Thursday, July 28, 2011

Most Popular Beer Styles: 2011 NHC Entry Results

Its no surprise to anyone who has entered a beer competition that some categories are incredible competitive and others barely have a pulse.  Dozens of bottles are entered in the popular styles and other less popular styles get grouped together and relegated to the 'no-one-loves-me' table in the back.

We've explored this phenomenon last year when the 2010 National Homebrewing Comp was in progress.  With the 2011 NHC complete and awarded, it was worthwhile to revisit the results and see if the preferred beer style trends continue to be the same or if there is a shift brewers preferences. 

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 competition, the most popular and the least popular styles are as follows (with the full dataset given below).

 1. Stouts (cat. 13) - 566 entries or 8.7% of total
 2. American Ales (cat. 10) - 493 entries or 7.6% of total
 3. India Pale Ales (cat. 14) - 462 entries or 7.1% of total
 4. Belgian Strong Ales (cat. 18) - 404 entries or 6.2% of total
 5. Belgian and French Ales (cat. 16) - 394 entries or 6.1% of total

 23. Euro Amber Lagers (cat. 3) - 140 entries or 2.2% of total
 22. Fruit Beers (cat. 20) - 143 entries or 2.2% of total
 21. Amber Hybrid Beers (cat. 7) - 157 entries or 2.4% of total
 20. Dark Lagers (cat. 4) - 171 entries or 2.6% of total
 19. Light Lagers (cat. 1) - 191 entries or 2.9% of total

The top five beer categories have been the same five styles for the past 4 years with the only change being in the ordering.  Stouts and American Ales have flip-flopped for the number one seat each year, while IPAs and the Belgians fight for seats 3 through 5. 

One the other side of the spectrum, lagers in general are taking a beating.  Of the five lager beer styles, three of them are in the bottom five while Pilsners (#17) and Bocks (#14) aren't that much further up.  As has been in the past, there are nearly three times as many beers entered in the top five categories as compared to the bottom five categories.  

Over the past four years (2008 – 2011), there has been some have been changes in the popularity rankings as some style gain favor and others lose it.  As mentioned, the Top Five slots have really changed.  However, there have been other styles have been consistantly climbing or falling. 

MOST POSITIVE MOVERS (Ranks: '11 / '10 / '09 / '08)
 1. Smoke / Wood-Aged Beer - cat. 22 (Ranks: 8, 11, 13, 16)
 2. Specialty Beers - cat. 23 (Ranks: 6, 7, 10, 11)
 3. Herb / Spice / Vegtable Beers - cat. 21 (Ranks: 9, 10, 9, 12)
 3. Sour Ales - cat. 17 (Ranks: 18, 19, 18, 21)

MOST NEGATIVE MOVERS (Ranks: '11 / '10 / '09 / '08)
 1. Light Lagers - cat. 1 (Ranks: 19, 18, 17, 15)
 1. Strong Ales - cat. 19 (Ranks: 13, 12, 12, 9)
 3. German Wheat Beers - cat. 15 (Ranks: 16, 13, 15, 13)
 3. Scottish & Irish Ales - cat. 9 (Ranks: 11, 8, 7, 8)
 3. Light Hybrid Beers - cat. 6 (Ranks: 10, 9, 8, 7)

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. Those two categories were also the fastest rising categories last year.  However, I was shocked to see Hefeweizens and Scottish/Irish Ales amongst the sinkings beers.  Category 9 is one of my all time favorites styles, yet entry selection has been fickle to it in the past few years.  Sad.

The complete data set for how each beer style category performed is presented below.  

2011 NHC Entry Rankings by Beer Style Categories

2011 RankCat. #Name# of Entries (2010)% of Entries (2010)2010 Rank2009 Rank
210American Ale4937.6%12
418Belgian Strong4046.2%55
516Belg & French3946.1%33
623Specialty Beers3465.3%710
822Smoke / Wood2894.5%1113
106Light Hybrids2724.2%98
119Scottish & Irish2574.0%87
128English Pale Ale2563.9%1611
1319Strong Ale2523.9%1212
1511English Brown2273.5%1419
1615German Wheat Beer2163.3%1315
1817Sour Ales2043.1%1918
191Light Lager1912.9%1817
204Dark Lager1712.6%2220
217Amber Hybrid Beer1572.4%2022
2220Fruit Beer1432.2%2122
233Euro Amber Lager1402.2%2123

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



"I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer."
-Homer Simpson

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