Pliny the Elder is the best beer on the planet. Period.

Today it was officially announced that Pliny the Elder is the best beer on the planet. It is not merely a matter of opinion or taste, it is an absolute truth confirmed by scientific methodology and mathematical proof. Well, kind of.

The readers of Beer Advocate have spoken. For those who do not know, Beer Advocate is a Boston-based magazine that is enjoyed by serious beer enthusiasts across the country in both its online and offline formats. Beer Advocate just released its official list of the Top Beers on Planet Earth. The rankings are based on reader reviews and a mathematical formula that ranks the culmination of those reviews.

The Top 10 Beers on the Planet:

  1. Pliny The Elder, Russian River Brewing
  2. Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Founders Brewing Company
  3. Trappistes Rochefort 10, Brasserie de Rochefort (Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy)
  4. Bell’s HopSlam Ale, Bell’s Brewery, Inc
  5. Stone Imperial Russian Stout, Stone Brewing Company
  6. St. Bernardus Abt 12, Brouwerij St. Bernardus NVA
  7. Founders Breakfast Stout, Founders Brewing Company
  8. Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, Brauerei Weihenstephan
  9. Péché Mortel (Imperial Stout Au Cafe), Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel
  10. Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock, Privatbrauerei Franz Inselkammer KG / Brauerei Aying

(Click here for the complete list)

While Pliny the Elder sits atop the list, not one Washington-brewed beer is in the top 100. Rogue Brewing has five beers in the top 100 but is the only Oregon brewery to make the list. To clarify, save for Rogue, no Washington or Oregon beers made the top 100.

Before you get a kink in your beer line and feel like Beer Advocate is dissin’ on the Northwest, consider the fact that the national audience cannot review beers they cannot drink. It cannot be denied that Pliny the Elder is a very good beer, but apparently a lot of people have been afforded the opportunity to drink it as well. People cannot like what they do not know.

Because the Beer Advocate is very serious about beer, the publishers knew it was important to describe the mathematical formula used to reach these conclusions.

How was this list calculated?
This Best of BeerAdvocate (BA) list is generated using statistical formulas that pull data from millions of user reviews; they are not hand-picked. The general formula uses a Bayesian estimate:

weighted rank (WR) = (v ÷ (v+m)) × R + (m ÷ (v+m)) × C

R = review average for the beer
v = number of reviews for the beer
m = minimum reviews required to be listed (currently 1000)
C = the mean across the list (currently 4.03)

The formula normalizes scores, that is pulls (R) to the mean (C) if the number of reviews is not well above (m). So if a beer has only a few reviews above (m), its (WR) is decreased a little if it is above the mean (C), or increased a little if it is below the mean (C) in accordance with the normal distribution rule of statistics.

Currently, a beer must have 1000 or > reviews to be included in any calculations. And (m) is calculated by averaging the number of reviews for beers that have 1000 or > reviews within the list being viewed, while (C) is the mean (average) overall score for all beers that have or > reviews within the list.

Example 1: (a beer with a 4.35 review average and 105 reviews)

(105 ÷ (105+1000)) × 4.35 + (1000 ÷ (105+1000)) × 4.03 = 4.06 = WR

Example 2: (a beer with a 3.1 review average and 11 reviews)

(11 ÷ (11+1000)) × 3.1 + (1000 ÷ (11+1000)) × 4.03 = 4.02 = WR

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  1. consider the fact that the national audience cannot review beers they cannot drink.

    I think it’s more than that. If you looked at the Oregon-based reviewers of Rogue’s beers, my guess is that the mean score for those beers would be WAY below the nation’s mean for Rogue. Put another way: with such riches to choose from, all breweries have their partisans. With so much competition, it makes it hard for our beers to score clean home runs. Take a beer like Hair of the Dog’s Blue Dot, transplant it to Georgia, and watch the scores spike.

  2. I’m getting a little sick of the “trend” behind Pliny the Elder. I think its an excellent beer, but it appears to be more of a name then an intricately crafted ale.

    Hair of the Dog really does get the shaft, but its in part due to Alan’s way of brewing. He refuses to increase production because he likes his brewing setup and he likes to keep his hands on the creation process. I love that about him. He still brews with the same kettle that he started with. It is a shame that there are a lot brewers like HOTD, 3 Floyds, Hoppin Frog, Cigar City and Black Raven, who cannot compete in nationwide surveys such as this because they cannot distribute widely.

  3. Good point Jeff. There’s a lot to it that I didn’t go into in my post. I totally agree with you when you say, “Take a beer like Hair of the Dog’s Blue Dot, transplant it to Georgia, and watch the scores spike.”

  4. I don’t care for the ratings on BA. Any big, high gravity, over hopped beer rates high. Too many doubles, imperials, etc. getting all the glory while complex beers with intricate character receive little attention.

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