Craft Beer Reviews

The Problem With Craft Beer Reviews & Ratings 27 comments



Craft beer reviews and ratings are essential tools when I am at a bottle shop staring down a couple hundred different options. There are just too many beers available for me to risk guessing which to buy. Craft beer reviews and ratings are really the only way to ensure you know which beer is worth your hard earned money.

It goes beyond beer too, reviews and ratings impact a ton of my decisions. Yelp is my go to source for finding the next place to grab a bite to eat. Amazon is my preferred method for Christmas shopping. Both of these use ratings and reviews to help users make the best decision.

But is this user submitted data really helping us?


Ratings vs Reviews

Craft Beer Ratings

The reality is craft beer ratings often fall short of telling the entire story. These ratings are just a number that the users entered to represent their overall impression of the beer. It doesn’t give any insight into the WHY behind the rating.

UntappdI use Untappd and as much as I enjoy using it, it only allows for an overall rating. Beer is much more complicated than just a single number. For example, aroma, taste and appearance are other categories that could help better rate a beer.

These ratings are just an opinion. There are many people that love Bud Light and rank it very high. This goes for many other beers that I would consider to be very poor tasting beers. In theory, after a decent number of ratings are submitted, the average rating should compensate for the outliers (the extremely low and extremely high ratings). And it probably does but I get the feeling that ratings are a little higher overall than they should be; more on that later.

Craft beer Reviews

Beer AdvocateI really prefer a good craft beer review over a rating. The written word better shares the experience. The aroma, taste, look and texture of the beer can all be described. The craft beer review can also reference other similar beers to help draw comparisons. Making connections to other beers gives me instant insight into the beer being reviewed.

Rate BeerThe problem is there aren’t enough good reviews out there. There are number of different sites to use and some are better than others with providing reviews. As an Untappd user, I feel this is their biggest flaw. They provide an area for comments but it is limited to 140 characters. And the reality is most people do not comment on the beer but rather leave random thoughts. Untappd can’t control the user so it is on us to provide details to why we liked or didn’t like the beer.


The Flaws In Both Ratings And Reviews

Not Liking The Style

When I read a review, I want to know about the aroma, taste, and overall opinion of the person having the beer. But they should also be objective based on the style.

Yes, sour beers are going to be sour. It is discouraging to see a low rating on a sour beer and the review says “I don’t like sour beers”. The reviewer should take the beer style into consideration. Yes, IPAs are hoppy and a pickle beer will taste like pickles. Poor ratings due to the drinker not liking the style really isn’t a good way to provide feedback. A good review considers what the style should taste like and grades it based on that; not their personal preference.

Ratings Based On Hype

There is always a list of craft beers that everyone wants. These trendy beers create hype and people go through elaborate measures to get a can or bottle. Right now, New England IPAs are the must have beer style. Hype impacts their reviews and ratings as I rarely see one rated under 4/5 on Untappd.

This is especially true of a beer that comes from a brewery with a strong history of making hyped beers. I think of Treehouse, 3 Floyds, and Monkish; just about every beer they release is going to rated high because of their history. Limited supply and trendy equals high ratings and high praise from reviewers. I don’t see that changing anytime soon as the excitement of getting these beers blind the taste buds.

Friends Aren’t Good Critics

This article by PunchDrunk hints that many ratings are inflated because we are all too connected. Since the brewers, bar owners, distributors and the reviewers are often friends, it becomes hard for honest ratings to be given. The craft beer community is strong; I say that all the time and I can see how that would interfere with honest critiques. If my favorite brewery releases a new IPA and I hate it, will I be bold enough to actually say it?


The Solution

No review and rating system is perfect. There are sites dedicated to terrible Amazon reviews so it is not just the beer world that is subjected to this. However, as craft beer fans, we should advocate and participate in giving better reviews and ratings. I am not always great about reviewing via Untappd and could definitely be more critical with the rating as well.

Craft Beer Reviews

Yes, someone rated Bud Light 5/5

To help me learn to give better reviews and ratings, I need to do more long form reviews like the one that I posted about Founders Frootwood. As well as, provide some tasting notes and thoughts on my Untappd check-ins.

 

So the solution is to do your part. Give better ratings that aren’t affected by your opinion of the beer style, the hype, or your relationship with the brewery. Provide some details on what you did or didn’t like. Give tasting notes or compare it to another beer in that style. Craft beer reviews and ratings are important to our community but they will loose their value if we don’t use them wisely. So consider how you can help others when they are staring down a wall of beer at their bottle shop.

