Friday, February 23, 2007

What We "Owe" the Industry

There was a post to the Brewer's Association Forum recently that led me to respond. It was about the recent "Extreme Beer" issue of BeerAdvocate magazine, an issue that I contributed to. Here's what Ashton Lewis, of the Springfield Brewing Co. (Springfield, Mo.) wrote:

We got a shipment of magazines at our brewery recently and I have read the new BeerAdvocate magazine cover to cover. I must say that after I read some of the articles I was forced to remind myself that I actually know the definition of “advocate”. Some of the Google definitions include “someone who speaks on behalf of another”, “to speak or argue in favor of” and “a person who pleads for a cause or propounds an idea”. The term advocate I think can be clearly ranked in the positive description category.

The reason for my temporary confusion over the definition of advocate stems from the number of negative ideas and comments written about our industry in this new industry publication. I suppose one way to advocate one thing is to denigrate another, like our wonderful politicians seem to do so well.

The Beer Advocate starts off with a letter from the editors hyping “extreme beers”. I don’t have a problem with that, but they do this by putting down the majority of craft brewers and our beers to make their point. They claim that if it weren’t for extreme beers that “we’d probably be drinking a lot of Pale Ales, and brewers would be content to copy the great styles of Europe, instead of reinventing their own”. To me extreme beers offer something exciting to beer consumers, but the bread and butter of most craft brewers is not something “extreme”. The very name suggests that a very small group of beers and beer drinkers want to drink this type of beer, otherwise “extreme” would be “ordinary” ... right?

As far as copying the great styles of Europe I don’t personally believe that the bread and butter of most craft brewers are copies of European beers. Some brewers have made the European clone their niche, but why is that such a bad thing? Let’s face it, a lot of imports are oxidized beyond all recognition when consumed. I suppose the bakers on the East Coast baking San Francisco-style sourdough bread should discontinue this style and encourage consumers to buy stale bread imported from the left coast.

Skimming through the book there is a nice interview with Larry Bell, a nice article about “American Wild Ale” (I didn’t realize Brettanomyces is bacteria) and then the beer reviews. This is the section that again made me wonder “Why?” That’s also the comment associated with beers given the score of D-, one step up from F or “avoid”.

Even the Wine Spectator, known for its sometimes cold and damaging reviews of wine, does not go out if its way to be rude. The beers given low scores [Not Worthy (C-) and Disappointing (D+)] were slammed in a not so polite manner. “Take this back to the drawing board” was one of the comments.

I have had my share of bad beers, both imports and domestics and know that there is some bad stuff out there. It doesn’t make me feel a better person to spend my time blasting bad beers to my friends. Maybe I am getting too old (37 is pretty ancient to the up and coming hip generation) and my values must be misaligned with the times. But the way I see it is that a beer magazine boasting to be the “Beer Advocate” should focus on the positive. If I were looking for advice about how to go about spending my beer dollars I may take away some pretty negative views about craft brewing from this magazine.


I've never met Ashton or had his beers. So that has nothing to do with how I felt or how I responded to this. But I have to tell you, this kind of "let's treat craft beer with kid gloves" stuff has been bugging me for years. It's one of the main reasons I started this blog and my website. I don't have a lot of patience with people who blast beers from positions of ignorance -- "This IPA sucks! I hate hoppy beers!" -- but when a beer is not good -- poorly packaged, poorly formulated, or just plain insipid -- I don't want to be told by some brewer that it wouldn't be nice to say so, or that if I felt I had to say so, I should say so nicely.

Hey, we've all heard it from mothers and grandmothers (and editors): if you can't say something nice, don't say anything. Well, how am I going to talk about light beer, then? Seriously, if a critic can't say negative things, he's gagged. And if I can't say those negative things in an entertaining, creative way...what the hell am I getting paid for?

So I wrote this response to the Forum:

As one of the writers in the issue of "BeerAdvocate Magazine" Ashton Lewis refers to, and as a beer writer who's been writing about craft beer full-time for over ten years, I'd like to throw in my perspective. The folks at BeerAdvocate -- the magazine, the website, and the extended Web community that posts on that website [and at ratebeer and Real Beer] -- DO consider themselves "advocates" for beer, and particularly for specialty beers, both American craft-brewed beers and traditional-styled imports. They actively support beers like that, by asking for them at bars, by offering them to their friends to sample, by buying tickets to beer dinners and festivals and tastings, and by buying those beers almost exclusively. That's advocating beer.

