After the latest instalment of the Hottest 100 Craft Beers were announced on Sunday, I started to wonder if it has much of a future.
The big issue is its predictability. This year the top three were, in order, Hop Hog, Pacific Ale and Little Creatures Pale Ale. Shuffle those around and you have the top three for last year. And the year before.
On Sunday afternoon, when No4 was announced, there seemed to be a bit of a sigh from Twitter as people realised that the top three was going to feature Hog, Pacific and Pale. It felt like the announcement came as quite the anticlimax (though I’m sure it didn’t seem that way to Brendan at Feral).
The predictability continues when you pan back to look at the top 10. For the last three years four of the 10 beers have been the same – adding 4 Pines Kolsch to the three mentioned above. If you want to look at breweries, it’s five of the same. McLaren Vale was in this year and the 2011 list for the Vale Ale, while the IPA was top 10 in the 2012 contest.
Obviously a large part of the reason these beers keep appearing is their wide distribution. They’re in more bottle shops, so more people can try them and more craft beer newbies can cast a vote for them. It’s for this reason that Bridge Road-Nogne O Aurora Borealis finishing at No7 is incredibly impressive. It was a limited release 14.9 per cent Belgian quad, so for it to score enough votes to finish that high is a great feat.
This shouldn’t be misconstrued as a criticism of these beers at all. I like all of them. Well, except for the kolsch – I just find that style dull as dishwater no matter who makes it. Nor is it a dig at their wide distribution – I ain’t got no problems with that. And I’m not having a go at the newbies who vote these beers in (I assume it’s the newbie vote that’s doing it, though someone on Twitter did suggest that people might just be voting out of habit rather than genuinely thinking about the beers of the last year). The more craft beer newbies the better. Because, if more people are buying craft beer, then it follows that more craft beer will be made. Everyone wins.
And it’s not a dig at the organisers either. But I do wonder what will happen if the same beers are in the top three next year. It’s a oft-forgotten fact that Triple J’s Hottest 100 started out in 1989 as The Hottest 100 of all time. After the third year, they realised the results were largely the same. So they changed it to the best songs of the year.
I really don’t think that option is available for the Hottest 100 Beers. That would alienate a lot of the new craft beer fans because they wouldn’t recognise most of the beers on the list. Which in turn would result in fewer votes cast and the possibility of beers finishing high up on the list after getting just a handful of votes (incidentally, it would be interesting to see the vote counts for this year. I’d like to know just how many votes it takes to win).
Also – because of the large-scale distribution factor – you’d likely end up with the latest beers from the big breweries finishing in the top three each year. Finally, if the criteria was beers made in the last 12 months, I reckon that strikes out at least half of the beers on this year’s list. And a list without Bridge Road’s Beechworth Pale or Holgate’s Temptress would just seem wrong to me.
I can’t come up with a solution that addresses the issue of the same beers always winning. But I do think something needs to change because I’m sure people will lose interest in the poll if the top three remains the same next year.
Categories: beer business