Purchasing in today’s culture, no matter what the product may be, is highly influenced by the opinions of others. To some degree, this behavior has been happening for years. But the Internet has made consumer viewpoints about a restaurant, car, TV, smartphone, computer, or pair of socks much more accessible. In fact, an argument can be made that people base the majority of their decisions off of the comments and opinions of others in their network versus something they find in a consumer report or a statement from the seller themselves (see: Facebook Recommendations, conversations on Twitter, etc.).
Similar behavior can be found in the beer world. It’s not uncommon to purchase a pint or pick up a crowler, growler, or some form of a packaged beer based on the recommendation of a buddy. In a lot of cases, buying decisions are made based on the reviews, check-ins, and social media comments provided by fellow beer drinkers, whether they be in your circle or not. The Internet is the world’s social gathering place and people will not hesitate to turn to their favorite medium of choice to share their thoughts, for better or for worse. This fuels someone who lands on these comments to do the same. And on and on it goes.
When it comes to beer, one word should be kept in mind: subjectivity. My favorite beer may send you running for cover and vice versa. But that’s OK. We’re allowed to like what we like because, in the end, enjoying a beer should be about satiating our own desires, not someone else’s.
That’s where beer reviews can get sticky. My take on reviews, in general, has always been this: read all the reviews you want, but don’t let them dictate what you experience (at least when it comes to something as subjective as beer and food). If you want to try something, TRY IT. A beer, a restaurant, an entree. Just because Jim gave a .5-star rating on Untappd for a brewery’s latest pastry stout release doesn’t mean you’re going to think it’s bad, too. Take in all the reviews you want, but try things for yourself before you ultimately rule something out.
Beer reviews are available on many mediums these days – YouTube, podcasts, Beer Advocate, RateBeer, and, probably the most popular medium: Untappd. Each of these platforms provides a different way to review the liquid, but there are some easy guidelines you can follow to help provide info that will not only express your opinion, but help other beer drinkers learn more about the beverage you just consumed.
Since this feature is about writing a better beer review, let’s stick to that. But should you translate said review to an audio/visual platform, similar points apply.
1. Don’t Base Your Opinions Off of a 2oz. Pour – I’ve been rough on Untappd in the past (see evidence here). But, as you’ll learn – especially if you click the aforementioned link – it’s not about the creators of the app or the platform itself. It’s how it’s utilized by beer drinkers. Every shitty review and low-star ranking ultimately effects the brewery’s overall Untappd ranking. That means if you’re at a beer festival trying 40-50 different beers of varying styles 2oz. at a time, chances are your palate is wrecked and you can’t accurately assess any of the beers you’re consuming.
What about a beer whose flavor really takes form after it warms in a glass for a bit? 99.9% of the time, you’re not letting this happen at a festival…so why give it a shitty rating? Use the beer festival to discover new breweries and new offerings. Don’t use it to provide inaccurate portrayals of beers consumed at such a small amount.
2. Meh and This Sucks Are Not Reviews – The sooner you accept this, the better. It’s a simple fact: Beer drinkers want to find out about other beers. Even before they drink them. So when they go to their favorite reference and stumble upon “Meh” or “This sucks”, what are they really going to learn? Nothing. If you think a beer is “meh” or “sucky,” there has to be a reason why. Overly hoppy? Too malt forward? Too sweet? Flavor overpowered by adjuncts? It could be these or any number of other reasons why the beer didn’t land in your wheelhouse. And it’s OK if it didn’t. If you told me a beer was too hoppy and not for you, that info could point me towards that same beer and I may just fall in love with because I love aggressively hopped beers.
Not too many beers suck. Not many are “meh.” They just aren’t for you. But they could be for your best friend. Be a good buddy out and provide more info on your check-ins!
3. Review and Check-In with Other Beer Drinkers In Mind – If you put it on the Internet today, others are going to see it. Period. Ask that one Kardashian sister about that. Or all of them for that matter. If you’re checking in a beer or writing a review, people are going to scroll upon your thoughts at some point in time. Like I said in point #2, give others something they can use.
Regardless of what a review might say, a craft beer is subjective (and affordable) enough to try and formulate your own opinion. But having some solid feedback from others who found it before you can make the decision to drop $7 on your next adult beverage much easier.
BONUS TIP FOR BREWERIES: If I may play devil’s advocate for a moment – Breweries, if you want folks to relay proper info about your beers to everyone else on the interwebs, take the time to enter new beers into Untappd yourself. You know the most about your liquid, therefore you should be the one entering its info into the platform where millions of beer drinkers hang out. Overlooking this and leaving it up to consumers to enter can lead to inaccurate info, misspellings, and multiple entries. If you’re using this tool to see how others are reacting to your products, not having the proper info in place before it goes public can make tracking its results increasingly difficult.