Mug Shots: No shame in the ratings game

It should be evident by now that as a beer writer, I’m not much for the ratings game — not that there’s anything wrong with it, mind you.

    In the Internet-inspired universe of man-on-the-street expertise, beer lovers meet at, and other sites too numerous to list, and assign purportedly objective ratings to beers. Numerical values are assigned, statistics compiled and rankings proffered.

    With almost 1,500 breweries in the United States alone, it is reasonable to assume that there are tens of thousands of different brands … renderings … interpretations … of the standard hundred or so recognized styles. No two of these taste exactly alike, but take it from me: Out of 100 American-style pale ales, a handful are outstanding, just as many wretched, and the remainder fairly close in most significant ways.

    Anything that moves people into the craft beer segment is fine by me, both personally and professionally, but one can’t help noticing that for many “beer raters,” the obsession of the collector takes precedence over enjoying the liquid being consumed from the glass (bottle babies, take note).

    The fun should come from the beer itself, not amassing lists, and yet beer judging is a natural outgrowth of the human desire to quantify. If you’re interested in the topic, visit the Beer Judge Certification Program’s Web site ( Here is the JCP mission statement:

    The purpose of the Beer Judge Certification Program is to promote beer literacy and the appreciation of real beer, and to recognize beer tasting and evaluation skills. Founded in 1985, we certify and rank beer judges through an examination and monitoring process. We have 4,192 members worldwide … (and) our members have judged over 357,224 beers, and we have sanctioned over 3,068 competitions.

Roger Baylor is co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Co. in New Albany. Visit for more beer.