Craft beer is a growing global culture and the Internet is the fermentable feeding it. There are countless beer-themed sites on the web offering interactive learning about the sudsy beverage we all love. As a bonus, these websites often offer good travel suggestions for beer hunting from Alberta to Zimbabwe.
If you love beer, pull out a brew, pull up a bar stool and join one of these interactive pubs. Although there are many great beer-oriented websites, here are two of my faves: beeradvocate.com and ratebeer.com. I recommend both websites for very different reasons.
• BeerAdvocate — The website founders, who are brothers, are punk rock when it comes to beer. This site encourages free thought as long as it pertains to beer karma and the path to beer enlightenment. The big bonus on BeerAdvocate is the suggested food and cheese pairings for styles of beer.
The one hiccup with BeerAdvocate, and other beer enthusiast websites, is that they are slanted towards big, extreme beers. Beers over eight per cent alcohol, such as double IPAs, imperial stouts and Belgian strong ales, rule the roost. Sadly, both websites adhere to what I will call the five-and-five rule — only five per cent of the top 100 beers in the world (as determined by the site) are equal to, or less than, five per cent alcohol.
• RateBeer — I love this site because it’s a statistician’s dream. RateBeer offers two sets of stats: One that tracks users and their tastes, and another that ranks the same styles of beer against each other.
Here is how the latter relates to one of Calgary’s best-brewed pints, Brewster’s Czech Pilsner. This brew is a well-made example of the classic Bohemian Pilsner, a style beer geeks tend to shun. The beauty of RateBeer is that second stat which tells you how that beer compares to all other examples of Bohemian Pilsners. Brewster’s Pilsner gets a 68 out of 100 as a basic website score, which isn’t great, but the second set of statistics are key. When compared to all other Bohemian Pilsners, it gets an 85, which means drinkers are in for a treat with this beer.
For those with smart phones, yes, there is an app for that. For iPhones, the Beer Judge Certification Style guidelines are available as a free app and have been a resource and fact-checking source for many of my articles. There’s so much information that it may make your head explode. Beer Cloud, another app, offers a quick reference for food pairings and product availability.
A word of warning: An incurable affliction known as ticking can develop from using these sites. This is where users start searching, trading and travelling in order to try more beers and boost their stats.
After a few months of drinking, thinking, smelling and writing about the beer in your hand, you’ll be able to spew beer speak with the best of them.