Top 50 Beers in America? I hope not.


Zymurgy is purportedly the journal of the American Homebrewers Association (my subscription must have been lost in the mail).  It has published a list (set forth below) of the 50 best beers in America, as ranked by its readers.  The readers are asked to provide a list of their 20 favorite beers, and all beers must be commercially available somewhere in America.

Always remember and never forget, Budweiser is the number one selling beer in America, meaning that the average American has no idea what a good beer tastes like.  If you poll the readers of a magazine devoted to homemade craft beers, you might reasonably assume you will be polling more educated beer drinkers.  And that is confirmed by looking through the list below, since Budweiser and Coors do not appear.

But here is the problem with the poll.  Assume for purposes of this hypothetical that the best beer in America is made by a micro-brewery in San Diego, California.  What are the chances that in a nationwide poll that the San Diego beer will appear on enough lists to put it into the top 50?  Instead, the beers that appear on the most lists will be the beers that have the greatest distribution and are therefore known to the greatest number of people.  So, while Budweiser and Coors* are properly omitted, the list still favors mass-produced beers.

For that reason, a beer like Out-of-Bounds Stout by Avery Brewing (Boulder, Colorado) — arguably the best stout in the country –appears nowhere on the list, but you see multiple entries by Samuel Adams, Sierra Nevada, and Dogfish.  Nothing against these beers, but top 50?  Two of the top three beers are IPAs?  Really?  Arrogant Bastard is the sixth best beer in America?  Really?

And how do you explain that a double IPA, Russisn River’s Pliny the Elder, has been number one three straight years?  Well, sadly, that’s a backlash against the commercial beers.  Budweiser is so watery and tasteless, that some assume a beer on the other end of the spectrum — strong with alcohol and hops — must be what a real beer tastes like.

So, with all of the above explanations and disclaimers, here is the list published by Zymurgy:

1. Russian River Pliny the Elder 

2. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
T3. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
T3. Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout
5. Bell’s Hopslam
6. Stone Arrogant Bastard
7. Sierra Nevada Celebration
T8. Sierra Nevada Torpedo
T8. Stone Ruination
10. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
11. Stone Sublimely Self Righteous
12. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine
13. Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
T14. Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
T14. Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale
T16. Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
T16. New Glarus Belgian Red
18. North Coast Old Rasputin
19. Bell’s Expedition Stout
T20. Deschutes The Abyss
T20. Left Hand Milk Stout
T20. Odell IPA
T20. Samuel Adams Noble Pils
T20. Surly Furious
T20. Troegs Nugget Nectar
T26. Rogue Dead Guy Ale
T26. Samuel Adams Boston Lager
28. Anchor Steam
T29. Bear Republic Racer 5
T29. Ommegang Three Philosophers
T29. Oskar Blues Ten Fidy
T29. Three Floyds Alpha King
T29. Three Floyds Dark Lord
T34. Avery Maharaja
T34. Dogfish Head Indian Brown
T34. Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron
T34. Three Floyds Gumballhead
T38. Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA
T38. Lost Abbey Angel’s Share
T38. New Belgium La Folie
T38. New Belgium Ranger
T38. Oskar Blues Old Chub
T43. Ballast Point Sculpin IPA
T43. Great Divide Yeti
T43. New Belgium 1554
T43. Russian River Blind Pig
T43. Ska Modus Hoperandi
T48. Alesmith Speedway Stout
T48. Dark Horse Crooked Tree
T48. Green Flash West Coast IPA
T48. Summit EPA
T48. Victory Prima Pils

* Given the right circumstances (i.e., at hot day at the ball park and that’s all the beer hawker has to offer), I have been known to drink Coors.

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