Introducing Beers Above Replacement

We took sabermetrics to the streets this week, and tried it out with concerts. But the ‘readily available’ or ‘replacement-level’ concert is woefully hard to define. Beer? Not so much. Go to your local bodega and look at the beer aisle and you have easy candidates for replacement-level beer. And so baseball’s WAR framework can easily be applied to suds.

Beers. Above. Replacement.

Some might argue for wins above replacement — it’s not ‘baseball players’ above replacement a chatter said on Thursday — but we have to differentiate, and what better way to differentiate than to create a metric named BAR? No confusion here as to what is being measured. Call ’em “beer wins” too, if you have to.

Some might argue that this is a subjective thing — and they’re right — but subjective things get rated all the time. Look at Yelp, Zagat or Rotten Tomatoes for your easiest cross-subject comps. And what we are suggesting here wold sit on top of an existing Yelp-like platform: Beer Advocate. At Beer Advocate, users rate the beer out of five stars and produce an aggregate rating out of 100.

I recently had a 99, and I agreed with the rating. But that doesn’t mean BAR can’t improve upon what exists already.

As we established with concerts, context is king. What you ate or drank before the beer counts. In which order you drank your beers. How dehydrated you were to begin with. The temperature of your beer is inversely correlated with the fullness of the taste, and yet coldness is a desired trait. If you’re having it at a bar, the length of time the keg has been sitting there. Most importantly, perhaps, the last time that tap was cleaned. (Don’t think about that one too hard.)

In any case, the wisdom of the crowd mostly removes these issues. One or two people can have a Green Flash West Coast IPA off a dirty tap, but 100 won’t. But there’s one issue that remains: selection bias.

Mostly, selection bias is a sample issue. If you’re testing aging curves, and only good players survive, then you have a selection bias. In this case, selection bias is about the people that go to Beer Advocate to rate beers. You won’t get your typical Budweiser drinker to log on to Beer Advocate to write up a review of the appearance, smell, taste, and mouthfeel to produce an overall rating of the beer, unless to do so in jest. And that’s how Budweiser gets a rating of 56.

Can we just set the replacement level at 56, then, and call it a day? Maybe not. There are players that are worse than replacement. The Delmon Young and Chone Figginses of the world, you might say. And if you’ve had a Budweiser and are a craft beer drinker, you might agree. A better candidate for a replacement beer might be a Stella Artois — readily available and without the piss part. Maybe a Mexican lager would also make sense. So, maybe something like Stella’s 71 and Dos Equis’ 72 rating should be our replacement level.

But you might notice something here. We’re talking lagers. As with baseball, we need to make a positional adjustment. The worst pale ale might be better than one of the best lagers, but BAR needs to be a level playing field. The replacement level is higher for some types. So we have to index the beer advocate ratings to the style. Take a look at some sample styles:

Top American Adjunct Lager: Schlitz Gusto, Schlitz (3.59/82)
Top American Malt Liquor: Big Daddy J’s, Full Sail (3.37/83)
Top Czech Pilsner: Reality Czech, Moonlight Brewing (4.31/96)
Top Bock: La Troppe Bockbier, Bierbrouwerij De Koningshoeven B.V. (4/90)
Top Oktoberfest: Augustiner Bräu Märzen Bier, Augustiner (4.18/93)
Top Dubbel: Trappist Westvleteren 8 (VIII), Brouwerij Westvleteren (4.52/100)
Top Saison: Ann, Hill Farmstead (4.53/100)
Top American Double IPA: Heady Topper, The Alchemist (4.71/100)
Second-best American Imperial Stout: Founders CBS Imperial Stout, Founders (4.66/100)

You see what’s going on here. And there’s even a story behind this story, as the top IPA (Susan, Hill Farmstead, 4.5/98) and stout (Rise Up Stout, Evolution, 4.31/95) came up short when compared to the top double IPA and top imperial stout. The darker, the better, at least when it comes to the Beer Advocate crowd.

And yet, I personally like a little effervescence and what I call ‘drinkability’ from my beers. I can get bogged down in ABV and sweetness. I don’t always love the thickest, craziest, fullest beers out there.

So: we index the beers’ ratings within their ‘position.’ That makes one of my favorite double IPAs, Firestone Walker’s Double Jack (4.34/96 and somehow the 37th-highest DIPA) roughly equivalent to The Crisp (3.92/88), Sixpoint’s German Pils. Because the best German Pils is Victory’s Prima Pils… from Pennsylvania (4.1/94). Eh, it’s just a style.

