It came to mind when I saw that Beer Advocate moved to a numerical scale, abandoning the far superior less granular alphabetical scale of elementary school report cards. The nicest thing about the alphabetical scale is that you could appreciate that the function of measuring was not as serious as other tasks in life. No more. Now we have to have a minor in trig to follow the conversation. So, needing to ensure that the proper level of attention is paid to the fundamental unimportance of even deciding which beer rated a B+ is better than the other, I propose that we adopt a new standard for appreciating and describing our understanding of beer devoid of references to style, geography, perceived hipness of manufacturing method or trendiness of brewer's PR savvy - all of which is reflected in a single symbol or a circle.
♦ The most obvious characteristic of a beer is its alcoholic strength. A drinker need not be in the same room as a beer, need not know anything else to be turned off by a beer that is 3% or 11%. The former may represent a waste of time or a blessing while the latter most often suggests someone has a little problem. This shall be illustrated by the size of the circle, the bigger the circle the stronger the beer;
♦ Next comes colour and apparent carbonation level (AVL). Nothing turns off a person who is not within the inner circle of beerdom than a beer that looks wrong. If a beer should be golden and clear, a dark one looks like gak. If a beer should be as active as champagne, a still one looks dead. This shall be illustrated by the colour of the circle which, if the beer is excessively bubbly, shall also be polka-dotted;
♦ After strength and appearance comes smell (S). Nature served mankind well when it gave us the instinct to refuse and even run from strange and unusual sources of smell. If you smell furniture polish, you know you should not put it in your mouth. If you sense notes of gasoline, no one in their right mind takes a sip. This shall be reflected in the uniformity of the circle. The more uniform the circle the more balanced the aroma;
♦ One last factor, price, is hard to place as it is dependent on the amount of it one has. To a well off person or one with a steady supply of free or low cost beer, price is less important that it is to most people. However, most people who write about beer are most of the people who have reduced cost access to beer. This leads to the problem that beer is most often described by people who have less investment in the beer than those who are expected to read the description. There, therefore, a sliding scale, an indirect ratio that reflects the percentage the investment represents in each person's discretionary spending ($$$$>$$$-->$). This shall be reflected in the thickness of the circle.
Note: there is not even one reference to taste, viscosity or the way the beer plays out from tip of the tongue to the final foamy swallow. There are also no measures related the degree to which this or that brew triggers happy memories of undergrad or even sunny summer days of childhood. These things are secondary and within the post-rating realm of subjective pleasurable comment. All the rating system does and needs to do is confirm the key decision making data that is vital to the prospective drinker. If the beer is too strong, looks funny, smells off or costs too much, 99.87% of humans will not make the decision to drink it. But if you like the way it tastes I might not. But most likely I don't care.
Remember, the thing is not so much that rating as we know it today is improper so much as the way it is unnecessary to the fundamental question. The best beer describer out there as far as I am concerned is the Beer Nut of Ireland (aka BNOI) who uses words to describe perceptions as in this morning's post. While he has yet to adopt the measuring tools which I am proposing the world adopt as set out above, he certainly leads the way in confirming that once one has acquired the beer it is a bit of a crap shoot more about personal preference than any objective truth. And once we accept that, beer functions as it should - as brief relief from the cares of life.