I am just mesmerized to see the microbrewery revolution take off and I have visited a couple of breweries here in San Diego. I really find that there is a distinct taste to the beers as opposed to walking into a store and buying. I know that brewery beers are distinctively better, but how do you theoretically prove that Beer A is better than Beer B. Is there any checklist to compare beers with each other?

It may sound like a very basic question but there has to be a way to tell a good beer from a bad one, right?

  • 2
    Do you like beer A better than beer B? There is your checklist. It is all relative. I drink with people that love some beers that I can't stand drinking. Which is better? Mar 11, 2015 at 13:59

3 Answers 3


What it really sounds like you're getting at is that the beer you drink at a brewery is better than the beer you buy off the shelf at a store. I'd believe that. Beer from a brewery's tap is likely incredibly fresh, which most people would agree for most styles is better. Especially with how popular hoppy beers are in the San Diego scene, hops fade quickly...fresher will be way more aromatic. The beer you buy in the store may have been filtered or pasteurized, has been bottled and then sat in a warehouse for a while before being trucked around the county and then sitting on a shelf for a while before you hauled it back home.

However, is there an objective way to express "Fresher is better"? Dunno, probably not. You could run lab analysis and try to point at alpha and beta acid numbers, volatile organic oils or something...but it almost seems like trying to cobble together a theory after having made the conclusions already.

The BJCP was mentioned in another answer. What BJCP is, is an attempt to apply objective qualitative judgment to taste, which is inherently subjective, by asking folks to compare what they're sensing to an ideal example. Basically "How closely does this beer I'm tasting now adhere to description of the style of beer it's supposed to be?" They'll generally look at

  • Head: color, density, how long it lasts.
  • Aroma: malty? hoppy? spicy? grassy? sulphury?
  • Visual: color, clarity
  • Feel: thickness on the tongue, fizziness, acidity...
  • Taste: malty, hoppy, spicy... balanced?

What you COULD theoretically do is drink the beer at the brewery, and then describe as if it was a BJCP description, then drink the beer from the store and grade it according to how close it resembles the brewery beer in those categories.

Outside of that, everything is subjective. What you feel like drinking, right now. The beer best suited to the weather will change with each season, beers best suited to the evening will change with what you're having for dinner. Hell, if you happen to be playing Skyrim maybe the beer with the dragon on the label will be better than anything else regardless what it tastes like.


While there is no current objective assessment of beer other than IBU/abv you can take classes to become a subjective judge of the major traits: nose/head/appearance/taste/finish.

Classes are available via a simple google search that will return results like this: http://www.bjcp.org/index.php

  • I wouldn't say BJCP judging is subjective. It's certainly qualitative rather than quantitative, but to me "subjective" implies "arbitrary". The BJCP guidelines are meant to remove arbitrary-ness from the judging process. Mar 13, 2015 at 13:57
  • @matt Agree! But for the average consumer this should be and is a very subjective process. Non beer geeks hate technical jargon and how they interact with craft beer is much more visceral. If you like it drink it. Beer geeks will worry about the rest.
    – user1062
    Mar 19, 2015 at 21:23

The philosophy of beer. Heh. I'll give you two answers:

1) There is no way to determine that a beer is objectively better than another beer. Why? Because taste in beer is subjective. What may be an awful beer for an aficionado, may be a great beer for someone else. So, is it really true that [x] is a better beer than [y] if person [c] can like [y] better than [x]?

2) There is a way to determine beers that are subjectively better than another. Check out beeradvocate.com which has a mass of users rating beers in all walks of styles on different criteria. The result is an eerily accurate rating system which gives an incredibly good idea of how much you'll enjoy a beer in reference to another. In other words, they've done exactly what you're suggesting.

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