After we produce some sort of spreadsheet with indexed beer advocacy ratings, we will need to set a replacement level for each type of beer. That requires some sort of math. (Should it be based on the number of rated within each style, some sort of median? Or should it be a mean? How do we use the ratings to find a replacement, and can it be obscure or should it be a big beer?)

And there are still more questions after that. Should we average these with untappd ratings? Should we then weight the beer differently if it came off the tap or cask? What other context can we put into numbers? How much should actual ubiquity factor in? What about how advanced the beer is — there are such things as beginner beers, after all. Would a note for can/bottle make sense or is that subjectivity creeping in? A clear bottle lets beer-skunking sunlight hit the beer, perhaps that could be an asterisk? If you cellared the bottle, should it get a half-win of ageing, or lose it? Is this all a waste of time?

And then finally, we’ll have to round the numbers anyway. Because there’s no such thing as a 3.2-BAR beer.

(There are some ten-win Mike Trout beers. My candidates that come to mind easily: Cask Racer Five IPA from Bear Republic, Cask Speedway Stout with Vietnamese Coffee from AleSmith, Supplication from Russian River, Sculpin IPA on Tap from Ballast Point, Pliny the Younger IPA from Russian River.)




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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.


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Brandon Warne
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

Out-frigging-standing

Alex Remington
Member
3 years 7 months ago

I just had a Hill Farmstead Birth of Tragedy. That was a high-BAR beer.

Kyle
Member
3 years 7 months ago

My Mike Trout candidates would be: Russian River Deviation, Stone Double Dry Hopped Ruination IPA, Maritime Pacific Rum Aged Jolly Roger

Ceetar
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

I think you have to ignore skunking, that’s more like an injury. (although permanent)

You definitely have to adjust for delivery. Is it in a can? A bottle? on tap? Brown bottle? poured in a basic pint glass? a wine glass? a goblet?

Climate probably plays a factor too. That Dogfish Head Bitches’ Brew is probably not a good July beer. The day/night splits on a good Belgian Strong Dark Ale (Troegs Mad Elf) can be stark as well.

And definitely be wary of beers using Performance Enhancing Citrus (PECs) like lime in a Corona.

Ceetar
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

Also, your West Coast Bias is showing. ;-)

Chris
Guest
Chris
3 years 7 months ago

Pliny the Younger is more of the Babe Ruth of beers, All-Time Great, and good enough for me to stand in line for on a cold February morning.

seattle matt
Guest
seattle matt
3 years 7 months ago

PtY doesn’t have enough appearances to be Babe Ruth. It is more like Pedro Martinez.

Friedman
Member
Friedman
3 years 7 months ago

Love the West Coast Bias here as a San Diego resident. Green Flash is one of our best kept secrets.

juan pierres mustache
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

we get it in philly now if you know where to look–not as secret as you might hope

yum
Guest
yum
3 years 7 months ago

foodery?

juan pierres mustache
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

not where i got it, but have been there a couple times. it was on tap at rembrandt’s (i think? it was on tap somewhere around there, at least)

Matt
Guest
Matt
3 years 7 months ago

Green Flash even got as far as import-controlled Ontario this year, which tells you it can’t be that much of a secret!

a5ehren
Guest
a5ehren
3 years 7 months ago

St Bernardus Abt 12 has to be on any 10 BAR list: http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/259/1708

Well-Beered Englishman
Guest
Well-Beered Englishman
3 years 7 months ago

St Bernardus Abt 12 is the Giancarlo Stanton to Trappistes Rochefort 10’s Mike Trout.

Adam R
Guest
Adam R
3 years 7 months ago

Well put indeed, WBE.

Matthew Murphy
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Had the Heady Topper a couple months back, and while it was certainly delicious, it wasn’t the best beer I’ve ever had.
I’m wondering whether availability should be taken into account for defining the “replacement level beers” for each style. I feel that replacement level should be something that is readily available and affordable. This would obviously vary from region to region, but I’m thinking beers like Sam Adams Boston Lager, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and maybe Goose Island IPA (now that their distribution has increased and they’re owned by AB-InBev). This may be setting the bar high for some styles, but if a great tasting Pale Ale is always available and reasonably priced, then shouldn’t the bar be high (like for a 1B or LF). This would be difficult to apply to some less common styles (such as sours).

noseeum
Guest
noseeum
3 years 6 months ago

Dude. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale replacement level? Have you had this recently? I know it’s readily available but that’s like saying Albert Pujols is replacement level because he’s been around forever and never misses a game.