But "advocate" does not mean "worship blindly," or "defend without judgment." They stand outside the industry, and they judge it by their own standards. And by those standards, whether you agree with them or not, they believe that they advocate "beer" -- not "the craft beer industry", not "your beer" -- by speaking plainly about beers they think fall short, breweries they think engage in bad practices, retailers and wholesalers who don't measure up to their standards.

I don't necessarily agree with everything said on the website or in the magazine. I don't agree with all the quotes in my own story in the issue in question. As the classic journalist's rejoinder goes, I don't make this stuff up, I just report it. Maybe the negative was expressed in unduly harsh terms.

But to tell an independent magazine that it should focus on the positive, with the strong implication that it should give a pass to anything negative, is to show a basic misunderstanding of the relationship between a magazine and its readers. If readers decide that they're not getting honest opinions from a magazine that purports to have expert knowledge, or if they decide the magazine is only delivering good news -- essentially filtering out anything that would upset advertisers -- that magazine's reputation, readership, and ad rates will suffer. And like we keep hearing about
craft brewing: publishing is a business.

Think of what is said about craft brewers: independent, uncompromising, innovative, honest, passionate. As a beer writer, I've tried to be true to the same principles. Would a craft brewer have me do any less?


The responses I've had from brewers have been, so far, positive. I can see where Ashton was coming from, truly. To get such negative statements from a group -- beer geeks -- that has been outspokenly pro-craft for so long must have seemed a bit of a betrayal. But the industry is over 25 years old. It's old enough, and big enough, and successful enough to stand up and take criticism. I think we owe the industry that.

52 comments:

Stonch said...

The fact that Ashton considered “Take this back to the drawing board” a particularly rude thing to say about a beer says a lot. I haven't seen the BA magazine and don't expect I will, but if that is the worst comment about a beer he could pluck out of it, it doesn't sound overly scathing to me.

JohnG said...

I wasn't offended by Ashton's comments at all. I think his point is well taken that far too many beer writers/publications hype the big/new/weird etc...which is fine, but that is a small fraction of the industry. A great Pale Ale (see: SNPA) is worth a whole bunch of stupid "tripple IPAs" - but what gets the press?

Though I will say that Ashton doesn't need to fuss about bad beer reviews - some beers deserve them. Though in BA-the-magazine's case, you wonder if the beer deserved the bad review, or if that was punishment for a brewer who didn't shell out for an ad.

Anonymous said...

AMEN! Lew.

You can only sugar coat something so much before it constitutes outright dishonesty. That seems to be what Mr. Lewis is calling for. My advice to Ashton: get back in the brewhouse. If you do a good job, no one, including you, will have cause to complain.

"skivtjerry" on BeerAdvocate.com

Joel Furfari said...

Lew, i didn't know you were on blogger! (This is Vitesse from BA.com) As Borat would say, niiiiiice.

Ashton got upset about a letter to the editor (hardly indicative of a groundswell of opinion) and some wording in a review? It's hardly a shot across the bow of the brewing industry on the part of Beer Advocate. Besides, I'm always of the opinion that brewers should be glad every day that someone is talking about their beers on these huge online communities.
cheers.

Stan Hieronymus said...

This probably qualifies as an aside, but Ashton makes excellent beers.

Not stuff you'd drink at GABF and go "wow" to but beers you settle into during a session, then forget about until the conversation (perhaps with me) gets boring, when you return to the beer for a pleasant but demanding diversion.

Stan Hieronymus said...

Make that undemanding diversion. (And I haven't even got to beer tonight - yet.)

The Beer Lover said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lew Bryson said...

I said I'm not going to stand for trash-talking on this blog, and I meant it. No personal attacks on anyone. I am the moderator.

Keep talking, but play nice.

Lew Bryson said...

JohnG --
Ashton's comments about hyping the big beers caused me no strife whatsoever: I've said exactly the same thing, here. I objected to the idea that beers shouldn't be criticized.

I also object to your implication that the magazine would give a bad review to a beer because the brewer wouldn't buy an ad. Believe me, looking at the issues that have come out so far, there has been NO problem getting ads.

