(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…
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.
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.