Wortsmith

The official blogger for Grill Meats Beer

Category: events

Numbers Game

If anything can kick start me writing about beer, it’s nerdy maths shit.

The 2017 BGONZAs (Brewer’s Guild of NZ Awards) have been announced and for the first time the individual award data has been released with them. Phil Cook has done an excellent review of the data and derived some statistics. To be honest it’s pretty great, go read it.

He comes up with two statistics that give a good baseline for determining who did well at the awards. Here they are in Phil’s own words:

Medal Percentage (MPC) is the proportion of all beers entered that earned any kind of medal at all. The overall medalling rate for the competition was 52% (up slightly on the previous year) and it turned out fairly well distributed; breweries in the middle of the rankings scored around this level. It’s worth noting that a beer that earns nothing is either significantly faulted or disqualifyingly “out of style” or both — though we don’t know which without access to the judges’ notes.

Points Per Entry (PPE), on the other hand, assigns gold medals 3 points, 2 for silver, and 1 for bronze and divides the result by how many beers the brewery entered all up. This scoring reflects the fact that the medals aren’t unique, like at the Olympics; a category might have a half-dozen golds, for example ― and it’s the scoring the Guild itself uses to calculate the overall Champion Breweries. This year, a PPE over 1.0 put a brewery in the top third of the field as a whole.

They’re simple and do what they say on the tin. But PPE requires a weighting and weightings can be disputed, which is what Ralph Bungard of Three Boys’ Brewing did on Beertown.

I thought this: the simple one, two and three points of bronze, silver and gold does not really reflect how I, and probably every brewer, feel about the value of those awards. I think I would rather have one silver than two bronze medals, but think I might take four bronzes over one silver – you see where I’m going here? I reckon that if a bronze had a value of one point, then a silver should maybe be three points and a gold say six points and of course zero for no award. This probably reflects how most brewers would largely value those awards. I’m pretty sure statisticians would call these ‘weighted’ values for those awards and if we average those weighted values for every brewery it would be a weighted average.

He’s right, that’s what we call them. What’s interesting is, it sort-of doesn’t matter. As long as we all agree that gold is worth the most, silver the second most and bronze the least, then your rankings are going to shuffle out roughly the same.

However, Ralph touched on an interesting point: what is a gold medal worth? As he says above, “I think I would rather have one silver than two bronze medals, but think I might take four bronzes over one silver.”

But is a bronze in one category worth more than silver in another? Or even more than gold? I decided to try a new form of derived statistic that I have called “worth”.

Worth

Firstly, if I was doing this seriously I would be trying to pull in sales data. The literal value of having a medal on your label or having the publicity of an award could be measured in dollars. But that would take a lot of work and would also require every brewery happily handing over their sales data.

Lacking both time and influence, I simply ran the award numbers and came up with two measures.

Medal Worth (WMED) For each award category, I took the total number of winners (w), the total number of entries (n) and then 1-(w/n). This gives me an idea of how difficult it was to get a medal in each category (with 1 as the maximum value). For example, European Ale had 31 medals from 48 entries, giving a value of 0.35; whereas International Lager had 59 entries but only 22 medallists, for a value of 0.63.

So for each brewery you take the number of beers that won in a category, multiplied by the value for that category, then sum across all the categories. To get their MWED you divide by the number of beers they entered.

Relative Medal Worth (WGSB) This calculation is similar to MWED except more complicated. WGSB is based on the value of gold, silver and bronze in a category. The gold value of each category is based on the number of golds awarded per number of entries. The silver is the same but based on the number of silvers AND golds. The bronze values are calculated the same way as MWED.

In this way you can see that was harder (and hence more valuable) to get a silver in the Cider & Perry category (0.90), than a gold in the Wheat (0.89).

To get the final WGSB for a brewery, you sum all the values multiplied by medals and then average across all beers entered.

The idea behind this is to capture the value of a medal in a fashion that isn’t an arbitrary number. The single gold from a field of 59 International Lagers is worth a lot more than either of the two golds from 18 entrants in the Wheat category. Relatively speaking that is, they’re all good beers.

The downside of this method, as well as PPE, MPC and Medal-x (Ralph’s weighting), is that it favours breweries who have only entered a few beers. In Phil’s analysis he only included breweries that entered 10 or more beers, which seems fair. The average number of beers entered is 9, so I’ll choose that as my cut-off. (As an interesting side note the most common number of beers to enter was two).

Before I do cast those breweries adrift I should mention that Epic and Altitude both did very well under all the systems.

Results

First up here are the values for each category:

WMED WGSB
Class General medal Gold Silver Bronze
British Ale 0.47 0.96 0.73 0.47
Cider & Perry 0.52 1.00 0.90 0.52
European Ale 0.35 0.90 0.73 0.35
Flavoured 0.40 0.93 0.72 0.40
Flavoured Cider & Perry 0.59 0.91 0.77 0.59
International Lager 0.63 0.98 0.80 0.63
New Zealand Lager 0.41 0.94 0.73 0.41
Pale Ale 0.54 0.95 0.77 0.54
Specialty 0.36 0.91 0.70 0.36
Stout & Porter 0.57 0.93 0.81 0.57
Strong Pale Ale 0.56 0.93 0.80 0.56
US Ale 0.41 0.93 0.64 0.41
Wheat 0.67 0.89 0.83 0.67

The rare outlier is gold for Cider & Perry, because there weren’t any. Making this the most valuable medal. Oddly while the Wheat category was the hardest one to win a medal in, the value of each individual medal is lower. While US Ale sees the biggest drop in value from gold to silver, with only 5 golds, but 21 silvers awarded.

