STORY WRITTEN BY MATT BRASCH
For Digital First Media
Many people say that the Philadelphia area has an amazing beer scene, but as with all things of personal taste, it can be difficult to find facts and figures to support such a subjective opinion. However, there may be some data to back up that statement. On Jan. 30, beer review website Ratebeer.com released its 2015 list of “Top Brewers in the World,” which included three breweries from the Philadelphia region — Forest & Main Brewing Co. in Ambler, Victory Brewing Co. in Downingtown, and Tired Hands Brewing in Ardmore.
As described on its home page, “RateBeer is an independent world site for craft beer enthusiasts…Since May 2000, RateBeer has remained an active forum for beer lovers to come together and share opinions of beers, and beer retailers in a free environment.” For those who have not visited the Ratebeer website: when a Ratebeer user drinks a beer, they log into the website, search for the beer and then give it a rating and a narrative description. These ratings can be a useful resource for someone who wants to find a specific beer in their area, or when someone is deciding to drink a specific beer.
Beginning in 2002, Ratebeer used the rating information provided by its subscribers to compile lists — and awards — for different categories, including “Best Beers in the World,” “Best Beers By Style Category,” “Top New Releases,” and of course, “Top Brewers in the World.” Ratebeer explains that the top 100 brewers is created through a summary of the available reviews for the year. “The summarization is based on ten different weighted scales that place an emphasis on reviews of the past year and top performing beers but also includes historical all-around performance, a brewer’s range of performance across styles, and other factors to compare newer and older, larger and smaller brewers under a single method of processing…The members of this list reflect the top performing brewers of over 22,500 listed at RateBeer,” as stated at www.ratebeer.com. The list identifies the top 10 brewers in order, but the remaining 90 are unranked. For more, check www.ratebeer.com.
Forest & Main Brewing Co., which opened in 2012 in Ambler, Pa., made the list for the first time this year. Dan Endicott and Gerard Olsen, co-owners and brewers, have a well earned reputation locally for their English and Belgian style ales. According to Olsen, when they learned the news, “We were surprised and so excited to be on such an esteemed list with so many breweries we respect and admire.” When asked what they believed put them on the list, Olsen said, “We’re very passionate about the beers we are making, but we are also fortunate to be surrounded by so many beer drinkers who share and rate these beers, getting the word out about our little brewery.”
It probably helped that they have such devoted fans — especially Philadelphia fans. Olsen agrees, “Philly has such a knowledgeable and passionate consumer base, whether it’s sports, cheese steaks, pizza, or craft beer; people around here know what they’re talking about and they’ll let you know it.” Olsen also gave this piece of advice to other brewers who aspire to be on the list, “Making lists is great, and we are very honored to be on this one; but lists are secondary. First, focus on making the best beer you can in styles you are honestly passionate about.” Olsen and Endicott’s passion truly shine through their beer; in fact, Ratebeer also placed their “Moeder Seizoen” — a saison — on the list of best Belgian Style Ales of 2015.
Ardmore’s Tired Hands Brewing Co. is no stranger to the Top Brewers list — they have been on the list the past 2 years. This year, they not only appeared on the Top Brewers list, but they also had the honor of having one of their beers on the list of “World’s Top New Beer Releases.” Their “Virgins & Diamonds,” a session IPA, has a rating of 99 out of 100 on Ratebeer and received glowing praise from the raters. If you are a “hophead,” this is definitely one IPA to keep an eye out for! But if you can’t get your hands on Virgins & Diamonds, their signature “HopHands” was ranked 10th best American Pale Ale of 2015 by Ratebeer.
Victory Brewing was the third Pennsylvania brewery to make the Top Brewers in the World list. It should come as no surprise that every year Victory is on the Ratebeer lists; back in November 2002 and 2003, Victory was listed as the 5th Best Brewer in the World, and the 2nd Best in North America. Since 2006, Victory has consistently been one of the best 100 breweries in the world. This year marks Victory’s 20th anniversary; being on the Ratebeer Top Brewers of the World list in more than half of those years is truly something to be celebrated!
In the end, the Ratebeer reviewers have provided the data to back up what any local craft beer fan from the Philadelphia region already knows: the Philadelphia beer scene is truly fantastic. In fact, our brewers are some of the best in the world!
Columnist Matt Brasch is a beer enthusiast and a lifelong Montgomery County resident. For more, go to http://thebrewholder.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at “The Brewholder.”