Rate My Craft Beer Bar

After some reflection of last weeks heavy hitting articles, I have done some thinking and come up with a new idea.  Firstly you should read the following articles to get the background on why and how things have changed.

Wasted by Andy Crouch

How the craft-beer movement abandoned Jim Koch (and his beloved Sam Adams).

“Staring at the beer menu, Koch began to criticize the selection. More than half of it, he said, wasn’t worthy of being served—inadvertently insulting the establishment’s owner, who unbeknownst to Koch was sitting next to him. Then Koch interrogated the beer manager about the offerings. Unsatisfied with the answers, Koch complained about the beers so intensely that an employee at the bar teared up. Koch rose from his seat and walked into the keg room, where he started checking freshness dates on his competitors’ kegs.”

Sam Adams and Why We Need To Stop Listening to Hipsters

“Stop giving power to these trolls. They know nothing, they do nothing, and pretty soon they won’t be able to buy your shit anymore when the trust fund runs out. The best part of Jamie’s quote from above is “Right now, it’s about what is shiny and new.” Right now. That’s the key insight here: all of this is temporary. That doesn’t make it any less annoying or infuriating when I’m stuck sitting next to five dude-bros at a bar who ordered a flight and can’t figure out which is the IPA and which is the stout but are still totally beer geeks, bro. It doesn’t make it any less annoying to see an eyeroll when I send a beer back for having an off-flavor that fuck you, yes I can detect, because I’m not so fuckhead 21-year-old from Emerson having his first brown ale.”

What’s the difference between craft beer snobs and Kopparberg drinkers?

“Craft beer, whatever you want to call it, has gone mainstream. Now, it’s growing up and maturing, and it already has several generations of brewers. Without the pioneers, the rest wouldn’t be here today. And while today’s newbies push the envelope ever further – which is what they should be doing – the bigger, older breweries are getting better at what they do, building bigger names, and providing a bridge between the mainstream and the cutting edge. If you simply reject their achievements and their vital contemporary role in favour of what’s new this week, whatever that is, you’re not interested in authenticity and story at all. You’re just following the latest fad among your peer group. And that makes you no more discerning, no cooler, no edgier, than the guy pouring his strawberry and lime flavoured ‘cider’ over ice.

Pete Brown and Luke Nicholas
Pete Brown & Luke Nicholas, drinking a UK brewed Epic Pale Ale on tap at JD Wetherspoons in 2009

There are many interesting points in the above articles, as well as their comments (worth reading the comments). The Jim Koch piece could come across as a little “boohoo, poor me no one wants to stocks my beer, yet I’m a billionaire”. Then again there is a good point about the quality of beer on tap. Sometimes quality comes behind, what’s new these days.

What’s great this week, is going to be old next week, and no one wants to drink it. It has become a treadmill of endless new beers. This is a fractal  as we travel down the long tail. As the market becomes more and more segmented. As more and more new brands enter the market they will get a smaller and smaller percentage of market share. Occasionally the odd new beer will raise above the rest, but mostly the new beers will not get more market share than the beers before them.

Sorry that is a bit deep, but it is just what I am thinking right now.

Maybe there is a way to put this new beer craze into perspective. How about a rating on craft beer bars, based on the beers they have on tap. (This is a work in progress and there needs to be given some thought for anomalies that may come up such as brand new beers with no ratings to work with).

If there is a score for each craft beer bar in a city, and people make their decision on which bar to go to based on their score, then does this force bars into stocking more of the better beers rather than the whats new beers?

Here are some examples from Auckland. The list of beers on tap were taken from TapHunter on the afternoon of Tuesday 13th January.

My Bar – SCORE = 3.53

Garage Project Orange Sunshine – 3.47
Mikes Organic Taranaki -3.86
Tuatara Helles – 3.34
Zeffer Cider – 3.45

The Lumsden FreehouseSCORE = 3.59

BrewDog Dead Pony Club3.625
Epic – Imp3.945
Golden Eagle Citradel3.525
Good George Doris Plum3.686
Guinness Draught3.825
Hawkes Bay Ginger Fusion3.848
Hawkes Bay Pilsner3.071
Kereru Karengose3.392
Lakeman Lahar3.603
Liberty Citra Junior3.875
Mikes Organic Thc3.455
Moa Checkpoint Charlie3.382
Newmarket Nude 0
North End Fieldway APA3.47
Sawmill 12 Gauge3.587

Vultures LaneSCORE = 3.72

8 Wired C4 Double Coffee Brown Ale3.873
Behemoth Hop & Hay3.548
Funk Estate Sophisticuffs3.657
Golden Eagle Coalface Stout3.816
Good George Any Time Pale Ale3.93
Good George Kiwi Sour3.825
Good George Nitro Stout3.752
Guinness Draught Nitro3.825
Hop Federation Brown Ale3.554
Lakeman Hairy Hop3.474
Lakeman Taupo Pale Ale3.857
Liberty Citra Junior3.875
North End Amber3.551
Ranga Alcoholic Ginger Beer0
Sawmill Sticky Bandits3.938
Townshend Old House ESB3.758
Yeastie Boys Man At The Back3.361

So the above has potential as an idea for a phone app. If the taps were kept up to date using a service like Taphunter, and then information was pulled in from one or all the beer rating sites (Untappd, RateBeer, BeerAdvocate), and an algorithm applied then you could get a live list of the best beer bar in the city based on the beers they have on tap.

