Thursday, July 14, 2011

Zymurgy's Best Beers in America Poll

Every year in the one of the summer issues, Zymurgy magazine presents its Best Beers in America poll.  Zymurgy is the journal of the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) and is produced six times a year for the benefit of AHA members.  The poll, in its ninth year, asks all AHA members to submit a list of their 20 favorite beers.  The only rule in the poll is that selected beers must be commercially available in the United States.  In 2011, Zymurgy received 3,259 votes for 1,306 different beers from 433 breweries.  The results are captured in the July /August 2011 issue, along with some analysis, additional rankings, and clone recipes.

I have listed the top 10 beers in America below.  For a full list, along with the other rankings (best brewery, best portfolio, top imports, and spirit of homebrew), please see the Zymurgy article.  [T indicates tie]

1. Russian River Pliny the Elder
2. Bell's Two Hearted Ale
T3. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
T3. Founders Breakfast Stout
5. Bell's Hopslam
6. Stone Arrogant Bastard
7. Sierra Nevada Celebration
T8. Sierra Nevada Torpedo
T8. Stone Ruination
10. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Russian River's Pliny the Elder, a double IPA, took top honors for the third year in a row.  This beer has gained a cult-like following in the United States and abroad, that when combined with the difficulty in finding it, helped propel it to the top of the list.  A member of my homebrewing club got to try the beer at the National Homebrewers Conference this year in San Diego.  He said the beer's citrus character was so strong that it reminded him of a glass of grapefruit juice, but went down smooth and was very tasty.

The most prevalent trend in the Zymurgy poll, to me, is the overwhelming popularity of IPAs.  Of the top 10 beers, only one does not possess a significant hop load - Founder's Breakfast Stout.  The rest of the beers, although not all IPAs, all have strong citrus hop character and could be argued to fit into the West Coast hop-centric beer recipe pattern.  Don't get me wrong, I like hoppy beers.  But what happened to all of the other popular styles that do not feature hops?  What about saisons, sour beers, barrel and wood-aged beers, and Russian imperial stouts?  I would have expected more beer style diversity from a group like the AHA members, who I would think have such a wide range of tastes.  Maybe it will be different next year.

What do you think about the latest Zymurgy poll?  Do you think that IPAs reign supreme in the United States beer culture?  Let us know.



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