Welcome to 2017: the year beer rankings died.
You already know what the best brewery in the country is, and I’m not going to change your mind any more than you’ll change mine.
As far as I’m concerned, the best brewery in the country is Triple C in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s owned by my brother-in-law.
They make amazing beer. You should try their Dude Imbibes coffee stout, or their Baby Maker double IPA. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to get a bottle of their bourbon barrel aged Up All Night porter come holiday season.
Rankings? Lists? Well, The Daily Meal called Founders Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the best craft brewery this year -- but the brewery didn’t even make Gear Patrol’s 25 Best Craft Breweries in America list this year. You could waste an hour lining up these lists side by side, and countless hours more arguing over which one is the most accurate -- but the truth is that none of them are objective, because it’s mathematically impossible to try every beer in 2017.
And why would you want to?
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There’s a lot of beer out there
In fact, there’s too much for you to try everything yourself.
There are over 5,000 breweries in the country today. If every brewery had only one beer (they do not) and you tasted 10 of them an hour (you should not) it would still take more than 500 hours, or nearly three weeks to taste them all. Realistically, given the average number of beers a brewery has, it might take you half a year without sleep or breaks to taste them all.
I’m not crapping on ratings--they’re a great tool for helping to cut through the seemingly endless volume of beers out there. Hell, I might even give all 25 on Gear Patrol’s list a try next week. But my point is that, even with help and lists and recommendations, you’ll never taste them all. It’s all noise.
So how do you pick a favorite?
In 2017, beer selection is based on having a connection, whether personal or communal. You like this beer because it tastes good -- but what cemented that memory in your head? Was it a memorable night out with the guys? Did your best friend turn you on to his favorite? Was it the first local beer you tried when you moved to town? Did your buddy start the brewery in his garage?
Whether it's a hometown favorite, or the brewery your brother-in-law owns, chances are you’re a fan because of a connection. Some people will be Yankees fans because they like to win. That’s a comfort-based choice, like picking a favorite because it’s on every tap. But you might not feel a genuine attachment to that brand.
My favorite brewery is all about a connection
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I like Triple C because it’s familiar, because I know something about the people behind it. I feel like part of the “in” crowd when I get to taste new products ahead of time. I get excited when those email blasts about new beer releases hit my inbox. You’ve probably got a brewery that makes you feel the same way.
I feel like I’m doing them a service when I order a one at a local restaurant in Charlotte, where the sheer volume of beers makes competing for tap space like the most murderous game of musical chairs. I keep a couple packages of cans in my fridge now, and did so when I lived out of state, too, because cracking one open felt like home.
It’s the same feeling you have when you head to a sports bar and see a few friendly jerseys facing the TV. It’s the same feeling you have at reunions, or when your candidate wins an election.
That feeling is community. Breweries know that it may not be as powerful a marketing tool as a number one slot on a list, but the new drinkers gained from that publicity are fair weather fans. They want the kind of supporters who will stand by them win or lose -- who will line up at midnight to wait for precious cases of rare brews.
They want the kind of fans who will write an entire, shameless Op-Ed about the pointlessness of brewery rankings as an excuse to name drop their favorite local brewery.
Go Triple C.