26 November 2008
We've had this discussion many times at many bars, and after chatting with Lew Bryson at the MBAA meeting, I started thinking (a very dangerous thing) about beer reviews. We've all seen them, we've all read them, and I suspect we've all chased or avoided a beer based on them. But why?
Beer reviews are subjective. Beer reviews are simple opinions. Beer reviews help and beer reviews hurt. Most would say that a Michael Jackson review is worth it's weight in gold for a beer lover. And as much as I'd normally agree with that, lately I am starting to disagree. Why you ask? Well I've done some readin' of reviews on various sites on the interweb, and I'm finding it more and more disturbing. People review beers. Some people are nice, some are mean, and some even review beer after beer of a particular style they clearly just don't like. I started asking myself why do they feel compelled to shed their opinions on me and why do I read them?
Time after time I find a beer that reviewers hate, that I love. Time after time I find a beer I hate, that reviewers rate A-super-duper-plus great. So whats going wrong here. Shouldn't a majority of people loving a beer mean that I'm most likely going to love it also....Nope. Sad to say but I find beer reviews useless. I'll be the first to say, who cares what mybeerbuzz thinks about a beer. I'll also be the first to say, who cares what anyone thinks about a beer, Michael Jackson included. For me they're all just opinions which means I probably have a 50-50 shot (or perhaps a 60-40 shot with Michael Jackson) of liking a beer...but that's it. So what's the point?
Now don't get me wrong, I love the beer-chatter that goes on at Happy Hour every Friday. We talk about beers we like, we talk about beers we dislike and it's all fun. The key difference here is that I know my beer-buddies tastes. I know what beers we've agreed on in the past and what styles they like and I respect that and enjoy that and it doesn't leave the bar (and doesn't get posted for the world to see.)
But here's where it takes a disturbing turn. Beer reviews hurt. When some self-appointed "beer expert" decides he or she is going to slam a beer on a popular beer-review web site, that beer takes a hit. Somewhere on the Internet there's some other person or persons that don't buy that beer because of Mr. Expert Reviewer;-- and somewhere out there is a brewer who's making less money because of it. Lets say I brew 35 different beers in a year and they all come out fantastic. I guarantee somewhere out there is some stooge that's going to dislike one of them AND take the time to slam it in a high profile forum where it becomes part of my "permanent" brewing record. Ten thousand people may love that beer and NOT write a review, but one bad review and beer sales CAN be hurt. Opinions are opinions, but are opinions really helping anyone? To me it's simply not fair, not meaningful and down right mean in the end. Beer reviews do hurt.
Also the next time you're surfin' the reviews...ask yourself this. Does the site I'm reading have any financial interest in the beer world? Do the people making money running this web page stand to profit based on what brewer gets a good review and what brewer gets a bad review? Is this site an impartial member of the beer community, or do they have a conflict of interest going on that we're not aware of? You'd be surprised what you'll find if you dig deep enough.
You'll notice I don't allow any reviews on mybeerbuzz.com. So what do you think? Are we smart enough to ignore a silly review? Is EVERYONE that reads a review smart enough to understand it's just one person's opinion? Does it help or hurt to review beers? Are people making or losing money based on subjective opinions of the taste of a beer?
Clearly for me....Beers are for drinking and not reviewing...