Let's try a thought experiment. Imagine you assembled a list of a city's best beers. Then you polled a bunch of people to find the consensus of which of these they would recommend. Here's the experiment part: how many of those beers would have high levels of agreement--say 75% or more?
I would have guessed you could get at least a couple beers in every style--essentially broad agreement on the "best beers." Well, Matt Wiater at Portlandbeer.org actually did this, and guess what: not much agreement. Of the top 15 beers, only two met my hypothetical standard. Mostwere recommended by only a bare majority of people. Mirror Pond, for example, surely one of the more famous, beloved, and best-selling beers in all of Greater Beervana, managed a recommendation from only 50% of the people.
So who were these half-wits? Bloggers, mainly (including me).
The lesson is clear to me: there is no "best" of anything. "Bests" are reserved for track meets, where you can actually measure performance. In beer, the master is the taster. What's best is what your tongue likes. I tend to think we can talk about some general standards of quality, but specific beers?--clearly this isn't so easy to figure out.
So the next time (and there will be a next time) we get in a spat about a specific beer, we should recall this lesson. Different strokes, folks. And ain't it nice we have so many breweries to serve these different tongues?
Go have a look at the recommendations. You'll probably be surprised.
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