I'm managing editor at Malt Advocate, and we catch this crap all the time: you gave them a good review because they bought an ad, you gave them a bad review because they didn't. Let me explain: No. The only real asset we have is our integrity. That's true of any magazine or newsletter that lives on reviews: see Robert Parker for another example. I make my living -- such as it is -- by writing what I believe. If I shilled, I'd make more money...for a short time. It never works in the long run. We've seen magazines come and go because of it. The money off a quarter-page ad just isn't worth it.

JohnG said...

Lew:

I know that you are someone who has talked about the over-hyping of so-called "extreme" beers. I also think that your point that the craft brewing industry is big enough to take criticism is correct. However, I think you went a little over-board in attacking Ashton's call for sunshine-and-lollipops, that's all. I also had an over-all negative reaction to the...tone of the BA magazine. Perhaps its the "we're so cool and punk rock" pose that rubbed Ashton wrong. And unfortunately, that tone does leave the magazine open to question its integrity. You get the feeling things are printed in it just to get a rise. Or to deliver a "smack-down". In any case, as a new magazine, they don't have the asset of integrity to fall back on; that has to be earned. And in the case of the BA Mag., they have to overcome the suspicion that they are handing out good reviews to brewers who sponsor their festivals, and bad ones to brewers who don't "support" BA. I'm not saying they can't earn the asset of inegrity - but they don't get it gifted.

Lew Bryson said...

Well, you can't really attract readers by taking an attitude of "We're not very cool. Here's some extremely serious writing." They're young, and that's how they write. I wouldn't expect their magazine to sound any other way. And actually, compared to magazines from the past, like Beer The Mag, they're much more serious about beer.

But I don't agree that they have to earn the assumption that their reviews are honest. In fact, it concerns me that you seem to assume that they're not. Innocent till proven guilty...and while I'm no "Bros" cheerleader, and have issues of my own with them, I haven't noticed that there's a lot wrong with their palates. In fact, the one time I've been around them for an extended period of time, I was impressed by their seriousness and their tasting ability...not something I'd say about every other writer.

JohnG said...

It is my perception that BA has a multiplicity of relationships with a variety of breweries, and that makes them a bit different than a Michael Jackson who doesn't have to solicit brewers for festival sponsorships and beer donations. That, for me, puts them in a position where they have to earn my trust. I appreciate that you think I should take their integrity for granted, but for now I can't. Not saying they are "guilty" exactly, but I have concerns.

The Beer Lover said...

JohnG said:

And in the case of the BA Mag., they have to overcome the suspicion that they are handing out good reviews to brewers who sponsor their festivals, and bad ones to brewers who don't "support" BA. I'm not saying they can't earn the asset of inegrity - but they don't get it gifted.

Nor should they. Lew, I'm not trying to open up old wounds, but there is a track record here, and there are some real integrity issues. So forgive me, but I have to question the motives as well, and agree that suspicion might indeed be warranted here. I can't give the benefit of the doubt in this case. I do apoligize that I "trash talked", but it was my honest opinion. And as you state yourself:

I don't want to be told by some brewer( beer writer in this case) that it wouldn't be nice to say so, or that if I felt I had to say so, I should say so nicely.

Hey, we've all heard it from mothers and grandmothers (and editors): if you can't say something nice, don't say anything. Well, how am I going to talk about(certain beer writers, or beer magaizines), then?Seriously, if a critic can't say negative things, he's gagged. And if I can't say those negative things in an entertaining, creative way...what the hell am I getting paid for?

Alan said...

Lew can defend himself I am sure but the idea that anyone has to put up with crappy comments at one's own website is nonsense. "Natural course" my unmentioned body part.

That being said, what is the issue here. It is the Beer Advocate not Brewing Advocate. While I am a fan of a few brewers, I am primarily a beer drinker and write about beer and beer culture at my site. There is no place in an intimate personal experience like beer for either style huggers, gurus or celebrity brewers. Quality is only defined by each single beer in the glass before me itself. Both brewers and publishing pundits should be kept aware of this.

Alan said...

Hey! OK - never mind. You made exactly that point (and much more pointedly) on Thursday at Stans when I was tragically separated from the internet due to a business trip. Maybe your big announcement will be about a RSBS brain implant so I won't miss these cross-blog comments in future.

Bill said...

One of the beers they reviewed was a bottle of Sierra Nevada(Celebration or Bigfoot I can't remember which)that they had aged in their "cellar". The beer had obviously gone bad during this time yet they felt the need to review it poorly in their magazine. How is giving a negative review to a good beer that has been handled badly positive for the industry or beer in general? I can't imagine that you would let a dram of Irish whiskey sit in your fridge for a week or two and then review it in Malt Advocate.

