A Whole New World? The Geography of RateBeer Rankings


Today we take a break from Monday’s RateBeer number crunching, but don’t worry, it’s back on Friday.

From part one of this series on our beer-related behavior, RateBeer.com’s rankings showed us how much beer nerds from around the world LOVE imperial stouts. Especially well-made rare ones.

Then again, don’t just take my word for it:

While limited-release imperial stouts will likely always end up high on beer rankings, that trend may be slowly changing. In the last couple years, other styles have been clawing their way toward top spots thanks to an increase of innovative breweries like Vermont’s Hill Farmstead and Florida’s Cigar City.

These tasty brews are important for changing the way we think about beer and what we like, but just as important is the geographical location. When we talk about global beer production – especially that of the top-ranked beers in the world – it’s increasingly becoming something of an “Old World” vs. “New World” situation.

For example, check out this map of breweries that produced the top-20 beers according to RateBeer rankings. (WordPress restrictions won’t allow me to embed the map, so please use the link to access it or click the image below)

The yellow stars are breweries that made top-20 beers on the 2006 list and the orange pins represent the 2013 breweries:


In 2006, top beers came from the no-brainers that you’d expect, including Belgium and original US craft havens from the Mid-West (Bells, Goose Island) and Colorado. But notice the 2013 locations showcase the hot spots of American beer production that have exploded in the last few years, including the Northeast, Southeast and West Coast.

If we look back to my post “How (and Where) We Search for Craft Beer,” you may recall this GIF’d map, showing American searches for the term “craft beer.” Using this as a baseline, perhaps it makes sense that American interest, as shown through Google searches, has matched the growth and popularity of areas now producing some of the top beers in the world, according to RateBeer users:

test craft beer on Make A Gif*The darker the color, the greater volume of searches

Sure, California has been a pivotal piece of the US craft beer movement for decades, but places like Stone, Firestone Walker and Russian River didn’t hit global popularity among beer nerds until somewhat recently. Then, their brands started cracking RateBeer’s top spots.

Given that RateBeer users aren’t just American, this highlights the fact that these rankings aren’t  just a matter of patriotism. The appreciation for what American breweries create just keeps going up and as we saw on Monday, it’s American experimentation to create a variety of flavors and styles that’s capturing a global audience.


So what have I learned so far? Well, if you’re opening a brewery, make sure to have a tasty, seasonal imperial stout planned, especially one in the 9 to 11 percent ABV range. But it also helps to diversify your brand lineup outside of that or a requisite IPA. It doesn’t hurt to be in the U.S. right now, either.

What really excites me, though, is the growing diversity of popular, highly-regarded choices. Both geographically and stylistically, it’s an amazing time to be a beer drinker. As if you didn’t know that already.

On Friday, I’ll wrap this up with some more nerdy data to showcase the changing palate of beer drinkers and include some fun trivia for you.

Drop me a note below and let me know about how the changing craft beer scene has impacted you. Especially if your area is gaining recognition for awesome beer.

+Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac


10 thoughts on “A Whole New World? The Geography of RateBeer Rankings

  1. I am totally jealous of your gifs. Or should I say gealous of your gifs? Either way…

    I like this series. Keep up the solid work.

    1. Choosey bloggers choose GIFs.

      Thanks, man. I think Friday’s post will have some fun trivia pieces to it.

  2. Great article. Terrible use of the Unhelpful High School Teacher meme though!

  3. BTW, you should be able to insert a Google Map into your post by pasting the iframe link into your post somewhere.

    See: http://en.support.wordpress.com/google-maps/

    1. Have you had luck with this? I have the free version, which wasn’t taking the iframe copy/paste from Google. Will try again, though!

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