I’m an avid Untappd user. And I’ll admit, I’m a badge junkie. I obsessively document each beer I drink and consult my beer list when determining whether I’ve had a beer before or not because it’s not always so easy to remember what beers I’ve had when I have 1900+ distinct beer entries. One thing I rarely do anymore: rate the beers.
I used to rate each beer I drank, but eventually concluded that the ratings did not really capture how I felt about the beers. Although you can comment on each beer, the comments don’t get factored into the rating.
If I don’t like a beer, I’m probably not going to give it a low rating. A lot of things can go wrong with a beer once it’s left the brewery’s control: dirty draft lines, improper storage and handling, aging past its prime, etc. It’s sometimes difficult to determine whether a beer has been mishandled or is made from a bad recipe. Or maybe it just doesn’t taste right to me and has nothing to do with the beer itself. There’s also the risk you run of a disgruntled/drunk brewer who gets hurt fee-fees from reading your check-in and blasts you on social media. I once saw a brewer tweet an Untappd screenshot of a review that said “I’d rather drink my own spit” and commented “Then drink your spit, bitch.” Um, yikes, buddy, maybe you’re in the wrong business if you can’t take the occasional rude review.
If I do like a beer or it is something really interesting or special, sometimes a rating of 4 or 5 stars doesn’t do the beer justice. And again, all the adulation I can put in the comments doesn’t get factored into the rating. For example, there aren’t enough stars in the ratings universe to adequately show how much I enjoy Focal Banger from The Alchemist. I also noticed that a lot of brewers, bloggers, and other industry people didn’t usually rate beers, which seemed like a good business practice to adopt.
All of this to say that I eventually stopped rating beers. Recently, though, I had to rethink my policy of not rating beers when I heard that not rating a beer on Untappd negatively affected a beer’s rating because a non-rating was essentially treated as a zero rating. I didn’t want my choice to not rank a beer to hurt a brewery, so many of which are still small businesses and could suffer some economic harm from a rating. Not that I think I wield such a large Untappd sword that I can cripple any one brewery with a low rating, but if enough people don’t rate the beer, could I be a part of actual damage to the breweries I’m trying to support?
Turns out, I wasn’t lowering a beer’s rating by abstaining from giving a rating at all. Per Untappd, not rating a beer is not the same thing as a zero rating, which is not even a thing that exists on Untappd. The beer ratings on Untappd are calculated at a pure average, and each user can only rate each beer once, which means that if I give a beer a 5 star rating and then later adjust the rating to 3.5 stars, the 3.5 stars will replace the 5 stars I previously gave the beer.
Sometimes I do still rate beers or change the rating on a beer I previously drank when I check it in again. Truthfully, I really only pay attention to ratings when I have an unusual experience with a beer (i.e. it has an odd flavor or tastes just plain bad) to see if others have had the same experience. Generally, though, I don’t factor what other people think into whether I’m going to try a beer or how I should feel about a beer. So if you like to rate your beers, rate away, but please do so thoughtfully. If you’re like me and don’t (usually) rate beers, don’t rate away and rest easy knowing you’re not affecting ratings one bit.