That’s a hall of fame beer, not only for the actual taste but for its place in history.

Blind taste test and Sierra would take many other highly rated beers to the woodshed.

Brandon Warne
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

My Mike Trout would be a Surly Cynic Ale

juan pierres mustache
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

Prima Pils is the highest rated Pils? I’m about 30 minutes from Victory Brewery, have had most if not all of what they have to offer, and have never been all that impressed by the pils. We get their variety pack pretty often with Golden Monkey, Hopdevil, Headwaters Pale, and the Pils and it’s generally acknowledged that the Pils is the booby prize there. Maybe I’m missing something, but I did not expect it to be so highly thought of.

Additionally, I’d love to see a BAR/$ stat. It can replace my college system of seeking the highest ABV/$ at the beer store.

chrisb
Member
Member
chrisb
3 years 7 months ago

That’s a pretty good example of the need for position adjustment. I think Prima Pils is a great pilsner. But pilsners are few and far between for me.

juan pierres mustache
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

that might be the issue here–I can’t really think of many pilsners I like more, but it’s entirely possible i just don’t like pilsners. this is where the WAR -> BAR metaphor breaks down–it’d be really weird if I was just like “you know, I just don’t like shortstops. screw all of them.”

chrisb
Member
Member
chrisb
3 years 7 months ago

Maybe your beer fridge represents a drastic defensive shift.

Alan Harrison
Member
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Fantastic piece.

Stone’s “Enjoy By” is easily a ten-win Trout for me.

adam w
Guest
adam w
3 years 7 months ago

I’m glad you included the positional adjustment. I find that RateBeer is biased towards Imperial Stouts and Belgians, much as the early forays into VORP overrated great-hitting, poor-fielding OFs like Adam Dunn and Manny Ramirez.

Also, 75 Minute on Cask is delicious. Highest recommendation.

Nick
Guest
Nick
3 years 7 months ago

Absolutely awesome. I had the dry hopped Stone IPA last weekend. It was awesome. Bells Hopslam is a ten win beer, double jack is 9.5, and I’d give Schlafly AIPA a 9. The beauty of this rating system as opposed to ratebeer/beer advocate is that there is no upper bound. Just because Mike Trout, or Hopslam, or double jack gets a 10 doesn’t mean a possible 10.5 or 11 etc. isn’t possible!

chuckb
Member
chuckb
3 years 7 months ago

Stone IPA is definitely an All-Star. Not sure it’s a 9 or 10 BAR beer but it’s a several time All-Star.

Chris Cwik
Member
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Please revise and add PBR to the list somewhere.

Illinois glass M. Michael Sheets
Guest
Illinois glass M. Michael Sheets
3 years 7 months ago

PBR was beat out only because of the ballot stuffing from Schlitzerland.

juan pierres mustache
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

in blue ribbons above replacement, PBR is unparalleled

samuelraphael
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Pabst Blue Ribbon has carved out an incredibly long career since its rookie of the year in the 1890s.

juan pierres mustache
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

i guess pbr is the miguel cairo of beers–long career, but no one really knows why

KCDaveInLA
Guest
KCDaveInLA
3 years 7 months ago

I would nominate Brian Wilson as the PBR of MLB players…Hipsters love him, he’s full of irony, and way overrated.

Darknova306
Guest
Darknova306
3 years 7 months ago

Combining beer geekery and stat nerdery into one article… this is outstanding.

stockhfcrx
Member
Member
stockhfcrx
3 years 7 months ago

Im new to craft beer, and this also may be a bit of a local bias, but Jai Alai IPA from cigar city brewing here in Tampa is head and shoulders above others i’ve tried. If any of you have the opportunity, I think it’s worth a try.

Nick
Guest
Nick
3 years 7 months ago

How could I forget Cigar City. That beer almost makes me want to take my family to Disney. Definite top 5 IPA.

chuckb
Member
chuckb
3 years 7 months ago

Karbach Brewery is a new brewery here in Houston and they make a great Hopadillo IPA. Their Rodeo Clown Double IPA and Weisse Versa are superb as well. They’re definitely worth 5 or 6 BAR at least.

