Beer Ratings and Reviews at

Some friends of mine think of me as a loony beer purist. And, I’m ok with that ;). Labels aside, I figure that if I’m going to invest the calories in a beverage, it may as well taste good (after all, there isn’t yet Splenda Beer — nor do I hope that one ever exists). Fortunately, if you’re looking into broadening your beer palette, there're many drinkable beers available these days.

One of the sites that I often visit for beer ratings & reviews is While the site may seem overwhelming at first, the most pertinent section for most people is probably the beer ratings part of the site. If you’re ready to dive in, you could select a Beer Style or Country (from along the left side of the page) to see the best beers in that style or from that country, respectively. Or, for a healthy dose of schadenfreude, their list of the worst beers is usually good for a laugh. (Apparently, Bud Light scored even lower than Beast Light. Who knew? )

In any case, for a quick list of beers that taste good which you actually have a chance of finding in your local store, I’d recommend RateBeer’s list of Top Widely Distributed Beers (which also sometimes refer to as their list of “Top Accessible” beers). As I understand it, a given beer needs several hundred ratings to make it onto the list — that conveniently excludes, say, beers from Tom’s Nanobrewery in Somecity USA which you wouldn’t have a chance of finding locally.

Having said that, there’s no inherent downside to a beer just because it’s widely available. For instance, my favorite porter, Fullers London Porter, is there at #14 and it’s “only” among the 99th percentile of beers reviewed on the site ;). Porters are good — you could think of them as a notch down from a stout, if you haven’t tried one — but they’re less than ideal for patio-sipping. They’re generally hearty enough that they need a food accompaniment to balance out their oomph.

Probably my favorite style of beer, though, are abbey tripels. The style is classically Belgian, but that’s not to say that only Belgians make a good tripel. And, sure enough, some respectable tripels make the list as well. Chimay Blanche (White) pulls in at #33 and La Fin Du Monde is shortly after that at #37. And, while stouts aren’t personally my cup of tea, they make a strong showing on the list as well (just after a duo of two abt/quadrupel beers in 1st & 2nd place, stouts take on 3rd, 4th and 5th place).

If all these beer styles are greek to you, don’t worry — just try printing out their list of Top Widely Distributed Beers the next time you need beer and you’re headed to the store. Then just glance over what’s on the shelf and see if some of them are on the list. To be sure, even the “lowest rated” beer among their Widely-Distributed list, Sierra Nevada Porter is in the 90th percentile among beers — not too shabby. Any of the beers on the list would make for a formidable alternative to garden-variety American-macrobrews (which is to say, Budweiser, Coors and Miller).

Jones’ Sugar Free Green Apple Soda is Awful

Jones Soda is a self-described alternative soda company started in 1987 which is famous in part for its unconventional flavors such as Blue Bubblegum and Watermelon. In any case, they’ve recently achieved distribution at Target and that’s where I first ran across them. The first flavor of theirs that I tried was their Sugar Free Cola and, to be fair, it was pretty good. It’s sweetened with Splenda and even my sugar-soda drinking chum Matt was pleasantly surprised.

Recently, though, I thought to try their Sugar Free Green Apple. Oh, what a mistake that was — it’s almost undrinkable:

  • Color — The first thing I noticed about the soda was its color as I poured it into a glass. Roughly speaking, it very similar to the color of a lime green popsicle. And, if that’s giving you the heebie-jeebies already, you’re on the right track. Needless to say, subtlety is not this soda’s string suit.

  • Taste — This was the soda’s downfall for me. The color should have been a warning sign to me, but, yes, it pretty much tastes like carbonated Kool-Aid. If you’ve ever had the Green Apple flavor of Dum Dum Lollipops, I believe that precise flavoring was used here.

That’s not to say that all Jones Soda should be avoided. In fact, their Twisted Lime sounds rather tempting. All the same, I’d stay far away from their Green Apple; it wasn’t their flavor scientists’ finest hour.

