Saturday, October 20, 2012

Lies, damn lies and statistics

I am not sure if the title is a correct quote, but it doesn't really matter. It just goes to illustrate a point that occurs when lots of people get together and vote. For anything, not just elections. It just happens that this occasion refers to beer, (well, obviously, or it would not be on 'A Swift One' )

I was messing with my mobile telephonic device, (see Timbo reaches the 21st century) when I came across a list of the 50 favourite beers in England. Bearing in mind these have been voted for independantly by a group of beer minded individuals from across the globe and do not relate only to draught beer but also bottled beer they have sampled, the results were a little confusing in my eyes. 

The voting covered between 2854 and 27 samplers, each of whom rated each beer in various categories to achieve an overall score. The overall scores were averaged out to rate the top 50 beers overall. So far so good. But when I looked at the outcome I became a little concerned.

My worries started when I discovered 'Mackeson' at no 50 in the list. Why ? I cannot recall having seen it for years and it is not a beer I would consider in the best 50, so who did  ? Well, apparently 990 people. This made me look a little deeper. There was a disproportionate amount of dark beers, especially Imperial Stouts or Barley Wines on the list, and a few India Pale Ales to provide a balance. Some of the beers were the same beers but aged in sherry or whiskey barrels, presumably bottled versions rather than cask.

Another thing that surprised me was how up to date the list was with our local brewery 'Magic Rock' featuring  3 times, with an imperial stout and  a black IPA, the former having an entry from being aged in a bourbon barrel. Another surprise was to find JW Lees there, with 4 entries, until closer inspection revealed 3 of these were different aged casks of the same beer. I was beginning to see a theme here. Sam Smiths, The Kernal and Marble all had multiple entries, often for versions of the same beer casked differently. I am not saying there is anything wrong with beers, but there seems to be a certain bias in the voting.

It was getting a bit difficult to find something that I could consider in my favourite beers but after a lot of searching I discovered Oakham 'Asylum' at no 46, but had only been tasted by 32 people. There was no hint of Pictish, Mallinsons, Newby Wyke, or Abbeydale. Maybe this was just a case of a lot of like minded people sitting around a table, drinking the same bottled beers and voting. It certainly appeared that way. 

I know that you need to vote for a beer to get it recognised on the list, and obviously the more and higher votes it gets, the higher up the list it gets, but if someone says to you that the best beer in England is Old Chimneys 'Good King Henry Special Reserve' ask them where they got their information from or were they one of the 273 that voted for it. I for one am a little dubious, I have never even heard of it, let alone drunk it !! So it wasn't me. I will be starting to vote for sensible beers though and see if I can make a difference as the  political polls always say. Lets get some light, hoppy beers represented, at a decent strength.

When I said this poll was up to date I did not realise how up to date it was. When I tried to explain to Will what I was on about, I checked the site again and there were different results, no Mackesons for example, and Moor JJJ Ipa there. All in the space of 12 hours. Maybe I have been a bit harsh....but I don't think so....if you want to check for yourself, 'ratebeer' is the place to look.


Anonymous said...

old chimneys beer is bottled and exported.i dont think it is sold in Britain for some strange reason.Would be a massive tick yeah.

Anonymous said...

This would be the Ratebeer top 50. It evidently reflects the tastes of a certain rarely sited species of beer anorak: one who stays ensconced in his den engaging his expert palate on a never ceasing parade of incredibly rare (and incredibly expensive) bottled beers.

The creature's principal weakness is an aversion to the public house. If he could be cured of this affliction he would discover that there are equally splendid beers to be found at a very reasonable price which can be drunk rather than sipped. He might even come to understand the benefits of human companionship.

Tim the younger