Let's be honest, it's not necessarily the most useful thing. The worst beer I've had in two years only got a 5.9. I've tried to maintain some consistency, with 8.0+ and 9.0+ representing the two highest categories of "good" beer respectively. 8.0+ is for really good offerings, be it versus the rest of the beers I've had in that style, or because of the flavor quality of the beer. 9.0+ is for really remarkable beers, ones that immediately make me want to revise the Favorites List. That is still the plan.
But, it's time to shed more light on the rest of the ratings. I've kind of - in my head, and in practice for the most part - reserved the 7.0-7.9 area for beers that represent their style well and taste good. For beers not brewed to a style, if you see them with that kind of a rating, it means they're worth trying, but they're kind of one note, or over the course of one beer, I'm just not in love. I'm expanding the breadth of that part of the rating system, to 6.0 to 7.9. This gives me the breadth to show where a perfectly solid beer like the recently reviewed Mendocino Blue Heron Pale Ale is, in my opinion, significantly better than some mediocre IPA or bland stout.
Now, comes the part I don't like, but which one friend said needs to be done by any real critic. Bad beer makers, I can't save you any longer. I have to admit, you're out there. Professionals whom either don't have functioning tastebuds, or don't care about their beer enough, or, and we know whom I mean here, brewing companies that are about the bottom line, and trying to save their dying market share because craft beer is FOR REAL. I've decided to split up the final levels of ratings such:
5.0 - 5.9 Dear Brewery, you tried, but you failed. You obviously care, but you're sloppy, or you're boring, or both. You LIKE beer more than you like making beer. That's not a bad thing, it's just...there's a lot of new breweries every year.
3.5 - 4.9 Your beer sucks, but you're not in the last category because frankly, you're not evil, you're just not really very good at making beer. What you've put in the bottle would be better used in cooking, or because it's 2:30AM and no one cares much about taste at 2:30AM unless it's the taste of grease. Some of the breweries that have sacrificed true beer flavor for corn and rice adjuncts could end up here, but mostly...
0.0 - 3.4 Some people try to argue that there's a time and a place for cheap, watery, American-style macro lagers. I've sometimes played devil's advocate, or agreed with friends, this MIGHT be true. I can no longer believe that or defend such a position. If you want a pilsner, drink a real one, you'll be better off. If you need to get drunk on something "light," you probably should just switch to liquor. I'm unsure if I want to make a tailgating/economic exception here. That doesn't mean the beer is better than this rating, it just means you've personally found a purpose for it.