Best Beers in America – Zymurgy – Pliny Got #1 but who is Rahr?

Posted on June 29, 2010


So there is another BEST of List that has been released by a magazine that I had not heard of  but apparently they are associated with the Brewers association. I’m a member of that organization as I had to in order to get Saturday afternoon GABF tickets last year. I think the BA association does a great job, but not sure who administered this survey that needed some culling of some ‘block’ voting. But I think surveys on beer are always going to have issues with block voting from certain segments. Anyway here is my take on the article with the results.

The original Zymurgy article can be read here.

  • 1. Russian River Pliny the Elder – There is little argument that this beer is America’s most sought after Double IPA. Demand & Supply drives this to #1.
  • 2. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale – Michigan Double IPA that is very nice.
  • 3. Stone Arrogant Bastard – Stone is one of the top American Craft Brewers and this is one of the great beers they do. Not just their name.
  • 4. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA – Yes a 9% Imperial IPA
  • 5. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – America’s first IPA that helped change beer.
  • 6. Stone IPA – The baby brother of RUINATION
  • T7. Bear Republic Racer 5 – Very good IPA
  • T7. Guinness – As 7th best beer it begs the question of taste now with raters
  • T7. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine – A good entry level barley wine. Not to most peoples tastes though.
  • T7. Sierra Nevada Celebration – Yes, its a nice Christmas seasonal beer.
  • 11. Stone Ruination – Big brother has arrived. 8.5% IPA
  • T12. North Coast Old Rasputin – One of my Favorites out of the bottle or of tap.
  • T12. Sierra Nevada Torpedo – This goes to show, although large they can still pump out a great imperial IPA
  • T12. Rahr Winter Warmer – 1st Texas beer, and Rahr has arrived
  • T12. Rahr Ugly Pug – 2nd Texas beer its a 4.5% Brown Ale
  • T12. Rahr Iron Thistle -3rd Rahr – 8% Scottish Dark but it is seasonal
  • T17. Oskar Blues Ten Fidy – Oskar changed what I knew of Imperial Stouts.. and its in a can.. YES.
  • T17. New Glarus Belgian Red – Interesting beers from Glarus.. like their fruit based beers
  • T17. Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA – Its the baby of the Dogfish family, widely available now even in CA NA DA.
  • T17. Duvel – Belgium lager that you can buy even at the Bellagio in Vegas.
  • T21. Lagunitas IPA – California’s biggest selling IPA, the one with a DOG on the label
  • T21. Samuel Adams Boston Lager – Not a fan of this one, but always available in Airports across the US
  • T21. Rahr Storm Cloud – Hang on is this the 4th RAHR beer.. really?
  • T21. Saison Dupont – Nice farm house beer from Belgium
  • T25. Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout – The name alone sounds amazing.
  • T25. Rahr Bucking Bock – Oh fuck me.. 5th RAHR beer..WOW have I been hiding in a Cave?
  • T25. Ommegang Three Philosophers – Near Cooperstown in NY, do great Belgium beers
  • T28. New Belgium Fat Tire – Definitely not my favorite from NB, but their biggest seller, and pays their rent
  • T28. Alaskan Smoked Porter – Yes Definitely one of the top beers in America, and it ages
  • T28. Anchor Steam – Along the same lines as Sam Adams, widely available but not a fan.
  • T31. Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock – The Goat! Love this doppel.
  • T31. Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron – Dogfish Should have more in this list
  • T31. Rahr Summer – 6th RAHR.. and this sounds thin.. a 5% Hefe..
  • T31. Rahr Red – 7th RAHR.. who is voting in here?  a 4.5% Red ale..
  • T31. Rahr Blind Salamander – 8th RAHR – nothing like block voting now
  • T31. Rahr Blonde – 9th RAHR.. 4.8% blonde – now its 9 beers in the top 31.. come on now
  • T31. Rahr Octoberfest 10th RAHR – this is a joke now..
  • T31. Victory Prima Pils – Something from Penn in here now..
  • T31. New Belgium La Folie – Definitely one of the best sour brown beers that I have had..
  • T31. Russian River Consecration – RR deserves their Belgian beers on this list for sure
  • T41. Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale – The Oskar Blues boys have number 2 in the list
  • T41. Rahr Buffalo Butt We’re now at 11th RAHR.. and we’re not done (4.5% Amber)
  • T41. New Belgium 1554 – New Belgium do better beer than this as well
  • T41. Orval – One of my favorite Belgium beers available in the US and Canada.
  • T41. Lagunitas Hop Stoopid – Another Cali Imperial IPA..
  • T41. Rogue Dead Guy – Surprising this is only #2 from Rogue
  • T41. Unibroue La Fin Du Monde – Montreal gets a beer on here..
  • T41. Deschutes Black Butte Porter – Portland gets some more representation..
  • T49. Surly Furious – Haven’t had this beer yet.. that i can remember
  • T49. Dogfish Head Indian Brown – Good on you Sam
  • T49. Rahr Whiskey Warmer – 12th RAHR.. it kind of makes this TOP 50 umm..
  • T49. Rodenbach Grand Cru – Great Sour beer from Belgium.

