Month: November 2014

The Top Beers Brewed in New York City: BierWAX Edition

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With all of the new breweries popping up in New York City, how can one figure out which breweries and beers are a cut above the rest?  Luckily, the blog brewyorknewyork.com made it easier for New York craft beer drinkers to see which breweries are churning out product of the highest quality. In their October 28, 2014 article titled “The Top Beers Brewed in New York City: Fall Edition,”  they used data from the popular craft beer app Untappd to rank the best beers and breweries in the Big Apple.

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Here is the methodology they used for their rankings:

We pulled the ratings for every beer brewed in New York City and their ratings. We also had a cutoff of minimum check-ins (100) for a beer in order for it to be included, so we could get a fair sample size. This means some smaller, newer breweries weren’t included, and only beers brewed in New York City by breweries that also brew outside (Brooklyn, Sixpoint, Bronx) were included. We also excluded one-off beers that are out of production or have been relatively inactive on Untappd for more than one year.

Breweries that have several beers on rotation with stellar ratings on Untappd found themselves at the top of the list. I wasn’t surprised by Other Half claiming the coveted number one position with their recent incredible releases such as Green Diamonds and All Green Everything. However, for Brooklyn Brewery to come in at number two makes me question the integrity of Untappd data and reminds me that the New York City craft beer scene has a long way to go.

Here is the Brew York breakdown by brewery:

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I wasn’t satisfied with this ranking at all. I trust Brew York’s methodology, but I don’t think Untappd as a craft beer community could provide reliable data. (More about that later.) What I decided to do is to use a similar methodology as Brew York, but substitute Beer Advocate for Untappd.  Here is what I uncovered.

Brewery Weighted Rating Beer Advocate Rating
Other Half Brewing Co. 93 98
Sixpoint Brewery 90 92
Singlecut Beersmiths 87 95
Brooklyn Brewery 87 87
Kelso 86 not rated

The weighted rating was based on each brewery’s five most rated beers on Beer Advocate. I calculated the weighted average of the five beers for each brewery. Some of my favorite new breweries in NYC didn’t make the cut, as they didn’t have nearly enough ratings. Finback, Transmitter, and Gun Hill do not have any beers that have been rated by at least 50 people on Beer Advocate. As you can see, Brooklyn Brewery is second to last using Beer Advocate data.

Here’s a comparison of the highest rated beers on Untappd and Beer Advocate. Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Ops is a great beer, but number one beer in NYC?  NO WAY!

Brew York’s List (based on Untappd)

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BierWAX’s list (based on Beer Advocate)

Brewery Beer Rating
Other Half All Green Everything 97
Other Half Green Diamonds 94
Other Half Citra 93
Other Half Hop Showers 93
Sixpoint Hi-Res 93
Singlecut Beersmiths Billy Full Stack DIPA 93
Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout 93
Brooklyn Brewery Black Ops 93
Kelso Industrial Pale Ale 93
Sixpoint Resin 92

I do have to give props to Untappd for their slick and easy to use app. Compared to the design of the BeerAdvocate app, stylistically Untappd is miles ahead. I am very interested in a demographic comparison between Untappd users versus Beer Advocate members. Which community is comprised of more seasoned craft beer drinkers as opposed to craft beer newbies? Indeed, this would impact the accuracy of the site’s beer ratings. My hunch, not grounded in data at all, is that Untappd has a large number of members who are fairly new to the craft beer scene. I’m all for an app that makes it easier for new craft beer drinkers to explore other beers, beer styles, and breweries. Untappd has done a great job building on the momentum of the exploding craft beer scene across the country.

Beer Advocate is not without its own flaws. The site as a whole tends to favor DIPAs, Imperial Stouts, and one-off beers that are almost impossible to find unless you wait on line for half a day. Very good lagers and other excellent lower ABV craft beers barely pass the high 80s grade on Beer Advocate, so no beer rating community is without its own idiosyncrasies.

I salute Brew York for doing this regular rundown of the best beers and breweries in NYC. I’m curious to see how things change by next season. I wonder if they would consider utilizing Beer Advocate and perhaps RateBeer in addition to Untappd for future editions of this NYC best-of list?

Addendum:  I have been in touch with Brew York via Twitter and they offered these comments with regard to why they feel Untappd is the better craft beer community to rely on for drinking data.  Read from bottom up!

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Thanks to the good folks at Brew York for offering their contrasting point of view.  Hey, I might even rejoin Untappd now!

The Arsonists (from the Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito Radio Show Vaults)

More beer coming soon! I’m trying to set up a BierWAX visit to Other Half Brewing Company to get some behind the scenes shots. I’m also sitting on some photos from my trip up to Ithaca Beer Company over the summer. More music, for now. I’m having too much fun rediscovering these cassette tapes which have been sitting in shoeboxes for too long. Enjoy!

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The Arsonists 

Driving up to Binghamton, New York with a random assortment of emcees was an experience I’ll never forget. My brother from another mother Reals TCK ran a radio show up at Binghamton University called Tae Kwon Flows, named after a line from the Arsonists’ first single “The Session.” I helped him coordinate a hip hop show in Binghamton. I don’t remember if it was hosted by his show or one of the many student groups on campus. I do remember that I was asked to pick up the Arsonists somewhere in Manhattan and drive them up to Binghamton, a 4-hour drive. On a broke student budget, we had enough funds to rent a wreck. I think that’s what the car-rental company was actually called. I pulled up to the designated curb in a beat-up extra long van. The 4-hour drive was a blur of disses back and forth, D-Story and Kinetic clowning each other, and other shenanigans from the group of talented emcees who were trying to establish a name for themselves in the burgeoning independent hip hop scene of the late 1990s. The performance was filled with plenty of charisma and energy, as captured in the first appearance of the Arsonists on the DJ Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Radio Show on 89Tek9 below.

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After releasing their LP, As the World Burns, the Arsonists shrunk in size from eight members to eventually three. The group quietly released another album in 2001 and continued to tour. A third LP was in the works, but never saw the light of day. Q-Unique, D-Stroy, Freestyle, Jise, and Swel continue to raise aloft the Arsonists’ banner, while focusing on their individual projects.

Sometimes you never know where you might bump into a former Arsonists member.  Here we are with Kinetic at the NYC Craft Beer Festival, a BierWAX moment for sure.

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