Is the hype machine at work ?

This thread about Victory’s Storm King Stout got the geek to thinking. Is this beers lower geek status the result of better beers or purely hype mixed with availability?

The hype some brews get is undeniable. Looking at Beeradvocate’s current top 100, several hyped up brews are on the list. Currently at the top we have Trappist Westvleteren 12. This may be the most hyped and hard to obtain brew on earth these days. Having been heralded by geeks the world over as THE best beer on Earth, a guy like me cannot help but wonder if its true. Considering the length one must go to legitimately obtain a bottle, it may be a while before I get to taste test this beer. First, before heading to Belgium, one must contact the Saint Sixtus Abbey. You must make a reservation via their beer line in order to be able to purchase a case. On top of that its only sold certain dates during the year. Once you have your case reserved, you gotta go to Belgium to pick it up. Sure I could go against the Monks wishes and purchase said brew on the gray market…. I do enough to incur the lords wrath, I probably don’t need to do anything else. So do these extreme hurdles impact peoples view on this beer? I would not want to travel to Belgium only to come home with sub par beer.

On the American front we have Darklord. Again looking at the list, we have three versions of this Imperial Stout on the list. This has become the most talked about brew in the country amongst beer geeks. The release day for this brew, Darklord Day, has become the Mecca for beer geeks across the country. This brew has a very limited release period, and a heftier price tag than most beer.

There are plenty of other hyped up and hard to obtain brews around the globe. Do these brews really live up to their hype? More importantly has the hype machine forced former greats into the realm of mediocrity? Storm King used to be the top ranked brew on beeradvocate. Recently it fell off the top 100 altogether. Are the Imperial stouts on the list now better than Storm King, or just more hyped? I will admit that Storm King is not my favorite Impy stout. It has been long since replaced by Ten Fidy, Yeti, Divine Reserve #5, and recently Buried Hatchet. I still hold Storm King in high regard. I know for me, my tastes have changed. Storm King is undeniably hoppy, I have developed a slight dislike for hoppy stouts. Even so, I still wonder if I have fallen a victim to the hype as well.

One could argue that this beer is not a victim to hype. Rather this beers status is the result of better beer. This is what I hold to be true. Every brewery, new or old, has some sort of “Big Beer” series in their line up. With a lot of craft breweries creating Imperial stouts, its inevitable someone will brew a better stout. In a year, or two, or more someone will create a brew that even surpasses Dark Lord. At present I hold Ten Fidy to be the pinnacle of Imperial Stouts. Even i know that brew will get replaced someday.

In addition to quality does availability play role? Storm King is readily available year round, in plenty of markets around the country. Has its wide spread availability evened out its score? As an imperial Stout fan I try to seek any all available to me. I know what to expect and what to look for in an Imperial stout. A newcomer to the beer geek world maybe doesn’t. There thoughts and opinions have to have an impact on the brews ranking. If there first experience isn’t a positive one they may give the brew a lower score than it deserves. Also with a wider spread availability more knowledgeable drinkers can taste and weigh in. As with most polls, the larger the sample base the more accurate the results. I suppose availability does indeed play a role.

At the end of the the day we must try and look past these factors. Some brews will live up to their hype. Some brews will not. Those who make decisions based on rankings, hype, and/or availability will undoubtedly miss out on some tasty beer. This beer geek plans to drink what he like, ratings be damned!


~ by thebrewgeek on Friday, August 21, 2009.

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