GenX at 40 said...

I do not know that review (as I can't subscribe to another beer periodical) isn't there a valid point about a high strength beer going bad or a failing of packaging causing it?

Anonymous said...

Bill

I read that review, and I couldn't agree more. Reviewing "aged" beers is a crapshoot, at best, and perhaps more thought should be used before reviewing such beers.

On the other hand, I have been cellaring beers for a while now, and it IS nice to know which ones will or will not age. Some age very well, some don't, obviously. Maybe they should separate their reviews of such beers...I don't know.

jakester

Stan Hieronymus said...

Yesterday I took a bottle of 2005 Big Foot - the beer that got a D+ (I think, magazine out on loan) - and had it with a couple of commercial brewers.

It was in good shape, but still very hoppy, great malt depth. Will probably wait at least a year before opening another and not worry that it will fade.

I'm not sure why they felt obliged to write up the experience, but since they seemed compelled I think more context would have been good.

Since they said they would revisit it (to their credit) that means they have more. I would have liked it if they opened another bottle to see how it was.

Alan suggests they are signaling you should drink up what you have before it turns to vinegar or dump it. (No, I'll pay the postage if you want to send it to me.)

JohnG said...

Yeah - that review on "aged" Bigfoot rubbed me wrong, too. That certainly was a negative review that didn't need to be published.

The Beer Lover said...

Alan said:

Lew can defend himself I am sure but the idea that anyone has to put up with crappy comments at one's own website is nonsense. "Natural course" my unmentioned body part.

But this is not a website, it is a blog. Lew stated that on his blog, "now you can finally talk back." You can not talk back on his website. I disagree that the comments were "crappy." As Lew himself states:

I don't want to be told by some brewer( beer writer in this case) that it wouldn't be nice to say so, or that if I felt I had to say so, I should say so nicely.

That being said, what is the issue here. It is the Beer Advocate not Brewing Advocate. While I am a fan of a few brewers, I am primarily a beer drinker and write about beer and beer culture at my site.

Your logic here makes no sense to me. Without the breweries and brewers, there would be no beer or beer culture to write about.

There is no place in an intimate personal experience like beer for either style huggers, gurus or celebrity brewers. Quality is only defined by each single beer in the glass before me itself. Both brewers and publishing pundits should be kept aware of this.

I agree with this, but I don't think that was the point. The point being, in this particular situation, some might questions the motives behind a particular review. And when the reviewers have a had some integrity issues in the past, it makes some people question their motives, and makes their reviews suspect. Again, not "crappy" comments. Honest opinion here. Take it or leave it for what it is.

Alan said...

Please. Makes no sense? No sense??? The best beer I have ever had was made by me (as were the second and third best) and most of the others "store bought" beers were made by people I will never meet or even ever know their names. I am sure they are all fine folk but hardly involved in my hobby experience. Pro writers may have to folk to them or stumble over them at conventions and 'fests but that is their problem.

Plus it is Lew's blog. If you are obscene or off topic or trip up on any other rule he sets, tough. You are in his rec room. Deal with it. At my place I change any obscene arguments around to make the offender look foolish.

Lew Bryson said...

Okay, to everyone who is whining about me deleting comments, or who seems to think that my original point about being able to write negative reviews means that it's open season around here...

This is my blog. It is not a web forum or a bulletin board. I am not going to have it become one. I am not going to have it become a place where people get slagged.

So if I decide a comment is out of line by my rules -- and yes, they're unwritten -- I will delete it. If you don't like that, you don't have to post or read anything here. Sorry to see you go. Whine about it, and I'll delete that, too. I made this clear early on, and I'm re-stating it now.

For those of you who care to stick around and have a reasonable discussion, welcome. I'm up for it.

Lew Bryson said...

Now...as to the whole "should aged beer be reviewed" controversy...I think it largely comes down to whether you think of it as "aged beer" or "old beer."

There is a sizeable sub-set of beer aficionados (not to say "geeks," of course)who like aged beers; there is a subset of at least equal size who much prefers them fresh. This will color the argument.

Add to that the "individual bottle" nature of the question, and the (usual) ignorance of what the beer went through before you began cellaring it (yes, there are exceptions, but not often).

So: is any review of aged beer valid, given these variables? I think so, yes. There's going to be variation, there's going to be differences in how bottles were treated. But that's the real world. Live in it.

