Our alt-weekly comrades at Portland, Ore.'s Willamette Week got into the election-season spirit by rounding up the "flagship" craft beer from each state and ranking each to determine the "President of Beers." (A blind taste test of 50 beers? Tough gig, eh?) The project began with this rousing mission statement:
Beer is liquid culture, and America’s tapestry of wildly varied laws creates very different visions of what’s popular or possible.
...beer birthed civilization. If, as many anthropologists believe, early human clans settled into cities to ferment grains, isn’t the beer ... a fair benchmark of its peoples’ progress? Why even bother with civilization—entering a social contract, punching ballots and paying taxes—if we can’t get better beer out of it?
Naturally, this Vermont beer geek paid close attention to the list — we've still got the most breweries of any state per capita, after all. Willamette Week's team picked Magic Hat #9 to represent our fair state, and it came in 13th on the list. Not a bad showing, but not great, either.
Despite the decent list showing, the WW brew crew launched a few backhanded compliments at the ale, citing its "sweet, remarkably bland" flavor and openly wondering how it scored so high. (Your bias is showing, dudes!) On the plus side, the write-up complimented Vermont's "advanced" brewing scene and even gave a shoutout to Fiddlehead's maple sap beer.
The choice of #9 is sure to rankle some local beer snobs, given that the brew gets a 78 (average) on BeerAdvocate and 48 on RateBeer (both sites score out of 100). There's also the small matter that Magic Hat brews in South Burlington but is no longer locally owned, having been purchased in 2010 by Rochester, N.Y.-based North American Breweries; this was apparently reason to disqualify Pyramid from repping Washington. But WW says its panel wasn't looking for "the 'best' beer but a beer that best represents its state," and it is tough to argue that #9 isn't the best-known Vermont brew nationally.
Still, I can't help but wonder how other Vermont brews would have fared. The Alchemist's Heady Topper, which won our Vermont Brew Bracket earlier this year and earned a perfect 100 score on BeerAdvocate, surely would go over well with those Pacific Northwest hops lovers. There's also two-time Daysie winner Switchback, and many more well-reviewed Vermont brews to pick from, none of which received mention. We locals might know everything about Vermont's two-dozen-plus excellent breweries, but it looks like we have a ways to go to educate the rest of the country about the breadth of our beer scene.
On the other hand, maybe it's best we keep it quiet.
Photo by George Chriss, via Wikimedia Commons