How the critics chose

Creating a favourite beer list is an incredibly difficult thing. Is Australia’s ‘best’ beer an esoteric beer that only five true beer aficionados really appreciate, or some hop monster that is more in the way of trial by ordeal to test the drinker’s beer cojones. Or is the best beer the one that you choose when you want to introduce non-beer loving friends to great beer? Or is the best beer your ‘go to’ beer, the one you always have in the fridge and drink most often?

What goes on in the critics mind?

These are questions that the Critics Choice: Australia’s Best Beers set out to answer. Judging a beer according to the BJCP style guidelines while wearing a white coat is all well and good for beer competitions. But does it end up telling you the ‘best’ beer, or simplythe one that meets the guidelines the best?

The publishers of the Critics’ Choice decided the best way to choose the best beer was to approach 39 respected beer people – people from from all states and from all the corners of the beer world, including brewers, retailers, beer bar managers and beer writers and critics – and ask them to name their fifty best beers.

The criteria was simple. Beers could be chosen without too much concern for technical ‘specs’ or detailed sales figures. Beers could be selected based on the personal experience of the panel, or because it represents a great interpretation of a lost or forgotten style or one that’s tricky to brew. A retailer might choose a beer based on general sales or because a particular beer just seems to walk out the door whenever new stock arrived. It might just be a beer that stuck out in the judges memory as a beer that they really enjoyed.

The criteria for a ‘great’ beer cannot truly be set as every beer lover will have their own subjective basis for deciding, but if you get enough critics voting you will end up with a pretty comprehensive and compelling list.

To nominate their beers, each member of the panel was asked to complete a voting form in secret in which they listed their favourite Australian beers available during the 2010 calendar year. Bottles or cans, on tap or straight from the conditioning tank, it didn’t matter. Bought from bars, pubs, restaurants, from the brewery itself or other beer-related festivals and events – they were all eligible.

The voting panel members then ranked their choices. When the votes were tallied, each first-ranked beer received fifty points, the second 49 points and so on down the list. The number one beer received the highest number of points.

The overall result is the broadest selection of Australian beers ranked from one to one hundred. It is almost guaranteed that not all will agree with the selections, but the great thing about beer is that at the end of the day the best beer is the one that YOU enjoy most.

However, the combined votes of some of Australia’s best beer minds gives beer drinkers the experience and knowledge they need to negotiate the crowded aisles of beer shops and the taps and fridges of the bars and pubs when next they venture out for a cleansing ale. Or a refreshing Kolsch? Or maybe a crisp Pilsner? How about a Saison or a Trappist Ale or a … ?

The Critics’ Choice: Australia’s Best Beers
RRP $14.95
Available from bookstores & newsagents from April 1, 2011

We’re giving readers a chance to win one of four copies of The Critics Choice: Australia’s Best Beers. Just tell us in the comments below which beer you think should be the choice for Australia’s best beer. Winners will be chosen at random from the comments.

Back to Historical