In a recent newsletter from one of my favorite beer blogs, Boak and Bailey, they paraphrased a criticism they had heard recently:
Beer bloggers never drink a bad beer.
On the contrary. I drink a lot of bad beer. I just don't tell people about it.
I tried to run down the source of the quote ("tried" = Googled it and scanned the first few hits) to get more context for the quote. It resonated with me, however, because I'm guilty of "never drinking a bad beer" when it comes to what I put on my blog as well as in my social media.
I'm not sure if this habit of beer bloggers is something that puts people off or if it is something they even notice. I drink a lot of beer. Most of that beer is fine. Not extraordinary, not terrible. Just...fine. It's rare that I pour out a beer because I dislike the taste so much that I can't finish it. Usually when that happens, the beer has serious defects like diacetyl and other off-flavors. It's even rarer still for me to tell people about it on social media. I reserve my social media posts about specific beers for beers that blow me away with their awesomeness:
I drink plenty of beer that I would describe at best as mediocre. But I choose not to put breweries on blast on social media. In my opinion, doing so is rarely satisfying for people involved. There are a lot of reasons a beer may not be up to snuff: the brewers are still dialing in their system, the lines where the beer is served are dirty, the beer was mishandled somewhere else in the process.
Or maybe it's just not good beer. The market is flooded with beers that can be described as adequate on a good day.
I stopped rating beers on Untappd a couple years ago when this blog was just an idea of something I wanted to do someday, in part because I saw that other beer bloggers didn't rate beers and thought that was a pretty diplomatic move. I have breweries and beers I prefer and those I don't, sometimes based on petty but rude interactions I've had with reps. If you ask me in person, I'm willing to tell you about which breweries and their beers get my business and those who don't.
One thing I won't do is post it on my blog because I don't think it's fair to the brewery as a business and I don't think criticisms usually come across the way the author intends. Case in point: Yelp reviews. How many of us have read over Yelp reviews and, in the sea of good to great reviews, there is one from someone who appears to be enraged at the INJUSTICE he or she encountered, which can usually be decoded from his or her description that 1. he or she either wanted the business to do something that the business doesn't normally do or 2. he or she is/was a dick generally and writes negative Yelp reviews all the time. I've actually described a couple people as being "the sort who leave a lot of bad Yelp reviews," which seems to communicate my point as the person to whom I am speaking usually nods knowingly.
As far as not being fair to the breweries, it's important to remember that most craft breweries are small businesses. I don't pretend to think that my blog in a sea of beer blogs and social media accounts dedicated to beer has much - if any - impact on what beers other people choose to drink and buy. However, I also don't think that my blog and social media are the appropriate fora for writing negative things about breweries or their beers because it doesn't really give the brewery a chance to respond to the critique in a thoughtful and thorough manner. I think we all probably also have that one Facebook friend who is always complaining about some business or product - does anyone take them seriously? I don't. I roll my eyes and think about all the other ways you could resolve your discontent in a productive way, such as, I don't know, maybe contacting the business directly? That's how I feel about posting negative things about a brewery or a beer. What's the end goal?
I've visited a few places, such as breweries and restaurants, where I went in with the intention of posting about it on my blog, but my experience left me grasping at positive things to say about it ("My, what lovely wallpaper you have.") and I decided not to write anything at all.
Disclaimer: I go to a lot of breweries, restaurants, and bottle shops. I don't always go with the intention of blogging about it, so don't freak out if you've seen me somewhere and not seen that place mentioned on the blog. It's *probably* not because I couldn't think of anything nice to say.
So yes, my blog is a fantasy world where I've never had a bad beer. And it will continue to be that way because it's one of the few editorial decisions I made when I started. There are plenty of websites and social media accounts you can find that seem to specialize in dissing beers and breweries.
What do you think? Should beer bloggers post more about so-called "bad" beers?