Last month, Forbes ran a preposterous article titled “The 13 Best Craft Beers in America.” There are a million things wrong with the piece, but let’s just deal with the three most glaring problems. First, why 13? That’s an unlucky number! Why you trying to hurt beer, Forbes?! Second, the author lacked the true listicler’s unique non-qualification to lead such an endeavor, so she relied on some guy who runs beer tours in Vermont to make the list for her. Third, this is why Forbes is trying to tell us that 7 of the 13 best beers in America come from the same dinky little state. The state in which the guy entrusted with compiling the list happens to make his living giving beer tours.
This would have been a perfectly fine story if it had been called “Here Is an Advertisement for Some Dude’s Beer Tours; Tucked Within You Will Also Find a List Of Beers He Likes, or at Least Says He Likes, Who Can Really Tell What’s Going on With This Mess?” That’s some pretty greasy business; I don’t think we’d even pull something that blatantly misleading here on Drunkspin.
Sure, we do tons of bullshit lists, but we’re always honest about it. We use headlines like “16 American Stouts, Ranked,” and you, the misreader, invariably interpret that as meaning we are purporting to rank the 16 best or the 16 worst or the 16 Vermontiest or however you care to get it wrong. But all we promise is 16 stouts, arranged in order, and we generally manage to deliver on that. Yet despite the transparency of our dubious list-making methodology, plenty of people still complain every time that all lists are dumb. And those people have a point. But I have a cat to feed—and not no Fancy Feast, either; the good shit that you can only get at the ferret store—and the only thing the beer-reading public likes more than complaining about lists is clicking on lists.
Beer folk love to quantify things; making ranked lists is fun for me, and yelling about my ranked lists is fun for everyone else. And even people with real jobs can play along, now that we have so many different customizable beer-ranking services to choose from. I like Untappd for keeping track of my own beers and RateBeer for general database-type information, and also to see what people who actually know what they’re talking about happen to think of any given beer. Perhaps you use a cranky, fading site run by cranky, fading meatheads. If so, consider loving yourself for once and switching over to RateBeer.
One of my favorite RateBeer features is that it provides users with a contextualized score in addition to the raw aggregate ratings that always favor certain styles. I think I might have made some of those words up, and I definitely misused at least one of them. What I mean is that decent IPAs and stouts always score higher than really good pilsners and bocks, because people like what they like, and I have no beef with that. Especially since RateBeer controls for the style bias by telling you that Victory Helles Lager, for instance, scores a mere 39 (out of 100) overall, but a respectable 85 among its Helles/Dortmunder peers. I happen to think even that weighted score is still too low, but like I said, RateBeer users tend to know what they’re talking about, so I’ll let this one slide.
It’s becoming more common, at least in my little life, to come across a bar that just straight up does not stock any beer from Bud, Miller, or Coors. That’s fine by me, because I don’t drink a lot of that stuff, and also because hey, it's your bar, man, so stock it however you see fit. But if you go that route, then the staff has to be prepared to guide Reluctant Brunch Dads toward something at least conceptually Buddish.
There are plenty of perfectly decent folk walking among us who happen not to care for aggressively hopped, roasted, or soured beers. When I meet one, I usually just shut the hell up about beer, but every now and then one of my Bud pals will remember that Drunkspin exists, and they’ll ask for some advice. Living in the Boston area, I usually recommend Notch Session Pils, which tastes nothing at all like Budweiser, thank Christ, but is a refreshing and approachable pale lager that I could happily drink for the rest of my days.
If you’re outside Notch’s distribution range, though, I recommend giving Victory Helles a whirl. (Helles beers aren’t the same thing as pilsners, but they’re also not the opposite, you know what I mean? Helles is a similarly good choice for a Bud man looking to upgrade.) It pours an encouraging, enhanced yellow that’s deeper than the average American macro lager, but not by much. It has a bready, yeasty, lemony aroma, and a light, earthy black tea note emerges with a bit of patience. It tastes crisp and clean, which is a dangerous description, to be sure—can’t you see those words on a billboard outside a football stadium, advertising something shitty?—but this really does taste like a better version of generic pale lager.
I like Victory Helles very much, even though it might also appeal to the sort of savages who don’t even take the time to quantify and record the joy provided by each sip of beer.
This is Drunkspin Daily, the Concourse’s adequate source for booze news, reviews, and bullshit. We’ll be highlighting a beer a day in this space; please leave suggestions below.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain. Image by Jim Cooke.
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