The Perfect Tap List as Determined by Beer Nerds

beer taps

Over on VinePair, writer Will Gordon recently shared an interesting game/exercise: creating “16 Perfect Taps” at the hypothetical bar of your dreams. It gained some traction among beer enthusiasts across social media as drinkers compiled their own lists picking out their favorite ales and lagers to take up each tap.

I thought an interesting twist might be to make the process a little more objective, from my point of view, by using the subjective ratings provided by beer lovers across the world.

Taking Will’s outline from his post, which breaks the tap list down into 16 categories, I sourced choices from four rating sites: RateBeer, Beer Advocate, BeerGraphs and Untappd. Each website offers its own proprietary ranking system, whether a formula devised by RateBeer and Beer Advocate or the “Beers Over Replacement” of BeerGraphs. Untappd, of course, has the bottle cap rating system.

Using that base, I picked the top-ranked beers from each site with the caveat that choices from RateBeer or BeerAdvocate needed to have at least 100 rankings. I have no interest in including a beer that is very highly rated, but has only been “checked in” a dozen times.

Let’s take a look at what we’ll be drinking…

Tap 1, House IPA

  • RateBeer: Tree House Julius
  • BeerAdvocate: Tree House Julius
  • BeerGraphs: Trillium Double Dry Hopped Congress Street IPA
  • Untappd: Tree House Julius

Tap 2, House Pale Ale

  • RateBeer: Three Floyds Zombie Dust
  • BeerAdvocate: Three Floyds Zombie Dust
  • BeerGraphs: Lagunitas Born Yesterday
  • Untappd: Toppling Goliath pseudoSue

Tap 3, House Saison

  • RateBeer: Hill Farmstead Ann
  • BeerAdvocate: Hill Farmstead Ann
  • BeerGraphs: Hill Farmstead Arthur
  • Untappd: Sante Adairius Rustic Ales West Ashley

Tap 4, House Cheapie*

  • RateBeer: Stone Imperial Russian Stout
  • BeerAdvocate: Founders Breakfast Stout
  • BeerGraphs: Alpine Nelson
  • Untappd: N/A

*A note about the “cheapie” category, which is supposed to represent cost efficient choices. Instead of going that road, I looked at each listing and found the highest ranked, widely available beer, in that order. It isn’t “cheap,” in terms of cost, but it is “cheap” in terms of time and effort to find. It also speaks to these kinds of ranking systems when these are the beers that fill that qualification. Of note: Untappd did not have such a beer in its top-ranked list, which only offers one page of 36 beers.

Tap 5, House Pilsner*

  • RateBeer: Heater Allen Pils
  • Beer Advocate: The Bruery Humulus Lager (American Double/Imperial Pilsner)
  • BeerGraphs: Hertog Jan Pilsener
  • Untappd: Other Half Grits ‘n’ Greens (American – Other)

*Each site had different categorizations for pilsner, including the style specific to countries of origin. Where possible, I focused on American pilsner, but added the site category for Beer Advocate and Untappd.

Tap 6, House Porter

  • RateBeer: Hill Farmstead Everett
  • BeerAdvocate: Funky Buddha Morning Wood
  • BeerGraphs: Funky Buddha Last Snow
  • Untappd: Funky Buddha Last Snow

Tap 7, House Blue Moon Alternative

  • RateBeer: Three Floyds Gumballhead
  • BeerAdvocate: Three Floyds Gumballhead
  • BeerGraphs: Three Floyds Gumballhead
  • Untappd: Perennial Artisan Ales Funky Wit Apricot

Tap 8, House Session Beer*

  • RateBeer: Hill Farmstead Walden
  • BeerAdvocate: Alpine Hoppy Birthday
  • BeerGraphs: Maine Beer 2
  • Untappd: Lawson’s Finest Liquids Super Session #2

*Let’s be honest. Considering the popularity and proliferation of IPAs, of course these picks would be session IPAs.

