Love all the little children

Posted on May 12, 2012


This week Boak & Bailey sparked a micro storm in a bird bath on Twitter by having the sheer nerve to avoid publicly vilifying brewers who’s beer they felt forced to feed to the kitchen sink.

Unless my English comprehension has failed me over the years I think the point they were trying to make is that it’s not just the fudge, tea towel and kiss me quick hat sellers that exploit poor, gullible tourists but….shock, horror……brewers too. They believe that some brewers would stoop so low as to sending out bad beer to gift shops safe in the knowledge that, as long as it had a map of the local area on the label, it’ll sell at an inflated price and the buyers are never going to be back in the local area to complain or know any better.

But Boak & Bailey hadn’t counted on the passion of the people of Norfolk, and since all unnamed beers were from that area they wanted retribution – they want the world to know that not all Norfolk beers are bad, despite that not actually being the point, and demanded that the offending breweries be named and publicly flogged.

Which begs the question is that ok? If you have a bad beer should you take the tinterweb and tell the world? Is a bad review of anything a good thing? Well not in Taiwan it seems where the High Court recently sentenced a blogger to 30 days in detention, suspended for two years, and ordered her to pay NT$200,000 in compensation to a restaurant who’s beef noodles she dared to say were too salty.

Luckily UK defamation laws are less onerous so you can be more honest but if you can’t say something nice is it better to say nothing at all? Not according to Nate at Booze, Beats & Bites who thinks you should tell the brewery, give them a week and if they don’t reply in a satisfactory manner parade them down the high street wearing an “I’m a shit brewer* sandwich board. Tandleman and Zythophile were a little more forgiving, one bad beer does not make a bad brewery in their view (and it’s a good one) so are prepared to try a few more pints before they say anything. Boak & Bailey think size matters, a brewery gets to a certain volume and they are fair game for criticism – presumably brewers have their heart and soul forcibly removed at 20k barrels……

My view is more liberal – for one beer is very subjective, one man’s Tesco Value Lager is another woman’s Duvel, you not liking something doesn’t make it bad. And if it is genuinely “bad” beer and you’re qualified to judge, does the world need to know? I don’t think so. Let the brewery know – believe me they want to and will take it seriously, I’m yet to meet a brewer that doesn’t care about every single drop that leaves their brewery, but there’s already enough people denigrating our great drink without more adding to it. Trust me, a consumer finding nothing about a particular beer on a google search is much more damning than stumbling across a bad review. Is that too happy clappy? For some maybe, but beer has enough dissenters (have you read the Daily Mail lately?) be objective, be constructive but don’t set out to be deliberately critical and cruel – that helps no one.

And what to do if you’re a brewer and are on the receiving end of a bad on-line review? Firstly, calm down! Research suggests that 20 percent of consumers that write negative reviews will become a loyal customer if they receive a response from the business, whilst over 30 percent will react by posting a positive review so key is to handle it in the right way. With the right reaction you could have them eating out the palm of your hand and, more importantly, buying your beer for life.

  1. Take a deep breath and count to ten – the last thing you want to do is react out of passion and frustration and say something you may later regret (or may come back to bite you!). Always be polite, apologise they weren’t happy (that’s not the same as admitting they’re right and if someone’s complained about your beer they’ve not had the experience YOU wanted) and avoid getting defensive, it comes across as insincere and uncaring
  2. Invite them round to yours – don’t forget if you engage with them on their blog they’re the one’s on safe ground and you might find yourself in an argument you can’t win, plus they’ve got their mates to back them up. You don’t want to have the discussion in public so offer them a chance to get in touch with you privately, by email or by phone.
  3. He who shouts loudest – don’t forget that your beers are you’re children so you’re actively looking out for them in cyber space but chances are the rest of the world aren’t so it won’t be the public knife through the heart that it feels to you. Top tip is to consider whether the negative blogger has a louder voice than you and how can you be the loudest. Think about creating a blog yourself – forwarding content, information and education, that way if there are negative reviews you can balance out the online conversation quickly with your own positive stories.

Whether you’re a blogger or a brewer never forget that beer is the most social drink of all so be sociable and play nice, you’ll get a lot more from it.