Objectivity and Subjectivity in Craft Beer

The Hall of Taps was designed out of people’s subjective opinion on each craft beer. Not to say that that everyone person has an opinion about every possible craft beer, but rather people have subjective (and unique) opinions about the different craft beers which they have drank and then rated on Untappd. There are currently over 200,000 beers with rankings from Untappd in our database. 200,000 beers that all have been tasted and then given a rating on Untappd. A number that grows with each new craft beer release and beer festival, and really each day. Despite the fact that each beer is rated on a subjective opinion of what an individual thinks of a particular craft beer, the hall of taps makes an attempt to objectively rate each beer on subjective data.  Our purpose then, is to find (1) if using Untappd data in the hall rating formula is a worthwhile endeavor (2) looking at some beers discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the hall rating and finally (3) indentify the challenges of craft beer subjectivity and how both the hall rating and Untappd Data can work together to find objectively good craft beers.

Untappd Data and The Hall Rating

The Hall of Taps makes an attempt to find the best craft beers without any sort bias. It also rates each craft beer seemingly without a bias of some sort. But, doesn’t using Untappd ratings undermine the whole process itself? Well, not exactly or at least not in the sense which you might be thinking. Right away, you might be inclined to think that beers with 100,000 or ratings will have a better hall rating than beers that have less than that number.  But, that isn’t always the case. Using Log10 (a mathematical formula) we essentially greatly level the playing field for a beer with 100,000 check-ins vs. one with only 1,000 check-ins. Simplified, Craft Beer A has 100,000 check-ins. It’s Hall Volume becomes 5. Craft Beer B has only 1,000 check-ins, but using LOG10 it’s Hall Volume becomes 3. A much more level playing field than before we applied Log10. So, when tons and tons of people check-in Bud Light on Untappd and give it an unfavorable rating, it allows for a beer like Cranium Crush to make up ground on the Hall Rating.  So, while we are using subjective data from Untappd, we are finding ways to handicap the data (in a sense) so that it becomes as objective as possible.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Hall Rating

That’s not to say that the Hall Rating is perfect, nothing is without fault. That’s why we are going to look at what’s bad about the hall rating as well as what is good about the hall rating. Down and dirty to start though the bad and ugly of the hall rating. The worst thing (also a big factor) in the hall rating in Untappd Ratings. Which is the most subjective data variable in the formula. Imagine if 500,000 people were to give bud light (intentionally) a rating of 1 star on Untappd. That would greatly skew its hall rating. Imagine the other side of that hand as well, 500,000 people give Watermelon Dorado a perfect rating of 5 on Untappd. That would as well skew its hall rating. Using Untappd data is one of the biggest weaknesses of the hall rating. It’s not like baseball where the better players will have a better batting average or strikeout rate. The Hall Rating roots itself in opinionated data, which can be problematic.

At the same time, though, it’s a good thing for the Hall rating. Subjective data is what we want. That’s the only way we are going to determine what beers are good. After all, people will drink good beers and give them good ratings, whether it’s 1,000 people or 100,000 people, people will drink what they think is a good beer. But, there will be some individuals who don’t enjoy a stout as much as the next, which is why beers with a 5 rating on Untappd are almost non-existent. But enough people give beers a favorable rating (over the individuals who give a beer an unfavorable rating) to balance out a beer and make the rating as objective as it can be.

The Challenges of Beer Opinions

 

I may like DIPA’s and you may prefer Porters, which can be be a challenge when trying to quantify what is a “good craft beer”. Of course, the problem could be remedied by me putting my favorite DIPA in a backdrop of other DIPA’s. But, that’s too easy. Then there’s macro mass produced beers versus nanobrewed craft beers. These are challenges faced by the subjectivity of craft beer. It’s very possible that your favorite craft beer is your own wheat ale homebrew that you have only ever shared with a select few. It would never make it on Untappd and then never ranked and never found to be put in the Hall of Taps.  Together, though as Untappd data becomes more available, the hall rating comes into pit a beer with 1,000 check-ins verse a beer with 100,000 check-ins and levels the playing field. Untappd is a mobile app and as more users than RateBeer and is rapidly becoming the dominant beer ranking application. Which is why it makes sense to stick to using only one (and such a dominant) craft beer platform.

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