BJ
Guest
BJ
3 years 7 months ago

“I dislike your BAR stat. It should still be WAR, just for beers. You dont say Baseball players over replacement.”
“BUT BAR FITS SO WELL”

Best chat excerpt ever.

juan pierres mustache
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

looking over the list again…am i to understand that Schlitz makes a beer that’s not your basic Schlitz? this is mindblowing news. is it actually any good or just the best of a bad bunch?

Scott G
Guest
Scott G
3 years 7 months ago

So many good beers, so little time.

AK7007
Guest
AK7007
3 years 7 months ago

If we are using BAR, can we also do a BAR/$ comparison? Because if we do, I submit Lagunitas IPA as the best BAR for your dollar IPA.

Also, there needs to be some sort of regional adjustment, because as well as beer keeps, I’m not paying top dollar for something shipped 2500 miles to my local shop so it can lose half it’s magic in transit. Cali/Oregon all the way.

juan pierres mustache
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

Lagunitas IPA and Stone IPA were the two I was thinking of myself, and I’d be shocked if they aren’t top candidates by BAR/$. Also intrigued to see where some Rogue offerings come in.

Kyle
Member
3 years 7 months ago

I would submit Southern Tier’s 2XIPA. BAR/$ off the effing charts.

samuelraphael
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Southern Tier’s Pumking Beer is crazy niche production. Like an expensive lights out closer.

juan pierres mustache
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

Southern Tier does a good job of making very affordable strong beers–they have a variety pack of three types that i believe has the 2xIPA and a couple others that all clock in above 8% ABV where the cost for a 24 is around $38. That said, I saw Ruben Amaro at the beer store the other day and he insisted on paying $120 a case every year for nine years, so your mileage may vary.

Kyle
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Oh, wow, I haven’t seen that variety pack here in Seattle. Just bombers of all their excellent stuff plus the new 2XIPA sixer. I am jealous. I’ve yet to have a ST beer that wasn’t a great deal above-average.

juan pierres mustache
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

for your viewing, if not tasting, pleasure:

there’s the 2xIPA, Imperial IPA, and an Imperial Black Ale.

samuelraphael
Member
3 years 7 months ago

If you want to win at beer, with a Tampa Bay Rays like budget and pee a lot, build your team around Little Kings, Utica Club, Sessions Black, and Genesse.

Well-Beered Englishman
Guest
Well-Beered Englishman
3 years 7 months ago

Looks like I picked the wrong day to actually get work done.

Damon
Guest
Damon
3 years 7 months ago

Not enough Tricerahops

KCDaveInLA
Guest
KCDaveInLA
3 years 7 months ago

This stuff: Schlappeseppel Pilsner…it’s lurvely

KCDaveInLA
Guest
KCDaveInLA
Guest
KCDaveInLA
3 years 7 months ago

I do rather enjoy these games of beerupsmanship.

tiddly winks
Guest
tiddly winks
3 years 7 months ago

BAR is nice, but me, I’m all about CLUTCH and those beers that perform in high pressure situations. You mention context, but have far too limited of an approach. After running from a bear (successfully, presumably), what beer hits the spot? Get caught with stripper glitter by your wife, do you go dIPA or PBR? Boss walks into bar you are drinking at and it is only 3:20 in the workday, what is your next order? These are the questions that keep me up at night.

Example: Best beer I ever had was after the first 7 mile run I ever did and was an Ommegang Rare Vos. In a regular situation, not a go-to beer and not one of my top beers. But that day, it performed like Mike Napoli against the Angels. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh….Ommegang clutchness.

Rags
Guest
Rags
3 years 7 months ago

Also this talk about the Mike Trout beers, but Yuengling is undoubtedly THE replacement beer. I know you guys want numbers and stuff, but if Yuengling doesn’t end up being 0 BAR, your metric is off.

Rags
Guest
Rags
3 years 7 months ago

Yuengling is the Ryan Theriot of beers.

taft's wild pitch
Guest
taft's wild pitch
3 years 7 months ago

Nothing like some good Bubblemetrics to get the comments rolling! Anyone seen anchor brewings baseball coasters?

F. X.
Guest
F. X.
3 years 7 months ago

See you at the Say-Beer Convention in Philly!

My echo and bunnymen
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

This is wonderful, I’ve always found myself searching for great beers and the ones I have found Gulden Drak, St. Bernardus, and a few others were wonderful. Then comes the ones that everyone loves but when I drink it is woefully dissappointing (any Stone brewery so far), possibly the grizzled old veteran who should have retired earlier? Griffey?

