I’ve never been a big fan of beer reviews. From the time I started getting really serious about craft beer, aka when I started Breaking Brews nearly two years ago, I knew from the second I conjured up the idea of this blog that I didn’t want it to be a review site. There are LOTS of those. Some offer valid breakdowns of beers. Others, not so much (see, “meh” on Untappd). I’ve always been inclined to enjoy what’s happening outside the pint glass all around me just as much, even more so. Friends sharing memories, strategic planning for a brand new venture, couples falling in love. All kinds of great things happen over a few beers.
But, no matter what a review entails, good or bad, detailed or vague, it always leads to one common denominator: an opinion. One person’s opinion, for that matter. And with something as subjective as beer, with all its styles and varieties and twists and one-offs and brewer interpretations/experiments and so on and so on, one beer drinker’s “this sucks” can easily be the next’s “this rules all.” It’s as subjective as anything on the planet. And anything subjective will naturally lead to opinion and commentary. My general rule of thumb has always been, regardless of what someone else says, try it anyway…you may be presently surprised.
What seems to be becoming more and more prevalent these days is the public bashing of certain beers and, by extension, the brewers and breweries behind said beers. Also, brand new breweries getting slammed because they didn’t get it 100% spot-on THEIR FIRST DAY?! Who does that benefit?
Yes, I know, we live in a world where everyone has a platform and I’m fully aware of the irony that I’m standing on mine to deliver this message. But we are all entitled to use our personal platforms for whatever we like. I may not like that you post cat memes all day on your Facebook page, but that’s your decision and neither myself or anyone else is in a position to make you stop.
It’s the same with beer. You have your platform, you can use it as you see fit. It’s common knowledge these days that people are more inclined to leave a negative review about a bad experience on an online medium, PLUS tell all their friends, families, and co-workers about the experience, than to take the time to share a positive experience. But rooted in all of that, regardless of what happened, it’s just one person’s account. To deprive yourself of something you may enjoy because someone else (who you may not even know) didn’t is ludicrous.
So, back to the beer bashing. I’m zeroing in on the Pittsburgh Craft Beer Facebook Page because that’s where I’ve been seeing a lot of negativity lately. I caught a thread this past weekend and, by time it hit my radar, anything I felt I could add to the conversation had already been said. I’m not going to reference the thread, but I will say that it escalated, then subsequently spiraled out of control, quite quickly and tarnished the very idea of what the group is supposed to be all about.
Beer is a beautiful thing. It breeds conversation, camaraderie, relationships, memories, and opinion. Let’s focus on opinion. Naturally, you’re going to formulate one based on your takes on a particular beverage. If you decide to take that opinion public, a tactful post explaining that opinion can lead to discussion while one that’s presented in what can only be derived as inflammatory will breed negative feedback, thus not truly helping anyone or steering them towards something they should try. On the flip side of that argument, one should not fear getting jumped by the collective because of that opinion, nor should any member of a community jump a person for having that opinion.
I’ve always subscribed to the school of positive thought. Instead of looking for the bad in a situation, I try to find the good. That’s not always easy (AB InBev, anyone?). But see, even there…if not for AB and their stuffed-suit approach to monopolizing the beer world, you and I may live in a world where artisans who discovered they could make a better product didn’t take that leap of faith to bring us something of higher quality…whether you feel it’s of your standard of “higher quality” or not.
So much more can be gained and learned and had by accentuating the positives and generating conversation and discussion centered around the good that small craft breweries bring to the world. Sure, brewery A may have a better Double IPA than brewery B, but both those breweries have the same mission: to bring you something you’ll enjoy. And even though you prefer A to B doesn’t lessen B’s dedication to continuing craft beer’s struggle for ultimate mainstream relevance.
Bottom line, discussions will be had, should be had, and need to be had. The growth of this industry depends on it. More people need to come on board. But keep that novice craft beer drinker in mind who’s still discovering what this brave new frontier offers after a lifetime of macro consumption when taking to your platform to degrade the efforts of a brewery, be it local or nationwide. Getting slammed for expressing opinions wouldn’t attract me to a group, nor would the bashing of the efforts of someone trying to carve out their piece. If I’m going to invest more of my hard-earned into something that’s seemingly breeding streams of negativity in interweb social circles, what am I really getting myself into?
Pittsburgh’s scene is growing. There are over a dozen breweries set to join the fray in 2016. That means more beer. Much more. More styles, more variations, and more attempts at sticking to style guidelines while delivering something unique and drinkable. Let’s give everyone the benefit of the doubt and have some conversations about what we like as opposed to what we hate. With enough effort, you’re going to find the beer that makes you happy. And the thrill of the hunt is what makes it fun!
It goes without saying that this is just MY opinion. But my hopes are the camaraderie that’s shared amongst the brewing community here in Pittsburgh can spread to all of us on the outer fringe. Queue “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” from The Lion King…