Cindy Modesitt is a self-described beer snob.
And why shouldn’t she be? She’s tasted more than 3,500 beers, logging the scores of more than 3,000 into RateBeer.com, a craft beer website that says it is recognized as the most accurate and visited source for beer info.
Those numbers make Modesitt, of Fort Wayne, the website’s No. 2 female beer rater in the United States. Internationally, Modesitt is the No. 4 female beer rater.
Her love of craft beer started as so many hobbies and passions do: by chance. It was about 10 years ago, and her then-boyfriend (now husband) brought home a six-pack of German beer.
Want to try it?
This is really good, Modesitt remembers saying. I didn’t even know that (kind of) beer existed.
Her experience with beer had been limited to the likes of Miller, Budweiser, Michelob and Coors.
Shortly after that inaugural taste, the two visited the Three Floyds Brewing Co. in Munster.
We had a great time, and that was all she wrote, Modesitt says.
Modesitt signed up for RateBeer.com in 2003 as a way to keep track of what she had tasted. Her username, she shares hesitantly, is hotstuff – it was her now-husband’s suggestion.
I really need to change that, she says, shaking her head and wincing.
Modesitt uses a rating sheet that asks her to rate beer qualities such as aroma, flavor and appearance.
Last week, we met at Tavern at Coventry so could show her process. She ordered a favorite beer, Bell’s Amber Ale. When the beer arrived, however, she did not immediately start to drink; it came with a frosty mug. Beer’s flavor does not come through when a beer is cold, Modesitt says. The bottle was cold, and pouring it into a frosty mug would only mask the flavor further. She waited about 15 minutes before pouring the beer to give it some time to warm closer to room temperature.
After she poured the beer, she held it up to the light and noted on her rating sheet that the beer was transparent and golden in color with a small, off-white head. She also noted that the beer had a small amount of lacing, or the foam that sticks to the side of the glass after you swirl a beer.
When she took a sip of the beer, the noted a number of qualities on her rating sheet: The Amber Ale, for example, was sweet, Modesitt noted, with a malt and caramel flavor. The beer had little carbonation and a smooth texture.
Her final score for the Bell’s Amber Ale, as listed on RateBeer.com, is a 4.3.
A perfect beer on RateBeer.com is a 5.0, she says. I’ve yet to have a perfect beer. I don’t know that a perfect beer exists.
She has been considering re-rating some of her earlier scores, she says, as over the years, her palate has become more sophisticated. Something that might have earned a 4.7 before might only earn a 4.1 now, she says.
With that in mind, her rating-based favorite beer might be Kuhnhenn Brewing’s Kuhnhenn Russian Imperial Stout, which scored a 4.8 in May 2004. She writes, Oh my! What an aroma. Couldn’t get past it! Wonderful and delicious! Only two other beers of her 3,249 ratings scored so high, but she rated them early in her career as a hobby beer rater.
The worst beer of the 3,000-plus rated? Brauerei C. & A. Veltins’ Veltins Pilsener, which she referred to as a drainpour.
One way Modesitt has racked up so many rankings is because she has traveled to taste more. On her honeymoon in 2004, her husband suggested they take a tourist/beer honeymoon. The couple hit up Germany, Amsterdam, London and Belgium, making their way through pilsners and hefeweissbiers, lagers and lambics. Then, Modesitt was the No. 2 female beer rater in the world. No. 1 was a Danish woman, and the two met up with their husbands and, yes, had a beer.
Despite RateBeer.com’s quarter of a million users, the community is tight, executive director Joseph Tucker says. Some users have stayed with him in his California home. He has stayed with other users.
The top users, I’ve met quite a few of them because they travel quite a bit in order to keep their number of ratings going, says Tucker, who says he has not met Modesitt. There’s four Danish guys with over 20,000 ratings, so these guys are everywhere. They’re very disciplined. They’re very organized.
About a third of the website users are female, he says, and the number is continually growing – when the website started, only 20 percent were women.
Modesitt says she’s not in it for the numbers or the rankings. Instead, RateBeer.com is an extension of a hobby. It’s something fun she can share with her husband. Three or four nights a week, the couple will retrieve a beer from the beer fridge in the garage and split it for dinner. The two buy single beers at a time, and they’ve spent as much as $1,200 on one beer excursion. They only purchase beers they’ve never had before.
He thinks it’s great, Modesitt says of her husband’s opinion on having a wife who enjoys craft beer so much. He’s had guys tell him, I hope you know how lucky you are that your wife will drink beer with you. My wife won’t even touch a beer.’