The problem with rating anything is that it is personally subjective, plus there are so many variable external influences that can, or could, influence the reviewers score or comments either consciously or unconsciously. Rating beer is no different.
Mood, location, are you too warm or too cold, is the beer to warm or too cold. Is it lively or flat as a kippers dick, is it supposed to be lively or like the other.
Knowledge, personal preference, location, experience, expectation, loyalty, brand perception, the unknown, peer pressure.
The last drink you had, that bag of spicy Space Raiders you just ate, or the delicious cheese you are eating right now that just pairs so well.
Who brewed it, when did they brew it, how was it shipped, is it fresh, is it old, is it “meant” to be drunk fresh or is it better to save it until it is old, if so for how long, how long is too long?
Where was it stored, how was it stored, how did you pour it, into what, was it clean, did you bother to pour it into anything, a can is for supping from right, did I see you just chugg that Orval??
Too bitter, too sweet, too hoppy, “hoppy, this isn’t hoppy”? Wow that’s strong, pfft too weak, way too much whisky barrel, it’s cloudy, that’s haze, too clear, I love unfiltered, this is boring, too brown, why is there fruit in here, can you taste phenolic sweetcorn?
What you just read on Untappd, Ratebeer, Beeradvocate and such?
Then there’s the actual rate, how do you rate, what is “good” for you, a three, a four, a FIVE, in that case what is exceptional?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking folks who rate, I personally use Untappd for example, and as such am at times (and definitely without any positive thought going into it), a certified “badge wanker”.. It was during such activity last night that these thoughts were pondered.
I don’t normally post comments, or at least anything worth reading tasting note wise, maybe an expression of delight or at worst a “meh”, but last night reading down some of the others below before I “tappd” I was a little bemused by some of the comments, so I did:
“Fucking hell there are some odd remarks about this beer on Untappd, it is ace, end of :-D #justsaying” I said, exactly.
The beer in question being the Buxton-Evil Twin collaboration “Anglo Mania, described as an English Barley Wine.
What made me think that more than anything were the two comments on separate rates below.
“My rating is based on expectation of a smash English Barleywine. Way too hoppy. It’s more of an American Barleywine.”
“Love a good barleywine but I feel this could do with some big piney American hops.”
One was expecting an English Barley Wine and clearly didn’t get one, too damn American tasting, what WERE those brewers thinking!?! The other bought an English Barley Wine and wanted it to be bloody “Merican”, maybe that clue in the title just wasn’t clear enough… For me, I don’t really care which style it was, it tasted great, I loved it.
Then of course there’s the marking system, (if you use one). I do, but it’s hardly rocket science and probably changes several times a session depending on many things including alcohol and memory. It goes something like this.
1-1.5. Shite, drain pour, why me..
2-3. Meh, below average, probably wouldn’t drink again.
3-4 Decent, rising through regular standard, I like sorta beer.
4.5. OOOOOH, really good, I could drink loads of this.
5. Fuckadoodledoo, call the registrar and arrange a special licence, I’m in love and we are gonna have ourselves a wedding. (I actually rated this as a five, it was probably only a 4.75, so put away that wedding dress Mr Stronge.)
But then of course others rates are totally different, as again was evident in a conversation with a good mate who I know, knows his beer. He (Rich) said “I gave it a 3.8 so it was quality”. On chatting he clearly loved it, but obviously has a different, perhaps more in-depth (or less haphazard) way of logging what he’s tried than I. Different strokes for different folks…
Then do you share your thoughts on social media, or keep them to yourselves? Personally speaking I rarely share these days apart from the odd one or two and of course the obligatory “badgewankery”. Some do though and at times I think for slightly unscrupulous reasons too on occasion.
The thing is, people do read these comments and can pre-judge by what has been said and/or for low or high scores. I know I have, especially if it relates to an unknown brewery or perhaps a particularly expensive beer, where I will have a quick peek at what people are saying before deciding on whether or not to buy. I’m not proud of it, and dread to think of how many really good beers I’ve passed by in doing so.
So, what’s in a rate, a personal opinion of a moment in time is all it is. So keep an open mind when you next read beer notes and be mindful of what you write.