On the topic of BA & AHA and Best Beers in America, I think a little history might be helpful.
We're now on the 17th rendition of the Best Beers in America AHA member poll. The idea for the poll originated with Ray Daniels, who was then editor-in-chief of Zymurgy magazine. That first Best Beers feature appeared in the July/August 2003 issue, two years before the Brewers Association was established. Back then the AHA was part of the Association of Brewers, which was created by Charlie Papazian in the early 1980s.
Ray's point in creating the poll is still true today:
"The premise of this exercise was that you, the Zymurgy reader, brew beer. Therefore, you not only drink beer on a regular basis, you also know how it's made and what's good and bad in beer flavor...you keep an eye on what the commercial producers are doing and you know who's getting it right."
The fact that it is homebrewers who are voting is what makes this poll stand out from any other rating system out there.
That's why our Best Beers in America results get picked up by media outlets nationwide every year. In fact, nothing else that we do all year long gets more media attention for homebrewing and the AHA than the results of Best Beers in America poll. That drives traffic to the HomebrewersAssociation.org. Most of that traffic is from non-homebrewers, which means we’re exposing a whole lot of non-brewers to all of the resources we provide for getting people started in homebrewing.
So, promoting homebrewing is a big part of the why we do it. The part that’s more directly aimed at benefiting the members of the AHA, other than the results themselves, is that the poll results let us know what clone recipes are of greatest interest to our members. Those recipes are among the most popular content we provide to members.
It’s not at all surprising that some members aren’t interested in the results of the poll. I’m sure that’s true of pretty much every feature we publish. It’s hard to create content that appeals to every reader. However, I sincerely hope that readers aren’t ditching the entire July/August issue just because they aren’t interested in one feature in that issue.
Those are valid points and are good reasons to perform the poll and post the results.
That said, in my opinion, and speaking only for myself, the poll doesn't do me a whole lot of good anymore. Seventeen years ago, I think I read every word of the poll results with excitement and a hope I would learn which really good examples I could sample and learn from. I quickly learned that most of the beers were regional, if not very, very, local, breweries and I was more than likely never going to see those in Mid-west, much less Iowa.
In recent years the beers that top list seem to be very consistent year to year and come from breweries that have grow quite large. These breweries begin to look a lot like very large, if not macro, breweries and are developing national distribution systems. Pliny The Elder is a very good beer but is it always the "Best Beer in America"?
Further down the list you still find smaller beers that are very likely excellent beers but with limited distribution. Which means the small brewer with a fabulous Wit in Fargo may make it on the list but will never have a chance to beat Russian River.
It seems like a more regional approach might be refreshing, now and then, to showcase beers that may only be available in the Southern Mid-west, for example. That would give people who don't have the means to travel much an opportunity to find the best beers "near" them.
It will still be a few years before I have time to go GABF or any Homebrewer's conference, so I don't complain about where they're held. The closest one to me was in Minneapolis and I flew to Europe two days before it opened. Three weeks in Germany, Austria, Italy, France and London was no brainer over MSP.
If being connected to the BA gets me some free hops or something when I renew my membership, even better.
Like I said, just my thoughts. The AHA fills the need I have, for the most part, so no complaints really. Keep up the good work and brew on!