In every scenario, there's often an exception that proves the rule. Last summer, I wrote about my profound antipathy for beer lists. The rationale was simple. There were two lists that had gone viral that were ridiculously oversimplified. The methodology was suspect and at the end of the day, only the most novice of craft beer drinkers might have gleamed some interesting information from the list. The exception to that rule about lists is Paste Magazine.
The online culture website (it used to be a print entity but well, you know what's happened to print) does frequent beer lists, and they are well worth the attention of any serious beer drinker. For one, their methodology is sound. They limit themselves to American brewers since there is amazing brewing going on in almost all corners of Europe and the product or even news of it probably doesn't reach American shores. Secondly they don't simply ask an expert (as Forbes magazine did for its foolish best American beer list); instead Paste convenes a panel of brewers and other beer experts to score the beers and then tallies the results. Lastly, the tasting is blind so past experience with the beers don't influence the opinion of the current tasting.
Their tastings often produce surprising results. For instance obsessively coveted beers like Pliny the Elder and Heady Topper have placed in the top20 of the 115 Double IPA list but not at the top; (Grimm's Lambo Door won that round). On the other hand their 116 IPA list had such standard bearers as Founder's Centennial, Firestone Walker Union Jack, and both the Ballast Point Sculpin and Grapefruit Sculpin in the top 20. And the 12 American Gose list was topped by Westbrook, which nearly reintroduced this vital style to the American public.
The most recent Paste list is devoted to 51 best American stouts. For these purposes they defined stouts as under 8% ABV (anything higher qualified for either the Imperial Stout list or the Barrel Aged Stout list). The first thing one notices perusing the list is its comprehensiveness. There are beers from every part of the country represented and craft brewing epicenters like Oregon and California notch several brews on this list. The top spot in this ranking is Maine Beer Company's Mean Old Tom, a delicious stout featuring distinctive vanilla and toffee overtones with a nice hop backbone.
It's a beer I'm delighted to drink any time, but I won't call it a winner. Instead, I feel like a winner myself since I now have a list of about 20 beers that I previously didn't know but sound wonderful.
Martin Johnson is a beer buyer and merchandising manager for Westside Market East Village in New York City.When not selling or drinking beer he writes about jazz and beer for the Wall Street Journal, basketball for Slate, beer for Eater and about a variety of cultural and culinary topics for The Root.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.