Tap 9, Rotating IPA*

  • RateBeer: Tree House Alter Ego
  • BeerAdvocate: The Alchemist Focal Banger
  • BeerGraphs: Trillium Hundred Thousand Trillion
  • Untappd: The Alchemist Focal Banger

*Each of these picks were the second-highest ranked IPA on each list.

Tap 10, Rotating IPA*

  • RateBeer: Hill Farmstead Susan
  • BeerAdvocate: Tree House Green
  • BeerGraphs: Tree House Curiosity Twenty Three
  • Untappd: Trillium Double Dry Hopped Congress Street

*Each of these picks were the third-highest ranked IPA on each list.

Tap 11, Rotating Local (N/A)

If you’re interested in local options for all 50 states, I recommend visiting each ranking site’s webpage for those options.

Tap 12, Rotating Lager*

RateBeer: Great Lakes Eliot Ness (Amber/Vienna)
BeerAdvocate: Jack’s Abby Hoponius Union
BeerGraphs: Carton Brewing Sit Down Son
Untappd: Jack’s Abby Triple Dry Hopped Hoponius Union (IPL)

*Like pilsner, each site had different categorizations for lager.

Tap 13, Rotating Legend

(N/A – for best “heritage” brands, I suggest checking out this listing and analysis)

Tap 14, Rotating Wild Card*

  • RateBeer: AleSmith IPA
  • BeerAdvocate: New England Brewing Fuzzy Baby Ducks IPA
  • BeerGraphs: Other Half Street Green
  • Untappd: Tree House Alter Ego

*The first wild card tap is just the fourth-highest ranked IPA. Because IPA, duh.

Tap 15, Rotating Wild Card*

  • RateBeer: Belgian Quad
  • BeerAdvocate: Imperial Stout
  • BeerGraphs: American Pale Ale (but really IPA)
  • Untappd: Imperial Stout

*Instead of a specific beer, this rotating tap reflects exactly what a rotation should be. I took the top-ranked style from each site to reflect what that kind of style would appear to be in my make believe bar. Westy 12 has long stood atop RateBeer’s rankings and Zombie Dust kills on BeerGraphs. All stouts all the time on Beer Advocate and especially Untappd, thanks to Bourbon County Brand Stout and all its variants.

Tap 16, Rotating Craft Superstar*

  • RateBeer: AleSmith
  • BeerAdvocate: Founders
  • BeerGraphs: Goose Island
  • Untappd: Goose Island

*Like the above wild card option, I picked the most prevalent, easily found brewery on each list. Untappd is skewed because of BCBS.

What does this all mean?

It all reflects an easily expected outcome, showing that what’s new is what’s powerful. Tree House and Trillium seem to be the darlings of the beer world at the moment, thanks to their IPAs, both regular and of the New England variety. Hill Farmstead isn’t going anywhere thanks to the hype and power the brewery wields over drinkers and ratings alike.

If anything, looking at this full list of beers makes me kind of sad, although not surprised, at the repetition of brands and what they represent. It feels like a whole lot of hegemony here, but that’s how things go in consumer driven industries.

What say you, dutiful reader?

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


2 thoughts on “The Perfect Tap List as Determined by Beer Nerds

  1. Interesting exercise. You mention the fact that a relatively small number of breweries dominate the list. Even more striking is the lack of diversity. If you took out New England, California and Chicago area breweries it would be a pretty small list. No knock against the great beer being made in those locales, but many parts of the country are awash in great beer that rivals those places (fortunately).

  2. First off, enjoyed the article. To comment on your closing thoughts: We have such a great variety of choice now between beer styles and breweries that so many people are often on the lookout simply for the new beer they haven’t tried yet as opposed to sticking with the usual. (Myself included, quite often) While I’m pretty loyal in exploring what my state (NC) has to offer, I certainly don’t stick with the same beer or even the same brewery every time I’m out. There’s just constantly new things to try (and locals to support). I think that plays into the “embracing the new” trend, and I wonder when (or if) that will have more of an impact on the repetition/diversity of those lists in the longterm. Cheers!

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