstanding beers and had a lot of fun reading what other people have to say. Most importantly – either with friends or alone – I’ve had a lot of fun sampling and discussing the amazing flavours we can achieve with water, malt, hops, and yeast (and it’s almost always in moderation).