Beer is often called a social lubricant by those promoting it. Not a drink for problem drinkers, right? And it's supposed to be the drink of the masses. The affordable luxury that levels the playing field. So, it is with some surprise that when Jeff proposed the broader adoption of a means, effectively, to open source the determination of a good beer, some suggested the gates to the castle should be slammed shut. The voice of exclusivity chimed in asserting that the question of what's a state's best beer can't be left to the public to determine.
Really? Has it come to this? One of the best things about beer is how well it fits in as a secondary player in a moment. Tasty but for the most part knowing how to maintain its place in the social setting. I am used to the idea that certain brewers keen on your wallet will let you know you don't really understand even as they seek to convince you that you should buy their product - you know, as a self improvement project. But to suggest that as a general matter the beer buying public should not play a role on determining what makes for the best beer to buy? Well, that is one big step past the nutty argument that price should not be a factor in the consideration of a beer's qualities.
So, as a public service, here is what I suggest would work as a mechanism to judge a best beer whether in a class or overall:
1. Limit participation in the process to beers produced within the jurisdiction by an ownership group within the jurisdiction. This will in most cases rule out international imports, border crossing national craft and macro-gak. If the question is whether this is the best beer in Manitoba or South Carolina, make sure it is actually from and formulated there.
2. Three or eleven independent and anonymous pools of certified beer judges. Rankings come out of the pools are granted a percentage of the overall scoring dependent on their harmonization. Three different results out of the pools will confirm for a given class of beer judging, the function of a judge is not determinative. 2 of 3 agree earns 50% of the weight of unanimity. No agreement, no priority.
3. Create a mechanism where the value of within jurisdiction purchases gives the beer buyer a more hefty weighting. It's not just that the public should participate but that the public should participate in the determination to the degree the person participates in the market. Every 30 bucks spent earns an extra vote. The earnest participant gets a stronger say.
Not hard rules to take on and fairly simple to implement. Swipe cards. Buy ten loaves and the stamps on a piece of paper get to free bread. And it's balanced. Both the Cracker Jack box certified and the insistent good beer fans have to prove they deserve to draw the attention away from the average joe, those being lubricated socially. Plunk that system into a jurisdiction, apply, tweek and repeat and sooner than you know it you should get an idea of what well informed people prefer and maybe what they ought to prefer.