News, Nuggets & Longreads 3 June 2017: Rating, Flyposting, Logging

The Queen's Arms pub, Plymouth.

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the world of beer and pubs in the last week, from flyposting to secret manoeuvring.

First, the big story of the week: for Good Beer Hunting Dave Eisenberg has ferreted out the news that Ratebeer, the website where serious beer geeks log scores and notes for the beers they drink, is now partly owned by AB-InBev:

Through its so-called ‘global disruptive growth group’ ZX Ventures, Anheuser-Busch InBev has acquired a minority stake in RateBeer, one of the most popular and reputable beer ratings and resource websites in the world… But the deal isn’t exactly new. In fact, it closed this past October following eight months of talks.

That last bit is the weird wrinkle here. Usually, takeovers or partnerships, or whatever you want to call them, are announced immediately, but this was kept quiet (to paraphrase GBH‘s report) so that the partners could prove that RateBeer wouldn’t be changed by the arrangement. Reading between the lines what that means is that they were worried about suddenly losing half the membership overnight, which might still happen.

(GBH has connections with AB-InBev which are set out in a disclosure statement midway through the article. Judge for yourself whether you think this has skewed the reporting; we think pointedly not.)


Biscuit beers on a blackboard.

Barm at I Might Have a Glass of Refreshing Beer (AKA @robsterowski) attended the Edinburgh Craft Beer Festival and used the opportunity to reflect on ‘wacky’ beers and craft beer culture:

Do you remember a couple of years ago, when cupcake shops were popping up left, right and centre, purveying sickly sweet icing (sorry, ‘frosting’) atop a tiny sponge cake base? Despite being mostly white sugar and refined flour, and unutterably disgusting to boot, they found ready cheerleaders among food media that normally pray dutifully to the idols of local ingredients and fresh produce… This appears to be the phase that ‘craft’ brewers are now passing through.

It’s interesting that some people seem to have read this post as a slam of a festival — ‘Why go to events you know you’re going to hate?’ — but, despite the author’s general tendency to speak his mind, this struck us as quite an objective, ultimately positive account: ‘I did enjoy myself, much to my surprise. More to the point, the punters who’d forked out to get in seemed to be having a good time too.’


BrewDog bottles in a supermarket.

Suzy AKA The Pub Geek is not impressed by BrewDog’s latest crowd marketing campaign:

They’re asking their ‘Equity Punks’ to flypost across a country which carries a potential £80 fine (higher for Scottish ‘punks’) legislated by the Highways Act 1980. Not only do Brewdog want  the ‘Equity Punks’ doing unpaid labour for the cause but they’re potentially breaking the law and they have actually paid for this privilege.


Detail from an old brewing log.

Brewer and beer writer Mitch Steele, late of Stone Brewing, is worried about the decline of the leather-bound hard copy brewing log and what that means for the legacy of the craft beer era:

I suspect there are a lot of craft brewers over the years who have followed a similar pattern. They have graduated from handwritten brew logs, that are filed and stored in a box somewhere, to spreadsheets, or maybe even to more complex equipment supplier automated databases or ERP systems. But in 100 years, who is going to be able to find any of it if they want to document how beers were brewed during our current times? Especially if breweries continue to grow quickly or get sold or close shop… I’m wondering right now if a concerted effort could be made by the industry to preserve some brewing logs from early craft brewers in a safe place, like a library or a museum, where researchers in the future could go back and learn about the techniques and ingredients being used today.


Mild taste-off: multiple milds in plastic beakers.

Ryan Moses, AKA The Beer Counsellor, has taken a month to organise his thoughts on the takeover of Wicked Weed by AB-InBev before reaching any conclusions. Acknowledging the full range of arguments he has nonetheless concluded that buying local is best thing consumers can do in this situation:

Let your love of craft beer inform your buying decisions of what and where you buy.  If you have local breweries near you, frequent them.  Buy their beer, their growlers, and their swag.  If you go to a local brewery and their beer isn’t as good as you had hoped, don’t frag them on social media. Send a personal email or letter to the owner/brewer expressing your concerns in a thoughtful and respectful manner. We must be the ones who control craft beer. Not the faceless conglomerates who could just as easily be selling ball bearings rather than beer.

Counterpoint: Michael Agnew at A Perfect Pint argues (using the strongest of strong language) that critics have a right, if not a duty, to ‘be mean’:

The criticism of my critique is often that I’m not giving brewers a chance. I’m too quick to name the problems. These brewers are young and passionate. They have dreams. I’m stepping on these dreams when all they need is time to work things out. It’s a difficult step to go from brewing ten gallons at a time to brewing ten barrels. Rather than publicly calling them out, I should go in and talk to them… In what other industry do we say this?

We’re probably more Agnew than Moses here but we think blogger and sometime blog commenter Dave S has this right:


A screengrab of the Braciatrix blog.

And, finally, a recommendation for a blog to watch rather than a pointer to specific post: at Braciatrix Christina Wade is considering ‘the history of beer through the women who brewed, consumed, sold, and sometimes, opposed it’. So far it’s proving to be something quite fresh. Take a look.

5 thoughts on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 3 June 2017: Rating, Flyposting, Logging”

  1. Thanks for the link. I agree with most of Agnew’s points and I want more honesty in beer reviews. I think there is a way to do it with new brewers that is as constructive as it is harsh. A good review should speak to two groups: potential drinkers and the brewers. However, some brewers are jerks who think they’ve never made a bad beer. Those brewers should be raked over the coals whenever possible.

  2. I’m still not clear on a couple of thinks about the GBH story. We were first told that the story was handled by Dave Eisenberg and that, in a tweet, this was apparently important what with the line they draw internally between the consulto side and the bloggy bit. After a good needling, however and according to another tweet, MK seems to sharing that he was more of an active player in the calls with the RateBeer folk. I don’t think much turn on this other than its a bit sloppy.

    But then I am unclear why nothing occurs in April and May by way of GBH undertaking corroborating research. No side calls to people in the trade are reported. No digging in records. There is just a call in March and another last week. Similarly, why didn’t the more sophisticated players in this scandalous deal (ZX and RB) do nothing for over eight weeks by way of forming an alternate communications strategy? Either they didn’t care or, in fact, were fine letting the news flow via GBH. None of this suggests an orchestration that GBH would be a participant in or was even aware of. Could mean GBH was itself used. Or, more likely, it doesn’t matter at all to the players in the transaction, that it’s all playing out as expected.

    1. We’ve got fairly limited energy for, and interest in, the detail of what goes on behind the scenes at GBH, beyond sticking to our guns in re: continuing to mention the AB connection where it seems relevant. In the case, at the simplest level, GBH told us something we didn’t already know and that, as far as we can tell, no-one else was preparing to tell us anytime soon.

      In the interests of disclosure we should say that GBH is one of our $2 per month Patreon patrons — the kind of ethical challenge we knew we were letting ourselves in for. We’re still feeling our way.

      1. Yes, I suppose you are right. That has sorta become the situation. So much alliance and cash and ambition in the small space of beer writing that it’s now a bit irrelevant.

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