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Do higher-ABV beers get rated higher?

It's a general rule that Americans prefer bold, highly hopped beers. But do we also have a tendency to enjoy styles with higher ABVs?

shutterstock_145775675It’s a general rule that Americans prefer bold, highly hopped beers. But do we also have a tendency to enjoy styles with higher ABVs? Does this fly in the face of the session trend?

I’m sure there are varying opinions, but it’s all speculation until someone crunches the numbers. Thankfully, there’s a person who did just that. He’s Scott Janish, a homebrewer and general beer enthusiast whose uses data to help tell some interesting stories about beer (both his and others’).

He plotted the average ABV of a beer style against its average BeerAdvocate rating (the average of all the beers in a style category), and found that, for the most part, higher-ABV beers do receive higher ratings. Styles like eisbocks, quads, and Russian imperial stouts are on the high end of both the ABV and average score spectrum, for example.

The outliers are notable, too; goses and berliner weisses tend to score high despite their low ABV, and American malt liquors score low despite their relatively high alcohol content. Give his full graph a look, and even play around with the data set for yourself.


Kate Bernot is DRAFT’s beer editor. Reach her at kate.bernot[at]draftmag.com.


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  • Dave DeSantis says:

    I weigh in agreeing that the higher ABV is a bias. Recognize that the best beer is the one you’re drinking now. Even keeping to like-style comparisons for reviews and competitions, it comes down to subjective flavor, not objective content percentages. Maybe BA should create sub-category ABV ranges for compartive ratings. That makes more sense for beer drinkers to evaluate what sounds great to try next.

  • Steve says:

    There are quite a few excellent craft brews with low ABVs and great flavor and/or that match their style appropriately. These get the ratings they deserve. Plenty of breweries release giant ABV creations that are overly sweet, too malty, without flavor, or just generally not as refined as their brethren. These brews may sometimes get artificially inflated ratings, but astute beer drinkers that also rate beer, especially using quick and easy rating apps such as Untappd seem to get things right more than they get them wrong. The power of social, uncomplicated beer ratings works well.

  • Tap and Handle says:

    While high ABV beers get the higher ratings, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are consumed more than others. We see lower rated kegs move faster than higher rated beers all the time. Maybe “too much of a good thing” comes into play… Maybe only the people that like higher ABV beers are voting… Maybe our ratings are purely an American, bigger is better mentality… End of the day, the best beer IS the one in your hand and the ratings only give the connoisseur a partial if not biased view of the beer drinking experience. Or… maybe it’s a Budweiser global campaign to let the best duke it out and let mediocrity reign!

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