10.000. Ten Thousand. A nice round number, the first whole 5-digit number. A number that has gotten more attention since Malcolm Gladwell applied it to the theory that you need 10.000 hours of practice to achieve a mastery in something, whether it is music, technology or knitting. On these pages we talked about someone who reached a 10.000 number when Harry Pinkster collected his 10.000th beer label, drinking all those 10.000 in the process.
Someone else who reached the 10.000 mark caught my attention when he entered his 10.000th rating on the site Ratebeer. Whenever I add a rating of a Dutch beer the chances are high that the first rating there is done by someone who calls himself ‘bierkoning’ and who on his profile is kind enough to mention straight away that he is not in any way connected to that great store in Amsterdam. Who is this king of beer? His name is Edo van Bree and he lives very close to the German border in Lattrop-Breklenkamp in Twente, another hotbed of great Dutch beer culture. I asked Edo some questions about his beer drinking history and his experiences with using Ratebeer.
The days before Ratebeer
Edo started using Ratebeer way back in 2002 but that doesn’t mean that was the first time he started rating. Between 1990 and 1995 he wrote his tasting notes in a book about Belgian and Dutch beers by Peter Crombecq. This wasn’t the only place: “Before that I had a notebook with some ratings from the 80s and 90’s but that unfortunately got lost during a move.”
The advantages of Ratebeer
Edo: “it is a great source of information about beer because it has all the essential information. Where can you get beer, what breweries and beers are there and it also gives ratings of these beers and places. Though the ratings are of course a matter of taste, the real good beers tend to shine through. It is also a way to keep track of what you have had and to show others. The real advantage is the group of people you meet who share your hobby.”
Edo is not a beer-hunter in that he hunts for hunts’ sake. The ‘white whales’ are great when you encounter them. From the ratings it shows that he likes his framboises and he thinks it’s a shame that he could never taste the 3 Fonteinen Framboos or other one-off Cantillon or 3 Fonteinen beers. But spend hundreds of Euros to travel to the US or Finland for a special beer, no, he won’t do that. And maybe it helps that even for people like Edo it is getting harder and harder to keep up with the beers from Holland alone.
“I often hear from people who know about these things that the technology is outdated, but I cannot Judge that. I do think the site is often very slow and I am afraid that one day if will be hacked, because of that I have a backup file just in case something happens. Another thing I don’t particularly like are the awards given out after reaching some milestone”. Ratebeer does indeed do what a lot of sites do these days, but at least they are not going overboard like Untappd where you get one almost every 5 beers.
Inflated figures – the tasting group problem
Whenever I am festivals I see a big group of people tasting different beers, often on the basis of just a few sips. I personally avoid doing this. For starters the rating I leave behind on Ratebeer are mostly for myself and not to show off. Also, good beers can change during drinking with changing temperatures. Edo agrees but sometimes has to give in at festivals like Borefts or when he is at a tasting. And sometimes it turns out that his rating on the basis of those few sips wasn’t too bad after all.
The scoring system
The scoring system has come under some scrutiny. You rate according to 4 categories: Appearance (1-5), Aroma (1-10), Taste (1-10) and Palate (1-5). After rating the beer on these characteristics you add an overall score from 1-20. For me the Appearance and Aroma cause some trouble. A very good beer might be ugly and have no aroma, and this will lead to a lower rating though the beer .
Edo thinks the system works fine, he places the emphasis on the Overall score because this can correct some of the score. The real rating is in your head and pen. The other categories just help out a little.
A shift in beer
Because of his experience of drinking beer over the last three decades he has seen the beer landscape in the country change: “In the last decade the enjoyment of beer has totally changed, and so has the group: a lot more younger people and women are now enjoying beer. There is a shift from Belgian beers to Dutch, Danish and American beers, which really means a shift to more sour and bitter beers.“
Ratebeer for me is a great tool to keep track of what I have tried and what I thought of it. It’s certainly not tight fit because my taste has changed and some of the beers have changed as well. Yet it is always something I look at when I am in a store or café to make sure I am not having something bad a second time. When a box is not ticked, hurrah for me and the new beer I will have. Another advantage is that when I go to a new country or city Ratebeer will have a list of beer places there. The database is filled by the users which I enjoy as well when you can add a new places. This can actually help the brewers because they can track the places their beer is sold. And I have to thank the ‘bierkoning’ Edo van Bree, often new beers, places and breweries are added by him, he is one of those people who is one of those little cogs in the machine that is powering the Dutch Craft Beer Revolution.
I am at 1600+ ratings now and even though I think that that is not bad for a 5 year period, it is dwarfed by what other raters have done so far with numbers easily over the 10,000 and even 20,000.
bierkoning‘s account (as of posting this he is at 10381),
or dutchbeerpages for this blog (1633, I really have some tasting to do…)