beer business

Hottest 100, where to from here?

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.h100

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.

10 replies »

  1. With all the fierce debate around it (and I think I may have been the one who said people are voting out of habit), I’m not sure anything needs to be changed.

    It’s a bit of fun at the end of the day.

    I would be surprised if the top 10 is the same next year as more breweries spring up I think more people are supporting the smaller guys and I reckon things such as LCPA will slowly begin to lose their sheen.

    A lot of breweries are just starting out and expanding at the moment so I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing Two Birds, Riverside, Brewcult, Dainton and Black Dog getting top 10 finishes soon.

    And just think how sweet it will be when we all agree something has beaten Hop Hog!

    • Yep, it was you who made that comment to me on Twitter. While it is fun, I wonder if it’d still be fun if the same beers win year after year.
      But if one of those beers get knocked out of the top three – preferably by a new beer – then the organisers don’t have to do a thing. The concept is revitalised on its own.
      Guess we have to wait and see what happens in 12 months time.
      And, for the record, I like the idea of voting for the Hottest 100 beers.

      • Classic me.

        Tbh, I’m more annoyed with a few of the incredibly bland beers that made it in. A couple of the top 10 are just completely “eh”. Does Vale Ale have that much of a following? 4 Pines Kolsch?

      • I don’t mind a Vale Ale – goes down nicely on a warm day. That and the 4 Pines beers have a lot of distribution so they’ll be the beers that most people think of when they think “craft beer”.
        I know I was like that – and I was amazed when I found out how much other craft beer there was out there.

  2. Won’t let me reply to your last comment – I should say, I don’t have anything against those beers as such, they just seem unlikely (living in the actual craft beer bubble strikes again).

    Maybe, as someone suggested, open it up to NZ as well. I bet that would shake things up a bit.

    • I totally get the “living in the craft beer bubble” feeling. It’s why I like to go to Dan Murphy’s and see what people take to the registers. Helps me recalibrate to reality.

  3. I do agree.

    And as I’ve posted about myself, the best solution I can think of is to limit the poll to only new beers from the previous calendar year…but is the industry ready for that amount of turn-over yet to adequately fill 100 hot places? I agree with your point that it could alienate many “new craft beer” drinkers.

    I’m also with you on thinking that those top 3 beers are unlikely to stay there forever, so let’s not grumble too soon.

    I still question the “distribution” impact factor though. Moo Brew, The Little Brewing Company, Redoak and Mildura Brewery all have distribution through BWS and Dan Murphys, yet none of them polled.

    And then the limited and pricey Aurora Borealis and Jumping The Shark further negate the distribution argument.

    I generally put down the 4 Pines and Vale results to their marketing strategies and maybe some campaigning.

    All in all, I love the fun of the poll and the Aussie beer conversation it drives. I think the Local Taphouse team a brilliant for building the poll into what it is today. It’s only going to get bigger.

    Great post!

  4. Good Post on the Hottest 100. It was my post that caused some of the fierce debate on some of the inadequacies of the poll as the way I saw it. Some took it too personally, which doesn’t phase me.
    The top 50 beers and bars from the major beer sites always come under criticism from the beer fraternity over scores/judging or the year Rahr Brewing won top brewery in the US.
    Like you I feel the poll will merge into irrelevance in another year or so if we don’t modify as a collective community the sorts of poll that would improve the results overall. I’m 100% behind promoting Craft Beer as its a great story but less about promoting mediocrity in the sector.

    I think every beer blogger or twitter person should suggest ideas for improvement, much like what happened in the Triple J poll. Those running the poll can take on board some of the good ideas or none.

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