First, I think about taste.  Fundamentally, “Does this taste good?” is a much different question than “Does this taste like it should?” For example: I don’t particularly like IPAs. But if I do have one, I know what it is supposed to taste like. So a beer may not taste great to me, but if it’s what it is supposed to be, then it gets good marks.

Second, I think about how interesting it is. For example: chocolate stouts are more interesting than normal stouts, but beers brewed with Riesling wine grapes are far more interesting than chocolate stouts. Beers that do something different will always score higher than run-of-the-mill beers, at least in this category. Beer is such a complex drink and it’s refreshing to drink something new and different, even if it misses the mark on taste. (See my review of Sam Adam’s Infinium for a great example.)

Third, I think about whether I would drink it again. The answer will have a large effect on the rating, but taste is still my number one criteria. After all, if I’m going to be drinking at least 16 ounces of it, shouldn’t it be good?

Don’t even bother.

Meh. Not bad, but could be much better.

Decent beer. Definitely worth a try. Something I’d buy during happy hour.

4 stars

This beer is a must-try. These are the beers I look for at the liquor/beer store.

5 Stars

Go buy this beer. Right now. Don’t waste another minute!

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