This potentially changes the way that bars stock beers. It moves things from whats new to what is the best range of beers on a particular day.

Food for thought.

Discuss below or join the discussion on Facebook

Will Technology Save Craft Beer?

After writing my not so popular post about the sky is falling on craft beer – Craft Beer Bubble In New Zealand? there seems to be others thinking similar thoughts about the future of craft beer. (just to clarify one more time, it isn’t the end of craft beer, but more of the potential coming correction)

You’d Probably Never Guess That This Is Craft Beer’s Scariest Problem

“By June 2013, the number of breweries had exploded to 2,538 total U.S. breweries. We’re talking a compounded growth rate of 10% per year for the past 35 years!”

How overcrowding could weaken or cheapen the craft beer movement
But what happens as this field begins to get crowded? One possibility is that the nostalgia surrounding craft brew, and even the quality, could get watered down. It would be clearly tougher and tougher for new entrants into the field with so many established breweries already up and running, so there’s honest concern that brewers may cut corners and cheapen the craft business just to get their product in front of consumers, which would only serve to harm the entire craft beer movement.

Joe Tucker RateBeer.com says “Most consumers have been dealing with a dizzying array of options for 10 years, so this is really nothing new despite all the new players. There’s only so much shelf space at beer stores and tap handles at bars. We’ve already had too many choices, so I think despite most of us knowing there’ll be some kind of shakeout, the temporary increase in options will only create hardship for new brewers trying to establish their brand and new consumers.”

“However, it could also mean rough times ahead of new breweries just starting up and difficulty in differentiating their brand from the next dozen breweries being opened”.

– Too Many Breweries, Too Much Choice
– Start Up Breweries difficulty standing out
– Technology will help beer drinkers cut through the crap
– Better make high quality beer

There is so much choice, from so many breweries with so many different beers. Beer drinkers, retailers and bar owners need a way to consider what to purchase. So little time to try everything. Therefore the crowd sourcing of reviews of online databases (RateBeer.com, Beeradvocate.com and the app Untappd.com) does provide some help.

The problem though with these crowdsourced beer review websites is that the majority of people rating and reviewing the beers generally are noobs. The majority have little knowledge base, or experience in tasting beer or any knowledge about how beer is brewed, or even what common off flavours are.

UntappdMany of those rating beers are influenced by brand, experiences in relation to the brewery. i.e. if they have met the brewer, or someone gave them a free beer at a beer festival. A lot has to do with trying beers and rating them high based on the fact they were already in the top 10, top 100, etc. These inexperienced raters/reviews reduce the highs and the lows, skew results based on advertising, social media expertise of breweries and hype that is spread by word of mouth.

Potentially these databases probably give you a fair indication of a beer.

I had the privilege of being involved with using Untappd.com when it first started. I found in the early years that the beers on there had a pretty fair and accurate rating. You could buy a beer based on the rating. Now days it seems as though every beer has a 3.6 rating, and the very good ones a 4.

People that rate beers based on the label, or sip, or rating a lager a 1 out of 5 because they prefer stouts, just isn’t helpful.

I would like to see a database/app that has verified/qualified raters. People reviewing beers that had been reviewed themselves. Raters that collectively had an experience base that meant the beers they rate will be unbiased and just about the beer they drank, not the label, or the brewpub or the hot sales person. People that are quality brewers, beer judges, or raters who’s rating shows they have experience and they are rating the beer for what it is, and not that they got a selfie with the brewer.

It would also be helpful to look at ratings based on distance from brewery, as well as ratings over time.

Technology could not only save craft beer, but make more great beer available to more people, and reduce the bad beers people drink.

Would collecting information about how fast beer is selling help this database? From a comment made in a bar recently “beer X sells out in a few hours, but then there are beers such as Y & Z that could be on that tap for up to 2 months” (I said what a single 50 litre keg on a tap? Yes, because no one really likes it).

Anyway I hope someone will come up with an app that makes your craft beer experience easier, and even better. Big data for the win.


1000 Distinct Beers on Untappd

Untappd is a beer drinking app for your smartphone, you can also use it on a browser

This app lets you track the different beers you try.

You check into a beer, you can rate it (out of 5), add your location, take a photo, make a note 140 characters, and then share this information with your other social networks – Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare.

One cool feature of this app is you earn badges for checking into beers. Yup thats gamification for just trying new beers, no point in just drinking the same green bottled lager everyday. (here are the badges you can earn)

The weekend saw me have an opportunity to try a number of new beers I have never had a chance to try before. I earned the 1000 distinct beers badge (this has taken me just over 3 years) Cheers to the Beer Mule for suppling so many great beers for this tasting and over the previous few years.
If you enjoy craft beer, you probably try anything new you can get your hands on, just like me. If so this is a perfect app to keep track of your beer tasting journey.