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May 04

Rate that beer? Or, let it be beer?

three caps = mass approval

My beer shop’s staff regularly flip me shit about my ratings on Untappd. Giving three caps (out of five) to nearly every beer I drink; we all know I would make a poor beer judge. The thought of having to critique each beer based on a designated style; pocketing a recipe into “it should be like this” rather than just letting it be. The very thought of stifling a brewer’s creativity, pushing it into compartmentalized flavor slots, makes me cringe. Would rating beer lessen my enjoyment? I think so.

Sometimes I wonder:

        Can’t we just let beer be?

I just want to enjoy this pour, without thinking: “Does it measure up?”

Beer rating is subjective

get info - Beer Judge Certification ProgramBeer judges have trained palates. They look for certain characteristics that’ll tell them if a beer is “on” for its style.

Beer enthusiasts may also have trained palates (or palates-in-training). However, most have not gone to extensive research and study to determine, identify, and realize whether a beer is “to style.” Scoring beers according to their personal preference, some scoring beer that’s great for its style low simply because “they weren’t into it.”

Beer ratings are totally subjective. Readers should read with caution… reviewers may be critics.

        The critic’s biggest intent: To put down.

Avoiding a beer because someone said “it’s bad” can be stupid unless you have similar tastes. Your tastes are unique; you could be missing out on something really delicious.

If a beer is well-scored for its style, you can expect it to be good to very good to excellent. On Untappd, likely this means in the “three to five cap” range. For RateBeer and BeerAdvocate, that’s more like 80 to 100.


Who’s opinion are you going to trust?
Is that beer true to style?
Do a lot of people like it?
Does it taste like what the brewer intended?


It’s what they intended: Good enough

If it’s a beer brewed to be sold, it’s got the brewery’s “stamp of approval.” Clearly they think it’s good enough to get your hard earned dollar and give you some satisfaction in return.

If they think it’s good enough for public consumption, then technically it should score at least “average” or “good” — shouldn’t it?

This is my thought behind three capping. I give caps based on: “They intended this for mainstream consumption. What do most people drink? How will most respond to what the brewer intended?” I am a little dismissive of: “Is it true to style?” as I am no Beer Judge.

But there are times where it’s really bad. Just a bad beer. It happens.

It’s terribly … off … style … flavor…

Once in a while there’s just a rancid beer. Sometimes you know it the moment you uncap the beer, at time of pour, at first smell. Other times you don’t know until you taste it.

Are these beers even worthy of a rating?

These thoughts run through my mind: “Could the bottle have been improperly stored at some point on its journey?” “What happened during the brewing or packaging process?” And, even on occasion: “Was the brewer off his rocker?!”

Don’t be quick to judge. A second bottle or a serving from a different source may reveal whether improper storage served cause. Commentary from others may confirm your feelings. Beer bloggers or the brewery itself may be able to share insight, to shed some light: “Did something go wrong?”

As more nano microbreweries popping up, you may notice their beer isn’t always consistent batch-to-batch. Depending on their financial position, a mistake may be too costly dump. However, if sold, may repulse the beer drinker. It’s a gamble they’re willing to risk their reputation on. When they choose to sell something that is, well — bad — it makes me, as a specialty beer retailer, wary of them and their product. It happens, and I wonder, “Do we trust to bring them back?”

How many caps shall I grant these on Untappd?

Oft times no cap, intentional.

One cap, two cap are more of “try at your own risk” beers. (There’s a little critic in me after all.)

Shock Top, 04-14-2013

Some Untappd friends question my sanity, commenting: “Three caps for big corporate brewery?!” Fellow craft beer fans often don’t appreciate the intent of the macrobrew; that brewery who intended the ‘cloyingly sweet’ or ‘sense of artificial’ — even though so many Americans yearn for these in soda, fast and processed foods. (Yes, I may have three-capped those Shock Top beers. I also pick up a McDonald’s burger once in a while.)

Yes, I gave it three caps, but that doesn’t make it fantastic.

Now that’s one fantastic beer!

A four or five cap tag on beers are those that I think of as “extremely recommendable” or “I’d definitely like to have this again” or “likely to be my new favorite.”

Cantillon Kriek, 10-21-2013Four caps. Love. Very good. Would have again. I think a lot of people who shop at my store would appreciate this beer; some will fall in love.

Five caps. True love. My beer affair. Five cappers are what I call “the Cantillons of my world.” (Taste-traveled sour beer lovers understand.) I don’t throw these out freely; these beers are top-notch, refined, smooth, layered. The kind of beer I want to spend the night with. Swirling in my glass, I want it bad. It comes to mind out of the blue. Months (or years) later the memory of it makes my juices flow. For these beers, I am a Pavlovian dog.

The problem with my five cap, highest rated beers: They’re often rare. The handcraft aspect, especially of barrel-aged beers, means differences from year-to-year. One year, true love (five caps). The next year, very good (four caps).

Ratings? Not so much.

My ratings aren’t really ratings. They’re notes intended to jog my memory.

My main objective: To try. To explore. To be adventurous.
To let beer be beer.

…no caps? Not always bad. The beer was beer.
Alcohol-relaxed fingers, tapping save before all notes recorded.

1 comment

  1. Irving

    Great read! I too have been given shit about my ratings for some beers mainly sours since I’m not a sours guy. I’ll go to my favorite watering hole and hear “you gave Doesjel 2 stars? what’s wrong with you?” I got tired of it. So for the beers that are out of my comfort zone I don’t rate them! … Cheers and thanks for this read it was great.

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