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

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.

Rating Sites, Hype & the Real Influencers

Good King Henry Special Reserve (bottle).

If you want to get your brand name on the radar don’t send samples to bloggers, send them to RateBeerians.

That’s the con­clu­sion we reached after research­ing this sto­ry on the weird promi­nence of Good King Hen­ry Spe­cial Reserve, the only British beer in the Rate­Beer top 50, for All About Beer:

The flur­ry of high rank­ings that fol­lowed that sum­mer gathering—most award­ing 18, 19 or 20 out of 20 and accom­pa­nied by pro­fuse thanks to ‘Chris_O’—put the beer into the Top 50 chart. That might have been a blip except those events brought it to the atten­tion of Edin­burgh beer lover Craig Garvie. He is an enthu­si­as­tic char­ac­ter often to be seen at beer fes­ti­val in a colour­ful bowler hat, steam­punk shades and with his beard dyed one shade or anoth­er. A par­tic­u­lar fan of strong stouts, he knew he had to get his hands on GKHSR.

We were prompt­ed to research and write that piece because we, despite pay­ing fair­ly close atten­tion to British beer, had nev­er heard of Old Chim­ney’s brew­ery or come across any of their beers on sale any­where, ever.

On a relat­ed note, we were pon­der­ing writ­ing some­thing longer in response to this Tweet…

…to which our ini­tial response was, yes, mar­ket­ing is impor­tant, but word-of-mouth about great beer is the best mar­ket­ing you can get.

But the GKHSR sto­ry demon­strates very clear­ly that you don’t need fan­cy graph­ic design, expen­sive adver­tis­ing or squads of PR peo­ple to make a splash.

Those Who Rate

This Tweet triggered a conversation on which we eavesdropped with interest:

Fol­low up respons­es seemed to sug­gest that Rate­bee­ri­ans as know enough to be dan­ger­ous with­out offer­ing a use­ful opin­ion:

Now, we don’t rate beer our­selves, but we find it odd that peo­ple in the busi­ness of sell­ing beer react so bad­ly to those who do.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Those Who Rate”