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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