How do these values work out to the overall breweries?

WGSB   WMED  
1 North End 0.64 Liberty 0.38
2 Liberty 0.62 Sawmill 0.38
3 Sawmill 0.62 McLeod’s 0.36
4 McLeod’s 0.61 North End 0.35
5 Brave 0.59 Brave 0.34

 

Now I don’t think for a second that my crazy numbers should replace what the BGONZAs currently do. Nor do I think that any of those breweries should challenge Garage Project for overall champion. These calculations are simply to show these breweries that, “You probably thought you did well, and you really did!”

One for the road

It was that week again. The Road to Bankruptcy week. The middle of August hits my bank account like a high-powered vacuum cleaner.

It’s also The Road to FOMO and trying not to be hungover at work the next day.  There’s so much to eat and drink, that kuidaore (食い倒れ, the Japanese idea to ruin oneself by extravagance in food) is a serious possibility.

It is, of course, the week leading up to Beervana, New Zealand’s biggest beer festival. A glittering prize, like the fabled Emerald City of Oz, sitting at the end of the Yellow Brick Road. For years this “road” was underutilised: a week that featured at best a trade event and maybe a few tap takeovers. But in recent years, it’s been given new life.

It’s now called the “Road to Beervana” and has grown into a series of events that are well worth putting yourself into debt for. I’m telling you about them after the fact for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it feels dumb preemptively writing about food and secondly, to prepare you for next year. It feels like to fully appreciate the Road to Beervana you need to start saving now.

I couldn’t go to many of the events due to budget constraints. But I did manage a few.

The first was Kushi. It was a Japanese themed night at Grill Meats Beer (where thankfully, I eat for free). Kushiage skewers done on the grill and served alongside Baird Beer.

I visited Bryan Baird back in 2010 at his Numazu brewery and in 2012 I held a Yeastie Boys tasting at the Baird Nakameguro Taproom. Bryan’s a tough nut to crack, but he’s passionate about beer. He has strong views about the Japanese brewing industry, mostly negative ones about the organisation and positive ones about the breweries. He would certainly hate that I put BABYMETAL in this post.

Bryan’s an American making American-style beer in Japan, a country where beer sales are trending downwards and most beers are German-style lagers. But Baird is making a solid stance. Last time I was in Tokyo, Baird had three taprooms (not including the one near the brewery on the Numazu waterfront): Nakameguro, Yokohama, and Harajuku.

The Harajuku was the first Baird bar I went to. I had gyoza (ギョウザ) and a Baird NZ IPA. While I was focused on what hops were in the beer I should’ve paid more attention to the fried dumpling. The chef in the Harajuku taproom was (and possibly still is) striving to make the most perfect gyoza. A truly noble goal.

Back in the bar, my partner and I were sitting with Fritz and Maria, beer writers and gin makers from Nelson, and Dominic Kelly, of Beer without Borders who import Baird Beer. We were happily making our way through the menu.

I said the Baird makes American-style beers, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a strong Japanese influence.

I, somewhat rashly, ordered the Tale Ale because it was the first on the list. The beer that arrived was opaque and weird. But good weird. Based on an ume plum sour, the beer was tart and light. After hearing the ume description I could pick out the flavour but before that I thought it tasted like a peach yoghurt a day after its use-by date, but without the creaminess.

I dubbed it a Japanese Gose.

I’ll be honest, I could’ve happily made my way through the entire beer list if it wasn’t for two things: beer writing doesn’t pay that well and I had to drive. but I did have a Teikoku IPA and I was so glad I did.

It was, for me, the perfect beer to go with skewers. A beer that doesn’t mess around (like its creator) and hits you with the hop flavour but without resin and without an accumulation of acid at the back of your throat.

Panhead whitewall with Twisty dusted popcorn junk food degustation platter

The other event we got to was the Panhead Junk Food matching at Golding’s Free Dive. It blew my mind.

The matches were: Whitewall with Twistie-dusted popcorn (I can’t eat Twisties and dislike Belgian beers but loved this match); Supercharger with a potato-top savory drizzled with tomato sauce and pork rinds; Big Yank with a chili-dog, cheese sauce (made from cheese slices) and crushed pretzels; and lastly Hardtail Henry with a Eskimo Pie dusted with pop-rocks and Nerds.

You haven’t lived until you have a mouthful of barrel-aged stout and pop-rocks.

But this is exactly the kind of madness I love about the Road to Beervana! Like it’s Australian cousin “Good Beer Week” in Melbourne, the Road is about adventure and pushing the boundaries of beer with food. Good matches, weird matches, awful experiments and flat out stomach-satisfying, Instagram-perfect, food with mind-expanding, palate-tingling beer.

[Update: I called Whitewall “Belgian”, thinking it was a Belgian wheat. It’s not. It’s also not an American Wheat. It is actually “just a pale ale that uses a shed ton of wheat”, so says Mike Neilson, the brewer.]

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