It's a different question, I think, on whether these reviews are useful. They can tell you trends: if a particular beer is reviewed in a 5 or more year "vertical tasting," I do think you can get an idea of how aging is affecting that beer. They can tell you about problems with a brewer's packaging.But can they tell you what your one bottle of 1996 Bigfoot is going to taste like? Nope. Not a prayer.

JMO, boys, JMO.

Travis said...

A beer which has evidence of poor technique should be panned. A brewery that regularly puts out beer that should be dumped for quality issues needs to be written about. Personally, I prefer for a reviewer to give as vivid of a description why they disliked (or liked for that matter) a particular beer. It gives me more to go on when I'm making a decision at the store. What I dislike is when a writer feels the need to be mean spirited and rude in their evaluation of the beer or brewery. It isn't necessary and, for me, detracts from the credibility of the reviewer.

Lew Bryson said...

Travis,
I can get fully behind that statement. I don't want to see things like "The brewer had his head up his butt on this one." Negative reviews are fine, witty negative reviews are okay, but personally vicious negative reviews don't fly. I don't even want to see "Tastes like piss" unless there's a definite urine-like taste component...that the taster explains (and explains how they know what it tastes like).

But I don't have any problem with something like "A poor use of hops; all bitterness and no flavor" or "This kind of ho-hum hefeweizen went out of style 8 years ago." (Okay, not that witty, but it's late, and I'm tired.)

Anonymous said...

I disliked the mag.

Coddling pretty much sums up how the articles and presentation is represented.

"Perhaps its the "we're so cool and punk rock" pose that rubbed Ashton wrong."

Perhaps not, the pretension of the magazine and it's format rub a lot of people the wrong way.

AD

Lew Bryson said...

All I can say is that the mag's young. It took us a few years to get Malt Advocate tuned to where we like it (and we're actually in the process or re-tuning it now). It's an evolutionary process.

The personalities of the Alstroms are a polarizing factor, too: they've made a number of strong friends and enemies in the business. Well, it's a passionate arena. The mag will eventually live or die on its quality and its ability to reach the readers.

They need to decide what the mag is, though: discussions on the BA website show that. Is it too simplistic, too 'happy,' too coddling? Or is it too beer-focused, to the exclusion of the lives each of us have outside of beer?

It's not unlike the debate going on over beer. Should BeerAdvocate magazine go extreme, or should it go session? "Balance" is an easy answer, but I'm reminded of the message to the Church in Laodicea in Revelations 3:16 -- "So because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spew thee out of my mouth."

Balance isn't always the answer. We'll have to watch how things evolve.

RunawayJim said...

Having just re-read the reviews that people have questioned, I don't understand what makes them so questionable. They reviewed the beers with honesty. At no point do they leave out what is wrong with the beers that got bad reviews. They mention all the flaws and what could be changed to make the beer better. These reviews could be used to help brewers improve their beers, and I wouldn't be surprised if that happens.

As for the reviews of aged beers, it's a tough one. Sometimes a single bottle could have been a bad one, sometimes it could've been the whole batch, and sometimes it's how it was cellared. To their credit, they say they'll revisit the Bigfoot because what they tasted was not expected, and because of all the variables involved. It's possible it has run its course, it's possible it was just that bottle.

The most scathing comments were in the "Ask the Beer Geek" section. One was deserved (the one asking how to prepare for a drinking competition) and the other was in regards to someone asking about Corona Light (not a particularly flavorful beer).

This is the first magazine I have ever been inclined to sit and read cover to cover in a single session. I just couldn't put it down. It was well written, well presented, and nicely witty. And even though it was the Extreme Beer Issue, there was a well written article (which happened to be written by Lew) presenting the opposing viewpoint.

Anonymous said...

AD said:

I disliked the mag.

"Hell yeah!"

Anonymous said...

Lew said:

Balance isn't always the answer. We'll have to watch how things evolve.

"Hell yeah!"

Travis said...

"These reviews could be used to help brewers improve their beers, and I wouldn't be surprised if that happens."

Beer reviews are for drinkers and not brewers. They are like the Consumer Reports testing and reveiws of various products. To be honest, reviews hold primary value as free advertising for breweries.

