Pinkies Out - An Objective Brewery Categorization System
I love going to breweries and I imagine that you do too. Every brewery I go to is unique and awesome. There are some that I like a lot, and some that I like a little, and after going to as many as I can, I have found that there are certain predictors of whether or not I am going to really really love a brewery. Like comparing your favorite dingy, karaoke, dive bar to your favorite trendy, fancy, gastro pub: there is no way to say that one of them is better than the other. It depends on what you are feeling that day. That has led me to one of the harder questions I've had to answer as Cycling Cicerone begins to gear up: how to you compare a dive bar to a gastro pub and do it semi-objectively. And even worse, how do you do when you've been drinking a bunch. The 4th brewery you hit in a day always seems like the funnest for some reason...
Pinkies out - Measured in zero to two pinkies out, this metric shows how refined a brewery is and how fancy it feels. Two pinkies out means they have top notch designers working for them, possibly built their own building, and have a high level of polish. Nothing about them feels like the brewer himself just rigged it up to make do. The place feels expensive. Zero pinkies out is the opposite - decorations are slim and the place might not have much of a style beyond what the brewer themselves wanted to put on the walls. It feels like someone whipped it up just so there'd be a place to drink beer. Established breweries with separate tasting rooms from their breweries tend to have more pinkies out.
Intimacy - measured from zero to two. High intimacy means you feel the connection to the brewery itself just by being there. The environment is cozy and you might find yourself in a conversation with the brewer who has just come up from the basement where they do their brewing. If you wandered around you might accidentally find yourself among the fermentation tanks. Zero intimacy means you might have been seated at a table by a server. The place is popular, well established, and clean. Unless you got up and poked around in hidden corners and places that feel off limits, you aren't gonna find a brewer anywhere. The intimacy of a place can be strongly impacted by how crowded it is, so a brewery lacking intimacy during the post work rush might completely change at 1 pm on a Monday.
Beer Eccentricity - Zero to two. Most breweries are a one on the beer eccentricity scale. They have a wide array of beer likely including a few staples, a couple seasonals, and a couple weird barrel aged, mega hopped, or weird yeast beers. Zero eccentricity breweries have chosen to focus on the basics, have a small menu, and/ or have little seasonal variation. It has the standard array of pale, stout, porter, ipa, and pilsner and tries to have something for everyone. The truly eccentric brewery has an entire menu full of peanut butter porters, thistle infused saisons, Belgian trippel stouts and whatever other made up beer types they want. You might love the entire menu or hate it.
Nailing it - 1 to 3. This is a highly subjective measure. It is an overall measure that takes into consideration none of the above metrics and summarizes just how well a brewery is nailing it. How good do you feel when you leave that place - you know the feeling. You walk out a brewery having just spent three hours of your life and $30 on craft beer and all you can think is "hell yeah, I totally nailed it for finding that place and that place is nailing it too" The brewery could hardly do it on purpose, but some combination of blood alcohol content, sunny weather, food truck, and corn hole leaves you knowing that you are better person for having been here today.
As I write those metrics out in their first official capacity, I can see the gaps. There is no way to sum up every brewery in a just a few bullet points. The variety is too staggering. Brewpubs and breweries are so distinct from each other ranking them with the same ranks barely makes sense. I am already seeing the need for a "Patio" rating now that summer is approaching. Good grief. Maybe I should just have a beer and not think so hard about it.