Well we can now see what 1000 votes can do to a list. I’m not surprised to see many beers on there that are worthy, but the block voting for RAHR kind of makes this a ridiculous list. I think there are 30 beers on this list that were voted on correctly, and many in the craft beer would agree. But having 12 beers from a small brewery that nobody has ever heard of is something that should have been caught by editors.

Pliny is going to be number one until more people can get access to the great Russian River brewery. Assessing it against other comparable IPA’s now being produced I don’t think the Pliny ‘Super Power’ will last much longer but its’ still a brilliant beer. Surprised there was no 3 Floyds, Abyss, Black Butte XX, Goose Island Bourbon County, or a hand full of other beers.This list comprised of many IPA’s where as a recent beer rating list comprised of mostly Imperial Stouts. Maybe it is a seasonal issue of when the survey was taken.

But obviously RAHR is going to get some great press off this, but at the same time be seen as a joke by many who don’t feel their Summer Beer or Blond should be there instead of 1000 other beers that could of replaced it.View it with as much credibility as I did other beer ratings sites that had a bar in Italy as the World Best Bar based on 14 votes.

Look the major issue with ‘RATINGS’ guides/sites/surveys is they are subjective in that only certain beers can be attained in certain states. Much of America’s antiquated liquor laws mean its restrictive for beer/wine to cross. The case of Rahr is that the beer doesn’t leave the state of Texas, so how are voters in California or New York able to vote on accordingly. It appears more like a sympathy vote by a legion of fans in Texas. Having had Texan beer at GABF 2 years straight there is very little that compares with the top breweries in the country. But with most of their beer under 5% I don’t think I’m missing too much by knowing about them.

Steven Beaumont also wrote on the survey on his blog with pretty much the same line as to not get too carried away with these results. But it has made news in Austin, so locals are aware of the likely mishap of the survey.

Some comments shared through American Home Brewers Association

Yes.  They made great beer.  But in February there was a freak snow storm in Fort Worth, and their roof collapsed.  They stopped brewing.  They have not resumed brewing.  Like brewing ratings on other sites, scarcity seems to influence ratings.  If only 5 people can get a beer, it will rate higher than a beer 20 people can get.  If they had made at high gravity beer, they would have been rated #1.

– “It would be interesting to hear from the editors regarding this one.It’s so highly unlikely that any brewer would have all (or substantially all) of their beers make this list that I would assume the editors saw this prior to printing.  Particularly a small regional brewer. Perhaps the intention of the survey  was not a snapshot of who’s drinking what in 2010 but more of a popularity contest in the “vote as often as you like” vein. To my mind, that takes away some of the value  of the list.”

From the AHA Newsletter Editor Zymurgy – Jill  Redding

Subject: Re: Rahr Brewing

The Zymurgy Best Beers in America poll is open to all Zymurgy readers, and every vote counts. Rahr obviously has a loyal following and they were able to rally their fans to vote. It would be great if all breweries could encourage their fans to read Zymurgy and vote in the poll! Likewise, if you feel your favorite brewery was underrepresented in the poll, please vote in the 9th annual poll in 2011. Kudos to Fritz Rahr and Rahr Brewing Co. for generously providing their Ugly Pug schwarzbier recipe and for developing such a loyal group of beer fans in Fort Worth, Texas and beyond.
Jill Redding