If a flawed beer gets out of the brewery then management at the brewery isn't doing their job. There should be no question in the minds of the brewers that the beer that leaves the brewery meets the expectations of their customers and is without flaw. There should be no surprises when a brewer reads reviews. There are a number of standard sensory and lab evaluations that tell a brewer things that the most sensitive palate can't. If a brewery is making reviews a primary part of their QC methods or their market research then they will not survive very long.

In terms of making changes to beers based on reviews...If a brewery made decisions about which beers to sell based on BA composite review scores then they too are in trouble. There are exceptions depending on the local market but in most cases for a brewery to make a decent profit and continue to grow they need to make at least one beer that falls into the range of being a session beer or what some beer enthusiasts may consider insipid. If you look at the top 50 beers on BA you will barely find any beer that would fall into the session category. Most craft brewers get the majority of their revenue from their lightest beers. These beers are often the lowest scored on BA. Without the revenue from those beers they can't keep the doors open. Perhaps, someday there will be breweries that can sell 50,000 BBLs of double IPA a year but not yet.

Lew Bryson said...

Folks, Travis is absolutely telling the truth. Most times, the only thing a brewer's going to learn from a review is what one customer thinks of the beer, or maybe that a particular account isn't doing a good job keeping their beer.

Technical or packaging flaws in the beer? If the brewer is going to acknowledge them (and these days, they mostly will, not like in the arrogant old days), he already knows about them. If it's a judgment call...the brewer's judgment differs from the reviewer.

Stylistic issues? That's the brewer's call. They may tweak to a review, but they're much more likely to tweak to sales.

That said, I know distillers who have asked whisky writers I know (not me...not yet!) to sample a new whiskey and review it, and I know of at least three times when a whisky has changed because of that; once after already being on the market. A couple-three brewers have asked my opinions on a beer prior to launch. And I do know of at least two brewers who have tweaked in response to on-line consumer reviews, both of them on fairly esoteric specialty beers that are marketed directly to that kind of audience.

But mostly? On-line reviews -- yours and mine -- are read by folks who have either already tasted the beer and are just looking for validation or an argument, or who have not yet had the beer but are going to get it regardless of what the review says.

As I've said elsewhere, I'm not writing tasting notes to tell you what you should and shouldn't drink. That's never been my mission. I do notes when I've had something really good and I want to share it, bring it to your attention, or when I've had something that I think's been way over-hyped and doesn't measure up. Oh, and when a magazine or website pays me to write them, of course!

I did get asked for tasting notes on a new bottling one time by a producer, but I guess I didn't like it enough; they didn't use my notes in their advertising.

Steven said...

I've conspicuously stayed out of this fray, but I thought I'd share an e-mail from an old friend of mine (Philly native now living near Harrisburg Lew) that I received just this morning:

"Question for you: With your beer forums, etc. is anyone getting sick of all the hop madness yet?"

Might not be directly on subject, but I think it speaks to the "extreme beer" question.

Stan Hieronymus said...

"Technical or packaging flaws in the beer? If the brewer is going to acknowledge them (and these days, they mostly will, not like in the arrogant old days), he already knows about them. If it's a judgment call...the brewer's judgment differs from the reviewer."

Brewers certainly shouldn't rely on online reviewers to tell them that beer in the marketplace isn't the same as when it left the brewery. I'm not just talking about beer that is old or has been mishandled, but about beers that should have been packaged better.

Those beers are out there, certainly more than brewers talk about and perhaps more than they know about.

Everybody should strive to reach the level of Summit - perhaps that's the positive start to a story. They've sent all their employees to Siebel for sensory training for years. They are constantly tasting beer in the marketplace.

Of course they sell most of their beer incredibly close to home.

Ron said...

Man all this crying over beer. Lew and I have shared many beers at numerous festivals / events.
I understand that you don't want to insult or bad mouth a beer when being in the industry, hence you lose your free perks.
As one of the dinosaurs ( Lager enthusiast ) in the new hop mad world.. I say great for the hopheads and that is why there are so many different styles.
Some people ie breweries may be offended bu subjective dissecting of their brews, while others may see it as constructive criticism.
As said before it is subjective and we all have varying tastes, likes, dislikes about beer, breweries or maybe even sales reps at times.
Enjoy the beer in hand try something new if you like and if you don't like a certain style than just don't drink it or complain about it.

Ron

Alan said...

You are not suggesting that I should not write about that I do not like beer X or style X and why, are you?

Lew Bryson said...

