Mother Earth Brew Co. apologizes, removes controversial post claiming boycott of BA, RB

Mother Earth Brew Co logo

(Vista, CA) – Nearly two weeks ago, a SoCal-based nanobrewery, Mother Earth Brew Co., released a blog post criticizing the two largest beer communities on the internet: Beer Advocate and RateBeer.

Today, RateBeer user, womencantsail, shared that post with the community and, over the course of the past several hours, has gathered several thousand hits across two sites. The backlash resulted in a takedown and subsequent apology.

The post comes at a time when stories are surfacing virtually every day challenging breweries and their reputations online.

*Not to be confused with Mother Earth Brewing in North Carolina. The brewery voiced its support for the community earlier tonight.


The apology and post itself are included below for posterity…

Original Post:

Rants and raves about beer reviews
Hello fellow beer fans. I felt the need to do a post on the popularity of beer review sites such as beeradvocate and ratebeer. This post really stems from a few different things. First, the lack of qualification and credibility that people that rate beer have, and second the use of these sites in the retail environment. I think its probably more appropriate to provide awareness on this topic rather than criticize people for having their own opinion, so I will do my best to do that; but excuse me if I get curt.

First let me talk about peer reviews. I am in support of them totally. As a consumer, I rely heavily on reviews by sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Amazon, Cnet, etc. for various products and services. Restaurants especially require extra scrutiny since they need to be held accountable for producing safe-to-consume food. So, that being said, I am not critical of the spirit of what these sites do, but rather the people posting. Since beer production as a science and art is something that is not commonly understood by the layperson, there is a lot of ignorance and misinformation out there.

Now specifically relating to beer reviews…I think in order to fairly review a beer you have to currently brew or have brewed before, and substantially, to be qualified enough to have a serious opinion. Now you may say, well everyone has an opinion and should be able to express it. But the difference here is that reviews by unqualified individuals affect the perception of businesses and shape peoples’ opinions. Let me provide an example using phrases I have seen on reviews. I will start with the comment (C), followed by my response to it underneath (R):

C: “This beer isn’t dry enough”
R: The perception of dryness encompasses many things. If you know anything about attenuation or specific gravity (the measure of a liquids relative density to water) you would know that fermentation “dries” out the beer since alcohol is lighter than sugar, and thus diminishes mouthfeel as fermentation goes on. A beer may seem sweet when it is in fact dry gravity-wise. For example, Many people accuse the new Stone Vertical epic of being too sweet, but what I know from speaking to their brewers is that it finished as low as any beer I have heard of. So it’s the yeast character and malt profile combination that lends to its sweetness.

C: “The beer isn’t bitter enough” or “is too bitter”
R: Until you know something about a beer’s style guidelines, I don’t want to hear your opinion on bitterness. Its one thing if a Hefeweizen is bittered like an IPA, but just because a beer has 5 more IBUs than you prefer doesn’t mean it’s too bitter. Also, IBUs are a strict mathematical measurement of bitterness, calculated by a hop’s acidity multiplied by the length of the boil. That doesn’t account for how your pallet perceives bitterness relative to the beer’s malt profile. For example, a DIPA at over 100 IBUs may not taste as bitter than a single IPA with half as many IBUs simply because the DIPA is more balanced. That doesn’t mean one is better or worse.

C: “Beer has slight diacetyl”
R: I love when non-brewers try to use words that they heard a brewer use from 30 ft away during tasting hours. Don’t talk about things you have no idea about.

So I think you get the point. I could go on and on about fallacies and ignorant statements, but the point is that beer production is a very complicated process, and without even a high level knowledge of the process or ingredient’s contribution to flavor profiles, etc., you shouldn’t act like you are some kind of expert when evaluating a beer.

Now on to retailers… Many liquor stores are beginning to use peer review sites as a way to guide customers by placing labels under bottles on the shelf like wine retailers do from wine spectator. This really aggravates me. Beer advocate is a consumer based review site. Wine spectator, for example, uses trained wine judges to evaluate wines. Beeradvocate should by no means be used as a barometer for quality. If you feel as strongly as I do, take the time to tell liquor store owners to quit that practice.

In summary, beer is meant to be enjoyed. I think people get so geeked out on it, especially in San Diego, that they feel the need to develop some sort of reputation as an expert reviewer. Unless you really know about beer…I mean really know…like you have before, or currently brew it…stop being a poser. Everyone can enjoy beer, but no one should prevent others from enjoying it too by spreading misinformation. Its one thing to say, I don’t like it. Its another to say that it has flaws that aren’t even there.

Here’s me going on the record as officially boycotting these sites.

Apology:

If you are looking for a post on beer reviews it has been replaced by this one.

I have been inundated with feedback from a lot of displeased beer fans and customers out there so I am here to apologize for comments said in a disparaging tone.

Let me start by saying I care about our customers and beer quality very much. Negative reviews wouldn’t bother us if I didn’t. I take criticism hard and that is the only reason I reacted. If you had a chance to read my other post you would see that I started by saying that I value peer reviews a lot. So I don’t want people to think that I am getting down on folks expressing their opinions…because I exercise that right as well when I review places or products.

Also, I know that websites like RateBeer and BeerAdvocate are good for both the consumer and craft beer industry alike. What I meant to do was call attention to the ways those sites can be improved. So I will admit it could have been more constructive.

My harsh words were simply a reaction to a couple reviews that I thought were really unfair, and even though I should have just looked away…I decided to get involved.

My comments were not aimed at the general population of beer enthusiasts in spirit (even though it may have read like that). It just came out that way in frustration that was aimed at one reviewer (which is entitled to his/her opinion).

