Before I delve into this topic, I want to point out: I personally don’t have an issue with craft beer reviews. In general, I think reviews have become an informative part of our lives as consumers and we can learn a great deal from other people’s experiences at restaurants, department stores, you name it…anywhere we may be considering investing our disposable income. However, do I think some people rely too heavily on what others say and potentially miss out on a great experience because of reviews? Absolutely. Overall, a review can provide decent insight, but it shouldn’t be your be-all-end-all when it comes to making a decision.
Websites like Beer Advocate and CraftBeer.com are fantastic resources for building a wealth of craft beer knowledge. I often refer to these websites for insight on different beers, typically after I try a recommendation from my bartender, to see if my overall views are shared or differ with other craft beer enthusiasts. Even if you’ve been drinking craft beer forever, there’s always something new you can learn.
An enormous part of the growth of craft beer is tied directly to word-of-mouth advertising. In all aspects of business, word-of-mouth is huge because most people will choose to buy or not buy based on what others are saying. This has always been the case, but the Internet has amplified it to where good or bad press on any given product or company can be found with a few clicks. But with craft beer, the importance of word-of-mouth is critical because advertising for crafts is at a bare minimum.
Many craft breweries are doing fantastic things with Social Media to get more eyes on their products. But the billions of dollars “big beer” pours into advertising simply isn’t realistic for a craft brewery. So their efforts focus more on producing a quality product their advocates will speak fondly of when talking with others (quite honestly, the way it should be).
So that got me thinking: If I was brand new to craft beer and began perusing online reviews, would I find the information useful? Would I feel inclined to try a beer based on the information at hand? I decided to conduct some research by reading aloud to someone new to craft beer, namely my dad, some of the reviews I came across…
His reaction was a raised eyebrow and an “um, what?” He felt what I was reading to him came across as unneeded information delivered in a pretentious fashion. And while the reviewer was simply giving his views of the beer he was consuming, it came across in a way that appeared self-serving and ultimately may not give a novice craft drinker a clear picture of a beer they may enjoy.
Most beer reviews I’ve found gauge five criteria: Appearance, Smell, Taste, Mouthfeel, and the Overall. Without question, these are important items to consider. But how the criteria is described by a reviewer could potentially scare someone away from craft beer. That may not seem like a big deal, but multiply that out over how many people have yet to transition to the beer we know and love and it’s pretty significant.
In some cases, the wording does come off as pretentious whether it was intended or not. That’s why, just like with many reviews, it pays to go beyond the words and use them as guides. When it comes to beer, if your opinions match up with a review you read, the worst you’re out is the cost of a pint or 6-pack.
The overall point is a craft beer review can provide insight, but don’t let it dictate whether you try the beer or not. Let your palate make that decision. Growing an appreciation for craft beer comes down to your personal taste, not how someone else critiques it. As your palate and overall knowledge of craft beer expands, online reviews will make more sense and you may even want to start posting your own.
As you’re beginning your journey of craft beer affection, utilize your freedom of choice to discover the beers you love. Sites like Beer Advocate, CraftBeer.com, and *CHEAP PLUG* Breaking Brews are great resources for enhancing your knowledge and quickly referencing a beer your friend or bartender recommended. But words alone don’t tell the story. Let taste and personal preference drive the bus and your personal list of craft beers you’ll seek out will continue to evolve.
What is your take on craft beer reviews? Let your voice be heard in the Comments Section below!