1. Southwest: Ripped would like to challenge North Coast’s victory in the Southeastern bracket by pushing for the master brewers at Sierra Nevada. I think his case is compelling. Sierra is a “no question” brewery…as in “there’s no question I’m trying any new beer they produce.” Their barleywine (Bigfoot) is one of the best on the market and I think everyone at Aleheadesl thinks their Pale Ale is the best mass-produced, flagship beer of any brewery in the country. It’s the one beer you’ll probably find in all of our fridges any day of the week. North Coast got the edge (from me) because they’re just as consistent as Sierra but produce more exciting offerings. The big two are the Brother Thelonius and the Old Rasputin, but I would say their Old Stock, Old #38, and Pranqster are equally compelling. Sierra tends to do more traditional offerings…albeit very well. I don’t think I’m ready to knock North Coast out of the top spot just yet, but let’s just say I could be convinced.
2. Midwest: Sudsy argued passionately for Three Floyds trumping Founders in the midwest bracket. As I said in the original post, it was an impossible decision. Both breweries are extremely well-regarded. Both have mastered some very difficult styles. I figured the best way to settle this was to do as close to an objective analysis as possible. On to BeerAdvocate!
Wow…this is amazingly close. Three Floyds has produced 93 beers that have been reviewed. 29 of those have been retired. Founders has produced 100 beers (3 were not reviewed). 31 of those have been retired. Now, it should be noted that many of the beers only have a handful of reviews so those need to be taken with a grain of salt. But overall, Three Floyds beers have been reviewed over 8,000 times and Founders over 10,000 times. It’s a disparity, but one that can easily be attributed to Founders having slightly more market saturation.
So how many A+ beers do the breweries have? Three Floyds has 4 (the Oak Aged Dark Lord, Vanilla Bean Aged Dark Lord, Barrel Aged Robert the Bruce, and St. Barniberus…a retired Tripel). Founders…has 4! (the Canadian Breakfast Stout, Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Sappy Slappy Bastard, and Ambrosia Tart). What’s absolutely amazing to me is that not only do both breweries have four top-of-the-line offerings, but they match up almost perfectly. Floyds has two versions of its well-known stout, a version of its Scotch Ale, and an experimental Belgian. Founders has two versions of its well-known stout, a version of its Scotch Ale, and an experimental fruit beer.
Moving on, Three Floyds has 13 A beers and 40 A- beers. Founders has 17 A beers and 31 A- beers. Slight edge to Founders for more A beers, but Three Floyds has more overall beers in the A+ to A- range (57 to 52). Floyds has 26 B+ beers, 8 B beers, and 2 B- beers for a total of 26 beers in the B range. Founders has 14 B+ beers, 15 B beers, and 8 B- beers for a total of 37 beers in the B range.
But here is where a big disparity arises. Three Floyds has NO beers rated less than a B-. None. Founders has 4 C+ beers, 2 C beers, 1 C- beer, and 1 D+ beer! That’s a big difference. To be fair, other than one Founders beer, neither brewery had a beer rated less than a B that had more than 3 reviews so I’m not sure how much weight you can give those “bad” reviews.
Overall, Three Floyds has a 3.56 GPA and Founders has a 3.38. That would seem to give a small, but clear victory to Three Floyds. However, I don’t think those results are based on accurate statistics. It just doesn’t account for all of those reviews with limited sample sizes. If I’m the only person to write a review for a beer and I simply don’t like the style it represents (for instance, I don’t generally like pilseners) I may give the beer a lower ranking than it would deserve. But if 20, 50, or 100 people rank a beer, chances are that beer is fairly graded. I decided to eliminate any beer with less than 10 ratings. That felt about right to me…I think 10 or more ratings gives a good sense of the beer. In my mind, that eliminates the outliers and leaves you with a more accurate overall score. When the dust settled, here was the final tally.
Three Floyds, 41 beers reviewed, 3.60 GPA.
Founders, 32 beers reviewed, 3.63 GPA.
I’m declaring this a tie. I’ll admit, I kind of thought Three Floyds would run away with this because they’re such a darling of the beer snob community, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that the two heavyweights stack up almost perfectly. In the end, we’re all winners since we get to drink the stuff produced by these two incredible breweries.
3. Northeast: I completely forgot to include Otter Creek in my runner-up list for the Northeast bracket. Total oversight on my part…its one of the better breweries in New England and deserves to be on the list. Allagash still crushes it though.