Ron,
"Badmouthing" a brewery or beer will not lose you any "free perks", believe me. About a month after I wrote that Anheuser-Busch was a "stench in the nostrils of God" (and I know they read it, because their VP of Innovation quoted it back to me...a somewhat awkward phone call) I was a guest at their hop ranch in northern Idaho, feasting on salmon and Michelob Porter. I've been real harsh with Dogfish Head beers, but Sam and I are still friends, and he still sends samples.

But even if negative reviews did "cost" me free perks...I'd buy the samples I needed to do my job, and I'd pay for the trips myself (like I did last month when I went to Germany). Because this is what I do, full-time. I know there are a number of "beer writers" who are willing to work for a byline and free beer. This is my day job, so I do what I need to in order to get it done. And sometimes writing negative reviews is part of that.

And Alan: I've written on why I don't like styles. A friend of mine once wrote a piece laying out why he hated all the funky Belgian ales. That's part of the deal, definitely.

Steven said...

a "stench in the nostrils of God"

You didn't? Har! LOL! No wonder you were nervous as their "guest" in the wilds of the Idaho wilderness.

Alan said...

OK - I admit it. I write about beer to one day get in at the "Lew Bryson level" of perks.

Lew Bryson said...

I did say that, it was the title of one of my ColdHardFootballFacts.com beer columns!

Lew Bryson said...

One of my friends says he likes hanging around with me on beer trips just to catch what I drop...

Y'know, though...when I go on brewery visit trips, I'll often take along some beer from back here -- a case of Victory, or maybe Troegs, whatever -- and hand out a couple bottles. Puts us on a more even footing.

Steven said...

Many of the local micros love to have you bring home-brew in when you tour. I agree, it's like a give and take.

S.

Alan said...

That is a very good practice and one I keep meaning to remember to do.

Loren said...

Lew, your reply to Ashton was spot on and what he and most others don't seem to realize, about the BA mag reviews in particular, is that Todd/Jason have always been about "shock value" regarding their wording in beer reviews. It's just more of an eye opener now since they seemed to have scaled back on the thrusting verbage (via BA online reviews) to more of a balanced position with +/- reviews. So maybe since the BA mag is new and fresh they feel invigorated to return to the old guard?

Just remember...it's all just opinion yes...but...sucks is sucks people. It's all in how you relay it when it all boils down to keeping things "positive".

Cheers!

Ron said...

Lew,

Like AB would ever hurt from bad publicity just less money for Augie's great great whatevers in the future. If the macros would spend a buck and try to amke a decent micro and we are not talking Coors Blue Moon here even though people seem to love it, then maybe we wouldn't bash the macros.
As Loren says it's all opinion and if she's Ms. Mug from Ale Street I know you've taken flak form readers there who aren't as schooled or knowledgeable in their appreciation of your columns.
If not Ms. Mug then still Loren is right about those comments.

Loren said...

"If not Ms. Mug then still Loren is right about those comments."

HA! I'm actually a guy (last time I checked). I used to go by Venom on BeerAdvocate.com. If that matters, which it shouldn't.

Cheers!

RunawayJim said...

In response to what Travis said based on my comments, and Lew's response to him...

I realize that the reviews are mainly intended for the beer drinkers and not the brewers. Here's the thing about session beers... They fall under certain styles and not the styles that are rated the highest. This is something I take issue with with the reviews on BA. The reviews are supposed to take style into account, but that's not really the case. The best pale ale will never have a better score than the best quad or RIS. But there's no reason why the best pale ales shouldn't have similar scores to the best RIS since reviews are supposed to take the style into consideration when scored.

Anonymous said...

Lew Bryson, your experience is as a librarian and your book is a failure on Amazon so you have no right to talk about beer as self proclaimed expert.

Lew Bryson said...

Thought I'd let Mr. A. Nonymous through for one comment, seeing that this one is at least not obscene or wildly profane, even though it is -- as usual -- venomous and inaccurate. For instance, I've been writing full-time about beer for longer than I was a librarian, and I've never proclaimed myself as a beer expert; I leave that to other people. So, thanks for playing. I'll just keep reading your trash and rejecting it.

Anonymous said...

Discussing the integrity of the bros at beeradvocate is like discussing the humidity in the desert: it's barely there, if at all.

Lew Bryson said...

EXACTLY the type of comment that eventually led to me moderating comments on this blog.

To anyone who's reading this: I do not endorse this comment. I allowed it to post as an artifact. I actually think the Brothers Alström run a pretty good business.