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I love lists and anything that gets people talking about good beer, so when Wine Enthusiast put out their first-ever top 25 beers list for 2009, my eyebrows rose up to about the back of my head. My immediate take was that it was a limited list — author Lauren Buzzeo writes in the introduction that she could only choose from beers tasted in the magazine that year. But overall it’s a decent array of good beer, from exquisite and obscure sour beers like Russian River Beatification at #10 to plain-Jane Sam Adams at #18. Considering that Buzzeo had limited beers to pick from, and had to span several brewing styles and mention beers available to their entire national readership, she did a good job, and did her readers a service. It’s not the best in the world; it’s just a good list of good beers.
Other beer drinkers took notice, too; a message board discussion on Beer Advocate lit up with both criticism and tempered praise for the mag’s selections. Kind words mostly echoed commenter reddomino‘s sentiments of “Probably the best ‘Best Beer’ list that I’ve ever seen from a main stream (sic) publication that isn’t beer-centric,” while critics noted the gaping holes: no stouts or IPAs made the list, nor did any beer from Germany. Some commenters, such as GRG1313, were harsher:
This top 25 from Wine Enthusiast is nuts!…My opinion is that this is simply a second class wine publication trying to cash in on the great current rise in popularity of beer and that beer may well be “taking over” the wine market along with the “cool” factor that goes with it.
I e-mailed Buzzeo and asked her to tell me more about how she viewed her beer list. Here’s a part of her response, put perfectly:
This list is about advocating beer and blurring the lines dividing the wine and beer worlds. The list, and the reviews I generate year-round in the beer buying guide, are a starting point of reference for so many people. My reviews and rankings are not the words of the gods, but simply one journalist’s educated opinion and assessment. I don’t want people to just trust my reviews, I want them to read them, become interested or intrigued, and go out and try the beers for themselves and formulate their own opinions! Wine and beer tastings are subjective and personal, and while there will always be people who disagree, the ultimate goal of education, information and spreading the word remains achieved.