Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Week, plus the STAG Rating Scheme

Here we go...
A look ahead to what's coming this week. Tomorrow, January 4th, is my first full workday back as a freelancer, and I promised myself that on that first full day I would hop in the car and go do what I used to do a LOT when I first started writing: go take the tour at Yuengling. But since I'm working, too, I'm going up with All About Beer editor John Holl (and my old friend Scott Fasnacht), and I'm going to write about the trip, and the 'then and now' aspect of it all, as the first installment of my new web column for AAB. I'll let you know when it's up. Meantime, I'll probably throw up a few pictures and comments here, just for fun...since I doubt that's all we're going to do.

Tuesday I'm going to keep up with the beer then-and-now thing with a report on my visit to Selin's Grove Brewing on December 21st, their 19th anniversary. What changed and what didn't was delicious, and so was the Solstice Dubbel. If I have it finished, I may also drop my thoughts on the new challenge to "craft" beer: I think it's big enough to fail.

Next? I'm going to be doing regular tasting here on STAG for the first time. I'm going to commit to doing at least one whiskey/spirits review every Wednesday, and at least one beer review every Friday...until I decide it's not what I want to do. But I'll be at this for a while, and I'd like to explain my "system." I used to "recommend" or "not recommend" drinks, I've worked with the Whisky Advocate ratings scale, I've done the 5-star thing, and I've struggled with Untappd's 5-star with quarterly gradations system.

I'm not going to do any of that here. Instead, I'm going back to a system I made up in the dark days after 9/11, at a time when we desperately needed something to laugh about. A small number of my friends will recognize the term "GOOD or SHITE?", a snarly response to someone who trashed a friend's thoughtful tasting notes about Marston's Double Drop (remember that, Peter?). 'Who needs all those fancy tasting notes anyway,' I shouted, 'is the beer GOOD, or is it SHITE?' It evolved a bit, into a four-grade system: F****** Shite, Shite, Good, and F****** Good. We had some fun and then moved on, but every now and then...I thought about it, and considered actually using it. But, you know...swearing. Some of you are probably uncomfortable with this much.

I now believe its time has come, with one important addition. I'll be grading the reviews on this scale (the illustrations are provided to give you an idea of just how bad or good things are):


Few to no redeeming qualities. Notably flawed in concept or in execution. Examples: Cave Creek Chili Beer (undrinkably spicy and one-dimensional), Ten High bourbon (too young, too hot, too thin).


Not undrinkable, but with at least one serious flaw that should keep you from drinking again. Examples: most light beers (no flavor), Brenne (just too sweet).


Drinkable, even tasty, won't pour it out; but not something I'm going to look for. So standard as to be overlooked. Examples: Yuengling Lager (I drink it if it's the choice, but...), Johnny Walker Red (okay mixer, but...) Note: this is a change from "Yawn," which I eventually realized sounded too judgmental for drinks that I was essentially grading at C+ to B. I'll be changing the reviews to reflect this.


A definite cut above, a small grin when spotted, yes please. Examples: Penn Kaiser Pils (zesty and well-made), Wild Turkey Rare Breed (overproof in such a proper way)


Conversation stopper/starter. Easiest choice on the menu. Examples: Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter (archetypal stuff), Redbreast (the standard 12 YO; such as dreams are made of)

It's a bell-curve, like many things, so don't expect too many Crap or Stellar grades, and most are likely to fall in the middle three...probably fewer Flawed, because those don't tend to be the ones I grab anyway. "Yawn" is, I think, the addition that makes the system work. Good...just not good enough to go looking for it.

I'll be accepting samples and buying off the shelf/bar, but I won't double-review; Whisky Advocate gets first dibs on all craft whiskeys, for example, and if I review them there, I won't be doing them here.  Some reviews will be long, some will be brutally short; some will just be tasting notes, some will be more. We'll have some fun, and I'll be as honest and objective as I can.

Thursday? I'm thinking about something on Canadian whisky. I've learned a LOT about Canadian in the past three years, and I've got some thoughts I want to pass along. Don't assume you know what there is to know about Canadian.

Let's Saturday? I have nothing planned. Let's see what happens.


Tony said...

Good to see you are back in the anything goes in the Beer/Whiskey writing world. IE free to write what you wish.

Jeff Frane said...

For some of that little group, the FS-FFG system is still regularly applied. We've even passed it on to a younger generation. Oh, and we have a copyright on the system since you abandoned it. Our lawyers will be in touch.

Lew Bryson said...

Meh. Blood. Stone. Turnip. Besides, I know you can all be bought with a case of SNCA.

Jon said...

Spectacular news! looking forward to reading along for the ride.

Steven said...

Good to see your thoughts back on my screen. Can't wait for the reviews.