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February 12, 2010

RateBeer's annual Best of 2010 list is out

beer goggles

This bloggy needs no introduction. Take it away, guest poster Alexander D. Mitchell IV

RateBeer, one of several noted Web sites devoted to consolidating reviews of beers, breweries, bars and retailers from around the world (but with an emphasis on North America), has released its annual "Best Of 2010" listings based on reviews submitted by the site's registered users.

Several local beer spots made the annual rankings. In liquor stores with beer selections, State Line Liquors of Elkton, Md., was rated #18, and The Perfect Pour, a relatively new shop in Elkridge/Columbia, Md. was rated #43.

In beer bars, Max's Taphouse ranked #23, bumping down a few places from last year's ranking of #14, and Frisco Grille & Cantina in Columbia rated #46.

Among brewpubs -- establishments brewing their own beer for serving -- Baltimore's The Brewer's Art rated #37, a slight slip from last year's #30 rating.  Feel free to peruse all the ratings here. ...

In their Best Brewers of the World compilation, Dogfish Head of Milton, Delaware scored #28, just edging out the popular Port Brewing/Lost Abbey of California, and Flying Dog of Frederick, Maryland (the third brewery in what started as Blue Ridge Brewing Co.) rated #92. Several Pennsylvania breweries, including Victory, Weyerbacher, and Troeg's, also scored in the top 100.

The obvious question arises from such ratings: Are these ratings worth a warm Natural Light? Are they the least bit meaningful, or are they just the rantings of a bunch of hoity-toity beer geeks and electronic ballot box stuffers?

As it turns out, it's probably better than it looks. RateBeer has a few checks in place to avoid what would otherwise be the inevitable vote tampering that makes many such review sites utterly worthless.

First, a reviewer must complete reviews of at least ten different beers or places before his or her scores are counted toward the total of a beer or place, which helps to cut down on the one-off reviews from folks whose friend works at a place or who are desperate to trash a place that they feel was lousy.  Second, the aggregate scores are weighted mathematically against the numbers of reviews.  These scorings do mean much more than, say, the comments section of a random blog or news site.

One can still find much to criticize in the system, though. If one pokes about in the right places on the Web site, they can discover that Pennsylvania has garnered three times as many beer ratings as Maryland.

The most puzzling thing I found in a cursory examination of Maryland's listings was a "fair" rating for DuClaw's Arundel Mills location and an "exceptional" rating for the chain's Bowie Town Center location -- in spite of serving the same beers in the same decor. The same situation befalls the Pratt Street Ale House and its ancestor, Fells Point's Wharf Rat: "fair" for the brewpub and "exceptional" for what had been the "tied house."

All in all, serious beer geeks could rant on as much about these ratings and their worth as people will no doubt rant about Olympic scores in a few days or weeks, and for the same reasons: All of these places and beers are so high in their fields that the differences can come down to a few hundredths of a second or point, the prejudices of one judge over another, or one random "oops" at the wrong time.

They're still doing far better making or selling good beer than just about anyone else reading these words ever will.

But if nothing else, RateBeer could probably use a few more Maryland contributors.

(AP photo)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:30 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


My boyfriend and I have driven the 100+ mile round trip to visit State Line Liquors. The next time any of you do it, be sure to stop for crab cakes at Box Hill in Bel Aire. It makes a great day trip!

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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