Many will still say that I am just back-tracking to save face, and that’s fine, that’s your opinion. But I really do care about our fans and customers, and don’t want my knee-jerk comments to represent those of Mother Earth. My apologies again. Hopefully I have the opportunity to make it up to you at the brewery or otherwise.

Signing off…

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18 thoughts on “Mother Earth Brew Co. apologizes, removes controversial post claiming boycott of BA, RB

  1. knee jerk comments? please! the original post was obviously planned out and checked over.

    C: You’re a dick.

  2. Also of note: there are two breweries with similar names, Mother Earth Brew Co. (CA), and Mother Earth Brewing (Kinston, NC) but the twitter name @motherearthbrew

    They are not one and the same and the Mother Earth Brewing in NC has publicly stated their support and appreciation of BA and Rate Beer.

  3. What was wrong with the original post? He doesn’t like some aspects of rate beer and BA. Why is this a problem epically considering he acknowledges they are good for beer overall?

    He should have stuck to his opinion instead of attempting to appease his detractors by issuing a half hearted apology.

  4. I wonder – why the apology? It wasn’t necessary as I didn’t find anything about the original post harsh. He stated planned out and checked over facts. Facts that really hurt certain people.

    Calm down princess!

    I never said RB or BA were useless. I did say they were a failure and they are.

    A BA or RB shelf talker in any grocery is absolutely comical.

  5. What an A hole. He may understand brewing but he sure doesn’t understand business or the age old saying “The customer is always right”. Lighten up and realize that bitching at someone will only lose you business.

  6. To those who see nothing wrong in his post, I draw your attention to this passage:

    “I think in order to fairly review a beer you have to currently brew or have brewed before, and substantially, to be qualified enough to have a serious opinion.”

    Has every restaurant reviewer been a chef? Has every wine critic been a vintner? NO!

    I know many people who have great knowledge about beer who have never brewed or at least in the capacity he seems to think rates being able to have an opinion.

    By following his inference I guess Michael Jackson was just a chubby Brit who drank a lot of beer. Not being a brewer makes his opinions invalid.

    Are some reviewers on these sites boneheads? Yes. But for every bonehead there are 100 who care passionately about beer, know their stuff, and give good, balanced reviews.

    The brewer in this case IMHO was way out of line.

  7. I do see the point you make Rory, however I disagree that the brewers post was out of line. While the bulk of his post was pointing out some inconsistencies and likewise flaws of the many reviews on both sites. such as his examples showcasing how someone with little knowledge of brewing or beer in general would rate one beer over the other based on that reviewers beer drinking history and repertoire. The main point of his post, was to get the community aware that many liqour stores were beginning to use these sites ratings as a means to promote certain beer.

    The problem with this is the beer reviews being used are not based on any type of standard, as perhaps used by wine goers. A certain brew could be “the best” medium stout according to an actual Beer reviewer, yet is could be too musky, too strong or perhaps too thick for someone typically drinking on the lighter scale. Should this highly regarded stout by the “professional reviewers” be trumped by a lower rating from people used to drinking miller light? Personally, I think not. They are helpful for a guide, but not an end all for a specific beers quality.

    Consumer reviews are good for a reference, a guide on what many think is a good ale, IPA, etc.. but should not be used as an end all voice on the makeup of a specific beer, nor its overall quality for its “flavor”. THIS, is what I believe the original poster was bringing to light.

  8. @Ben I agree that review sites are flawed in the way that you describe..that a reviewer’s taste may discriminate against a certain quality about the product. What’s strange is that this flaw even exists at Yelp, a review site which the author singles out as OK. My friend might bring me to a sushi restaurant and I don’t like sushi (but I want to get that review point so I’ll review it anyway – as an example). He mentions that reviews help identify safe-to-consume food which is helpful in theory but Yelp’s restaurant section isn’t used for that purpose. I’ve never personally checked for people getting sick from restaurants but maybe I’m alone. A skeptic might also point out that the author’s brewery has almost a 5-star rating on Yelp.

    Besides, by that logic, beer is also a food and beverage product and should be under the same scrutiny from a safe-to-consume perspective, no?

    All of that said, sites that are built on recommendations from friends and based on your taste preferences are already here and will continue to take over this old model eventually. It might take a while though because numbers/ratings are sexy (from an attention-grabbing & sales standpoint).

  9. I think Mother Earth Brew had some good points, but didn’t throughly think things through before he made his post. Most reviewers on BA, RB are thoughtful about what they post. There are far worst reviewers & far worst beer review sites. For instance, http://www.crapbeer.com. These guys know NOTHING about beer, but they don’t let that stop them. If there was ever an argument for Cicerone or BJCP training being needed, these guys are it. I’ve been hoping one of the breweries they’ve slandered will take legal action, but so far these guys still are running.

    Overall, most reviewers on BA & RB are credible. The collective body of what is posted adds value. The few that aren’t credible usually stand out. There are far worse sources.

  10. I can understand the brewer’s frustration when reading the comments about his creations. Getting negative reviews can really affect someone, especially when the product that is being reviewed is such a large part of your life. That being said, he should really be looking at the value that these sites present to the brewer. When people describe off-flavors in beer, take note! People without “professional palates” can be of great help with the creative process.

    I am currently in the process of starting a brewery, and when people try my beer I am more interested in what people don’t like than what they do. If you want to have your ass kissed, get into a profession that doesn’t rely on appealing to people’s tastes in order to achieve.

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  14. Am I the only one that sees the irony of a bunch of people that “rate beer” lashing out because someone rated them?

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