At hornface.com, a star system is used to rate things, products, etc.–like the craft beer reviewed by this Examiner–but unlike other products, craft brewed beer is a matter of personal taste and opinion. It is not a vacuum cleaner that works well, works sort-of-OK, or does not work well at all; craft beer is as complex and varied as the tastes and palates of those who enjoy it. That being said, it seems some explanation should be in order to clarify a five-star system that, while used to rate beer as well as kitchen gadgets, is not necessarily going to function in exactly the same capacity (i.e., one star: worst, five stars: best). There is more fluidity and crossing over. Here are the star ratings as they pertain to this Craft Beer Examiner:
Five stars: A “five” does not inescapably mean “highest rating,” but a beer with this rating is personal favorite of this Examiner. The Earth may not move when you try it, but it did when this Examiner took a swig. Granted, different folks have different styles they enjoy over others, such as stouts over pilsners or Belgians over barleywine, but any craft beer connoisseur of taste will admit to a superior quality in this beer. A brew that stands out from the rest.
Four stars: Perhaps not a desert island all time favorite of this Examiner, but certainly much enjoyment and deliciousness is to be had. Again, a true connisseur will recognize superior quality even if it is not one’s personal cup o’ tea (or beer). A superb brew. “Fours” and “fives” are close to, if not equal, in excellence.
Three stars: “Three” would normally denote average or maybe neutral in other rating systems, but deviation once again rears its head. According to this Examiner, most will glean some gratification from experiencing this beer; however, it is not up to par with a four or five star brew. That being said, this is a solid brew, and for the most part above average.
Two stars: This is a beer referred to by this Examiner as an “adventure” brew. Not a fundamentally horrible beer or by any means undrinkable, but something is definitely missing in the taste from a lack in recipe, time and attention, or ingredients. Or, if not in these areas, something strange or outlandish is afoot in this brew–hence, adventure! This is not a beer to be automatically passed over because of a two star rating but is also to be experienced.
One Star: A flawed beer. If not wholly unappealing in taste, it displays some unacceptable deviation in style. Um, adventure? Only the most daring!
There you have it. The vast majority of craft brewers put immense amounts of effort and love into their, well, craft, with their consumers’ as well as their own enjoyment in mind. It is for this reason that more “fours” are awarded than “twos.” “Ones” will be quite a rarity, in fact, because it is difficult to ruin something that one puts so much time and attention into creating.
As to personal preferences, there is no accounting. There are hop-heads and malt-lovers, people who like porter and people who like hefeweizen. Some people will inevitably find their favorite beer reviewed as a “two” and others will think a “five” beer tastes awful, and that is okay. As beer industry writer Harry Schuhmacher puts it, “…if you aren’t pissing off at least twenty-five percent of your readers at any given time, then you aren’t doing your job.” That may or may not be true, but what is true is that all craft beer is to be experienced and discussed; that is the whole point, so adventure on pathfinders of porter, swashbucklers of stout, inquisitors of IPA, and daredevils of doppelbock. Bottoms up!