Tab Energy — The Trucker Hat of Energy Drinks

Apparently, the hipsters within Coke Inc have come up with the wacky idea of releasing Tab as an energy drink. That’s right — Tab Energy:

Tab Energy, which Coke’s bottlers tasted in meetings last week in Atlanta, will come in skinny pink 10.5-ounce cans with the old Tab logo and “energy” in small yellow letters, according to materials from the meetings. The target market for the low-calorie drink, which does not taste like the original Tab, is young women. […]

I'm all for innovation, but this seems like a bit of a step backwards. Is this not the William Hung of energy drinks — a beverage marketed solely for its so-bad-it’s-goodbad factor? I mean, why can’t we get Tab with Splenda instead? Or, while we’re at it, how about Caffeine Free Tab with Splenda with Lime? I’d buy it (no, really).

Decaf Coffee May Be Worse For You Than Regular

Reuters reports on the results of a study comparing decaf to regular coffee that were announced at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2005. Researchers assigned people into groups of either noncoffee drinkers, coffee drinkers, or decaf drinkers who then drank three to six cups a day for two months. After the two months, they checked each group for differences:

At the end of the study period, Superko found no significant differences in fasting glucose or insulin (measures used to diagnosis diabetes), total cholesterol, HDL2 (the very good cholesterol) or triglycerides among the three groups.

However, decaf coffee significantly increased free fatty acid levels, which in turn led to an increase in apolipoprotein B, which is associated with LDL cholesterol. […]

I mostly drink tea, so this may not affect me much. And, many coffee drinkers may be unaffected as well; the researchers were careful to point out the three-to-six cups involved in the study — “People should not freak out if they drink one or two cups a day,” commented Dr. H. Robert Superko.

Diet Sodas Aren’t So Good for Teeth

I haven’t had a full-sugar soda in several years, but I still enjoy a few diet sodas a week. And, I've occasionally heard, off-handedly, that diet sodas can cause tooth decay just as their full-sugar cousins can. For what it’s worth, I switched to diet soda for the caloric savings, not specifically for the dental advantages (I almost typed “dental benefits” there, but that would have had an entirely different connotation than I intended.) However, as I like to have healthy teeth, I didn’t really want to drink beverages that might work against that (assuming that the notion was true).

A couple months back, I applied my Google-fu and though to get to the bottom of this. As it turns out, it was harder than I thought since some dental professionals said that diet soda doesn’t cause tooth decay while other dental folks said that diet soda does cause tooth decay. Yeesh. At the time, I just gave up on the question and made a mental note to revisit the issue later.

Well, I tried Googling again today and I came across a more definitive answer. One resource that looked promising was a pamphlet sent to parents from the Ohio Dental Association:

While excessive sugar is not healthy, it’s the acid in diet and regular soda that can damage tooth enamel and cause cavities and tooth decay. Acid can begin to harm tooth enamel in only 20 minutes.

That just about concluded my search, though I checked Google once more to see if I could find a national (or international) source in addition to this state-wide source. And, I came across this message from the Academy of General Dentistry about diet soda:

Drinking carbonated soft drinks regularly can contribute to the erosion of tooth enamel surfaces, according to the Academy of General Dentistry.


Because saliva helps neutralize acids and wash your teeth clean, the worst time to drink soda pop, ironically, is when you are very thirsty or dehydrated due to low levels of saliva. “The larger the volume of intake, the more impact soda pop has on your teeth,” says Gordon Isbell, III, DDS, MAGD, a spokesdentist for the Academy of General Dentistry. “Diet sodas are part of the problem. Women especially like to drink them throughout the day and between meals because they have no calories, yet the higher frequency and volume is putting their teeth at risk.” […]

You hadn’t heard of the “Academy of General Dentistry”? Well, neither had I — but they’re apparently “a non-profit organization of more than 37,000 general dentists”. I suppose that puts the question to rest, then; now I just need to figure out what I can drink instead of diet soda. (I probably won’t cut it out completely, but perhaps my teeth will thank me for drinking less of it.)

PS Is anyone else appalled — and, at the same time, amused — by the Academy’s unnecessary coinage of the term “spokesdentist”? ;)