Which review and rating sites do you use most often? Do you think they are accurate?


 


27 thoughts on “The Problem With Craft Beer Reviews & Ratings

  • Jamie Baker

    I tend to not worry too much about reviews… sometimes an open mind and a disregard of other people’s ratings can lead you on to something special

    • Craft Beer Joe Post author

      That’s true. Frootwood by Founders is a great example for me. Many said it wasn’t good but I loved it

  • indiveswetrust

    Great post, per usual! I always get a little self conscious when I “attempt” to review a beer – because I still consider myself very much a novice. I LOVED your review on the Frootwood…even though I didn’t love the beer itself (remember, sours are still my downfall). I also don’t take “reviews” on Untappd too seriously, but I find that the long reviews I’ve come across have been very helpful. For instance I took the advice to try Frootwood out of the bottle and liked it A LOT more. Still don’t love, but definitely like. Progress!

    • Craft Beer Joe Post author

      In many ways, most of us are novices because there are so many styles and new hop varieties being introduced all the time. I find that reviewing a beer is challenging but also helps push me to do better reviews. Untappd is tricky but it’s the best resource I have found so far and hope that more and more users will equal better results.

  • beertodaybeertomorrow

    Good read! The problem is that flavor is subjective and that it truly depends on the persons palate and what they ate that day, even their psychological mind state while drinking a beer can impact the experience with it. I think properly reviewing food and alcohol is a true skill and when done well they can give you a good sense of whether or not this could be for you but ultimately you need to go and try for yourself. Cheers from the BTBT crew

    • Craft Beer Joe Post author

      Subjective is definitely the word that best describes it and there is no perfect review. I’ve been told that a beer is “one of the best” and I didn’t like it at all. But that could be me or the other person experiencing it in different ways. So I agree; you have to try it yourself and not always trust the reviews/ratings.

  • DyNama

    Without reviews, all we have to help choose is the label. You have Beer Advocate’s logo here, that’s the site I tend to go to, they really encourage reviews to go over each of the characterizations of drinking a beer (ASTMO?) M is mouthfeel, for gods sake! Not sure any of that makes a lot of difference to a genuine novice.

    Consumer Reports reviewed colas decades ago, and claimed their reviewers were “trained sensory experts.” I need that training myself, or most beers will taste very similar to me.

    • Craft Beer Joe Post author

      I think most of us would love some formal training but you’re right, to the novice none of that matters. I enjoy hearing other people’s thoughts on beer so I’ll read just about any review.

  • tylerhoppydudes

    I agree with you, my reviews aren’t anything special as I am still learning about tasting each specific taste and how it flows together but hopefully over time we will all get better!

    • Craft Beer Joe Post author

      I just spoke with someone about doing BJCP (Beer Judging) classes in the fall. I am sure that would help elevate my reviewing too! But some of the most simple, honest reviews are sometimes the best. Keep it simple and help me decide if it’s a beer I need to try.

  • Brew_babes1026

    This is amazing!! So well said and couldn’t agree more with just about everything!!

    • Craft Beer Joe Post author

      I appreciate it! I know you review a lot of beers so hopefully it was insightful.

  • Mike

    I try my best to write objective reviews on the appearance, aroma and flavour of the beer. I don’t really go to Deep into how much I like or dislike most beers but leave that to the reader to decide if that sounds good or not. I personally do not give a numbered rating. I don’t trust myself to do a good enough job or rating all parts of the beer and like you said a one number rating really does not tell enough. If my readers want to see my star rating they can just go to my untappd account and see what I rated it as there.

    • Craft Beer Joe Post author

      I like that approach; lay out the facts and let them determine if it’s a beer that they want to try. I think most people use Untappd as a quick snapshot of what others think but primarily as a diary to keep track of beers/which ones you liked the most.

        • Craft Beer Joe Post author

          That is definitely me too; my phone is out and I am searching hoping to see a good rating and maybe a few comments that convince me to buy the beer.

  • beerenitynowdoug

    I always rate by what the actual style is. I will say a singular rating is enough, I think anyway, because it encapsulates all variables in the beer. It shouldn’t be too complicated. I love using untappd and on my #questfor1000 I rate things unbiased.

    • Craft Beer Joe Post author

      That’s a really good point; if rating becomes too complicated then it ruins it. Untappd has a very easy, quick method for allowing people to share their opinion. The other sites are more in-depth but I am sure have considerably less users entering ratings for that reason.

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