GPAs REVISITED

I’ll admit that determining a cumulative GPA for a brewery isn’t a particularly informative statistic. First, the overall number is based on the highly subjective beer ratings on BeerAdvocate. Second, different breweries tend to focus on different styles, so if you like the aggressive hop offerings of one brewery more than the sour, subtle Belgian-style offerings of another, what difference does a GPA make? However, as I put together my list, I realized that these rankings provided at least one very useful service. They showed the overall quality and consistency of a brewery. Magic Hat was last on my original list of 46 breweries. They make some wonderful beers, but also some very questionable ones. I wouldn’t blindly select a sixer of Magic Hat from a package store…I’d carefully pick one that I knew was strong. On the flipside, Russian River was tops on my first  list and I would eagerly grab any bottle with their label on it. Whatever the style, I would know that beer would be excellent. To me, that’s the value of the GPAs. When you’re at a bar or in a package store and see an unfamiliar brew, you can refer to the GPA list and know how much risk you’re taking in your selection. Sure, you could get lucky with a great beer from a lower ranked brewery or unlucky with a weaker brew from a strong brewery. But the point is to arm yourself with as much information as possible. Just like when you’re planning your fantasy football draft…the numbers help you make your selections, even though you know they aren’t a guarantee of performance.

More than anything else, I had fun putting the list together. It let me delve into all of the offerings from a ton of great breweries, and the GPAs roughly matched up to my perception of the quality of the brewers (I’m a big fan of anything that proves what I already think I know). I decided to expand the list for a couple of reasons. One, I had left off some inexplicable breweries (like Portsmouth). And two, I was drunk.

I cheated a little on the new list…I added a couple breweries that produce less than 20 offerings (my original cut-off number) and I ranked some breweries that only had a handful of beers with more than 10 ratings apiece (I stuck to my guns with the 10 ratings per beer cut-off). For the most part, this didn’t cause any issues, but there were a few quirks. For example, High Point, Valley, and Cape Cod breweries all probably rate higher than they should because they simply didn’t have that many beers that were rated enough times to include in my calculations (Valley in particular only had 3 beers with more than 10 ratings on BeerAdvocate). That gives a bit too much weight to each brew, but since this is an almost completely pointless exercise, I’m OK with that. This list is very fluid and will change fairly frequently anyway. I also added some breweries that are clearly not in the running for “Best Brewery” just to see if the GPAs worked well for “second tier” Ale Factories. I’m happy to report that it worked perfectly. Breweries like Spoetzl, Redhook, Abita, and Tommyknocker (respectable but hardly world-class breweries) brought up the rear…which is exactly where they should be (all around a “B-” GPA). I also did an overall grade for Anheuser-Busch (though I won’t include it in the published list) just to see where the most reviled brewery on Earth was ranked. AB finished with a 1.73 GPA overall…a laughable “C-“. That’s almost a full letter grade below anything else which means all is right in the world. The revised list will be posted shortly…

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