Coney Island Sword Swallower

Sword Swallower is another great offering from Schmaltz brewing company.  It says on the bottle “IPA style,” and I think that’s a worthy description of this fine lager!

Rated an 83 on beer advocate as an “American pale lager” and a 76/90 on ratebeer as a Strong Pale Lager / Imperial Pils, to me this beer showcases the failings of online beer ratings.  IMO, the problem with ratings on sites like beer advocate or rate beer is that anything IPA/IIPA and/or imperial stout/American double tends to get the highest ratings, and other styles get lower ones, regardless of the quality of the offering.  This probably happens due to people rating the most highly flavored and extreme beers highest, and less extreme styles lower.

Now realize that an American pale lager is never likely to score anything like a DIPA or Russian imperial stout, (even though you’re comparing apples to oranges, and there really shouldn’t be a comparison between the two at all).  For this reason, I like the fact that ratebeer.com does an overall and an “in style” rating for each beer.  Clicking on various style pages on beer advocate, then looking at the top beers for those styles should show you how there’s obvious bias between styles (and note that beer advocate doesn’t do in style ratings separately, they just do an overall rating).

I’ve listed two styles that tend to get low scores, and two that tend to get high scores below:

American Pale Lager category on BA, Top beers for American Pale Lager

Russian Imperial Stout category on BA, Top beers for Russian Imperial Stout

Double IPA category on BA, Top beers for Double IPA

American Amber / Red Lager, Top beers for American Amber / Red Lager

Now I’m sure that a lot of people have debated this style/ratings thing to death (including me, no doubt).  So let me just say that ratings are what they are.  They are NOT the end-all of whether a beer is good or not, and you may need to investigate a little before drawing conclusions about a particular beer based on the ratings*.

*Note that ratings do have value though, especially if there are a lot of ratings for a particular beer.  If 598 people think a beer stinks, it probably stinks.  If 2600+ people think a beer is amazing, it’s probably amazing (think Pliny the Elder).

This beer I’m having today illustrates my point on ratings bias well.  It doesn’t rate that high (I’m arguing due to ratings bias), but it should rate very highly (I’m arguing because it’s damn delicious!!).

Enough about ratings, what was the beer like?

Tan to slightly orange in color, clear, rising bubbles, a nice one finger head and good lacing.

Lots of citrus on the nose, lemon peel, oranges, grapefruits.  A good amount of hoppy aroma too, very nice.

Taste is very nice, quite bitter and citrusy.  Hop flavor is more than almost any American pale lager that I’ve tried.  There’s a nice malty balance too.

Body is medium and well carbonated.  Quite easy to drink.

It’s hard to believe this is a lager.  If you served it to me blind, I’d think it to be a pale ale, and a pretty hoppy one at that.

Within the style, this one is a real standout, and a quality beer.  Within any style it’s a wonderful brew.  Highly recommended.

Sword Swallower – Absolutely Delicious!

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