BeerDorks.com: Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

 
February 10, 2008

Rankings:

Vote In The Midwest Brewery Power Rankings

Forget “Super Tuesday.” We’re talking beer here. Vote on the Midwest’s most important beer producers.
by Eddie Glick

I like my beer like my women: pale, strong, full-bodied, and extremely bitter.
Contact Eddie»
It’s time again for the BeerDorks.com Midwest Brewery Power Rankings. As you probably don’t remember, Three Floyds took home top honors after our last release. However, a few things have changed since then. Surly Brewing up in Minnesota came into being. Bell’s pulled out of Illinois and then came back … sort of. A number of brewers have completed significant expansions, including Two Brothers, New Glarus, Capital, and Founders. Other brewers, like Tyranena and Dark Horse, have started to come into their own.

And so we thought it was time to give the power rankings an update. And this time, you get to vote! Tell us who you think is the most influential brewer in the Midwest.

Notice we call this rating system power rankings. That’s because we aren’t just looking at the beer these breweries produce. That is, of course, the most important consideration, but for ranking purposes we’re more interested in which beer producers are positively influencing the beer industry in the Midwest. Are they leading the way with new beers and styles, exceptional quality, significant consumer reach, and a passion for the art of brewing? Or are they simply following trends, making half-ass beers, and shilling to the lowest common denominator? These issues are what we’re concerned about, so try to keep them in mind when voting.

After the last release, a few people—including our very own Nigel Tanner—poo-pooed taking a brewery’s distribution and/or availability into account. Admittedly, it is the only criterion not directly tied to the brewers’ art, but it is important nonetheless. Here’s why:

I’ve got this buddy named Pinkus Ghort. He’s even more reclusive than yours truly. Once a year he brews a Russian imperial stout, throws it into an oak barrel that once held vanilla-flavored coffee beans and let’s it sit for six months. Then he adds some maple syrup he taps himself, a fresh batch of yeast, and whole hop cones, and transfers the whole concoction into an old whiskey barrel he had shipped over from Scotland, speyside. He lets it sit in there for another six months or so before he taps it at exactly the winter solstice. It is the absolute best beer in the world. The barrel sits in his basement and no one except he and I have ever tasted it. So, should Pinkus Ghort take the top spot in my power rankings?

Obviously, Pinkus isn’t a real guy, but he might as well be if we throw the availability criterion out of our consideration. Scarcity does not necessarily equal quality. As humans (or maybe it’s just Americans) we are inclined to think that hard-to-find does define excellence, but it’s mostly because we always want what we can’t have. Some beers are hard to get because they’re unbelievably good—Founders Kentucky Breakfast, for one example—but even though you live in Ohio and you pine day and night for New Glarus Spotted Cow, it’s that yearning that is creating an unrealistic memory of how good the beer is.

The other, well, “controversial” criterion would be monsterism. Big ass beers, basically. Some people call these “extreme” beers, but I don’t look at them that way. Some may scoff at triple IPAs and barrel-aged Russian imperial stouts as heavy-handed gimmickiness, but I think this is where a brewery can really show off both it's creativity and skill in one go. Of course, big ass beers aren't inherently good, but when executed correctly the results can be downright magical.

The other criteria—innovation, overall quality, integrity and attitude—are pretty self explanatory. So enough preaching. Get over there and vote on who you think are the most important brewers here in the Midwest.



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