My echo and bunnymen
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

*Any Stone brew

Owen
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

This is pure genius. I think you can definitely correlate types of beer to baseball positions, and in fact, that’s what I spent about an hour doing. Here goes (personal top choice in parentheses):

C = Stout: Good ones are rare, and you can only spend so much time drinking stout before you have to move on to another kind of beer. (Cadillac Mountain)
1B = Pilsner: The best pilsners aren’t THAT much better than the replacement-level ones, and you can certainly pile up the volume stats drinking them. (Presidente)
2B = Hefeweizen: Typically decent beer, but the Robinson Canos of the hef world are few and far between. (Franziskaner)
3B = Porter: Very underrated type of beer, just like third basemen for the Hall of Fame. (Alaskan Smoked)
SS = Dubbel: Great dubbels are a dynamite addition to your fridge, and even the defense-only equivalents provide plenty of value. (Ommegang)
LF = Lager: Provide more value over replacement than a pilsner, but you can still pile up the volume here. (Hofbrau)
CF = IPA: You can’t get around having a good IPA if you want to be a good beer drinker. (Stone Arrogant Bastard)
RF = Pale Ale: Like IPAs, but not quite as good, or as varied. (Deschutes Mirror Pond)
SP = I put “specialty” varieties here: trippel (Ommegang Three Philosophers), bock (Spaten Optimator), winter ale (Alaskan), oktoberfest (Great Lakes), and lambic (Dirty Horse). Natty Light would definitely be a LOOGY, because it’s only good for playing beer pong/beirut with, and nothing else.

INGY
Guest
INGY
3 years 7 months ago

WHERE IS SHINER BOCK ON THIS LIST???????

Owen
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

Shiner Bock is league-average, so 2-3 BAR.

bob brower
Guest
bob brower
3 years 7 months ago

As a ranger fan I’m kinda partial to Mike Trout Slayer

Millsy
Guest
Millsy
3 years 7 months ago

All this DFH IPA talk and no mention of Hellhound on My Ale or Burton Baton. I have had 60, 75, 90, 120 and feel that Hellhound outperforms them all, with Burton Baton above that. My list actually puts 90 in last place among those 6 options. Of course one can argue on the Burton Baton classification.

For those of you that haven’t had a sub-par ST beer, please fo try to drink a full bomber of Creme Brulee Stout…blegh.

With that said, I have Hopslam, Double Jack, Founders Breakfast Stout as my 10+ BARs, with a few monsters staring at me in the fridge right now.

Antonio bananas
Guest
Antonio bananas
3 years 7 months ago

The weihenstephan brewery is like the 1927 Yankees of brewery, ton of BAR from every position.

Matt Hunter
Member
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Beer 30 wRC+

noseeum
Guest
noseeum
3 years 6 months ago

Lagunitas fans, get your hands on Lil’ Sumpin’. Fantastic!

Bear Republic fans: Hop Rod Rye

Both of these beers are silly silly good!

dstoke85
Member
dstoke85
3 years 6 months ago

Just tried to link to this on BA. Got pulled within minutes. Apparently not the first time. What gives?

Afraid to Post My Name Because I don't Want To Get Banned from BA
Guest
Afraid to Post My Name Because I don't Want To Get Banned from BA
3 years 6 months ago

Todd and Jason are prickly as hell, so who knows – maybe Eno just annoys them. I thought about asking one of them, and then decided not to.

I see two possibilities – they are scared someone is going to expose how crappily weighted all of their data is (seriously, if we had raw data, we could do so much more, but it’s so hard to mine raw data on BA), or two, they don’t want anything even remotely related to sports on the forums.

Spencer Silva
Guest
3 years 6 months ago

There’s a great youtube review for Coors Light: http://youtu.be/cv2a-Yzzr_o

Nick
Guest
Nick
3 years 5 months ago

This is fantastic. A couple months ago you gave me some advice on getting more into beer and I can’t thank you enough for it. Though I’m in Arizona for school at the moment I’ll be back home in far-north California for summer, and the first thing on my to-do list is a visit to Russian River.

Brett
Guest
Brett
3 years 2 months ago

How do you account for the supply and demand factor?

There have been example after example over the years of a beer having a very high rating when it is not available. The fact its in such limited production increases desire, and (I believe) desire can cloud judgement.

And conversely… many great beers that are widely available end up dropping points.

But I would argue, a beer that is made at very high production levels, that continues to mantain excellence, should be ranked higher then a small batch beer.

It’s the beer worlds sample size dilemma.

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