Monday, June 14, 2010

Most Popular Beer Style Categories: 2010 NHC First Round

Anyone who has entered a beer into competition knows that for some reason, some beer styles always outweigh others in terms of popularity. Year after year, competition after competition, the “darling” styles always receive a good deal of attention, while some of the more interesting categories are left out in the cold.

Given this notion in mind, I figured it might be interesting, and a bit entertaining, to identify the most popular style categories (as defined by the BJCP) and see if there have been any trends in that popularity over the past few years. With the 2010 National Homebrewing Competition Finals is just around the corner, the 5,759 beer entries that made up the first round are the ideal pool of data to examine. 

For this analysis, I’m only looking at the beer categories themselves (my apologies to the cider and mead makers out there). To normalized the data, all categories are given as the percentage of the total entry pool that they represent. From this year's NHC first round, the most popular and the least popular styles are as follows (with the full dataset given below).

 1. American Ales (cat. 10) - 509 entries or 8.8% of total
 2. Stouts (cat. 13) - 476 entries or 8.3% of total
 3. Belgian and French Ales (cat. 16) - 410 entries or 7.1% of total
 4. India Pale Ales (cat. 14) - 386 entries or 6.7% of total
 5. Belgian Strong Ales (cat. 18) - 362 entries or 6.3% of total

 23. Fruit Beers (cat. 20) - 130 entries or 2.3% of total
 22. Dark Lagers (cat. 4) - 144 entries or 2.5% of total
 21. Euro Amber Lagers (cat. 3) - 145 entries or 2.5% of total
 20. Amber Hybrid Beers (cat. 7) - 152 entries or 2.6% of total
 19. Sour Ales (cat. 17) - 163 entries or 2.8% of total

It’s not hard to imaging why Sour Ales trend toward the bottom of the list.  While they have a popularity amongst craft beer fanatics, sour beers take a good deal of effort to perfect and they can take years to finish properly.  But, what about the other four least popular beer styles – they are fantastic beer styles, but seem to get the cold shoulder from the homebrewing community.  There are nearly three times as many beers in the Top Five group as there are in the Bottom Five.

Over the past three years (2008 – 2010), there has been some have been changes in the popularity rankings as some style gain favor and others lose it.  The Top Five slots have been consistent all three years, with the same five beer styles always being represented (although with some jockeying back and forth in position). Listed below are the beer styles that have seen the most amount of movement, either positively or negatively, in the rankings.

MOST POSITIVE MOVERS ('10 Rank / '09 Rank / '08 Rank)
 1. Smoke / Wood-Aged Beer - cat. 22 (Ranks: 11, 13, 16)
 2. Specialty Beers - cat. 23 (Ranks: 7, 10, 11)
 3. English Brown Ales - cat. 11 (Ranks: 14, 19, 17)

MOST NEGATIVE MOVERS ('10 Rank / '09 Rank / '08 Rank)
 1. English Pale Ale - cat. 8 (Ranks: 16, 11, 10)
 2. Dark Lagers - cat. 4 (Ranks: 22, 20, 18)
 3. Light Lagers - cat. 1 (Ranks: 18, 17, 15)
 4. Strong Ales - cat. 19 (Ranks: 12, 12, 9)

The growing popularity of barrel-ages beers and extreme beers has definitely played a factor in the rise in popularity of Categories 22 and 23. However, I was very shocked to see how English Pale Ales have been falling like a rock in popularity.  I personally find this trend very disappointing, as EPA’s (and other session beers) would certainly be on my list of favorite beer styles.  Someday, hopefully soon, this style will see a resurgence back to the limelight.

Without any further lamenting or analyzing, here is the complete data how each beer style category was presented this year…

NHC First Round Entry Rankings by Beer Style Categories

2010 RankCat. #Name# of Entries (2010)% of Entries (2010)2009 Rank2008 Rank
110American Ale5098.8%21
316Belg & French4107.1%35
518Belgian Strong3626.3%53
723Specialty Beers2754.8%1011
89Scottish & Irish2474.3%78
96Light Hybrids2454.3%87
1219Strong Ales2153.7%129
1315German Wheat Beers2063.6%1513
1411English Brown1993.5%1917
168English Pale Ale1863.2%1110
1917Sour Ales1632.8%1821
207Amber Hybrids1522.6%2220
213European Amber Lager1452.5%2323
224Dark Lager1442.5%2018
2320Fruit Beer1302.3%2122

Everyone has a list of favorite beer styles – let us know which are your favorites and how they are represented in the competition scene.



-Homer Simpson

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