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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Brewery Websites (Suck)

BridgePort unveiled a new website today. It is a Flash based, high-graphics site that I've no doubt Gambrinus spent a lot of money designing. I got a nice email announcing that it would be accompanied by a launch party, and another one saying it was live now--a day early.

Pretty much the only thing that's changed is the design. The info is roughly the same as that offered at the old site. Navigating through it, I had an epiphany: brewery websites suck. "Suck" is too strong a word, because they're actually very pretty. Many have now moved to the technique of offering professionally-produced videos, which for those who can't visit the brewery, are especially nice.

The problem is that the sites are designed to sell rather than inform. It is not dissimilar to the experience I used to have as a paid writer when a brewery would send me on a tour with a PR flack. She would hustle me around to the things I didn't want to see and talk about things like "strong brand identification" that I couldn't care less about. Whenever we'd get near to something I'd like to see--like the brewery--I'd feel a firm hand on my arm and feel myself getting dragged off to look at the latest label mock-up or something equally uninteresting.

On the other hand, when brewers showed me around, it was a revelation. They cared about the beer, the way the beer was made, how it was conceived, which ingredients went into it, and how it was evolving. After an hour with a brewer, I knew I would have to work to contain myself to the 800 words I was allotted.

Let's have a look at what BridgePort wrote about their brewery, shall we? This is it, in toto:
At BridgePort Brewing, we made our mark by evolving from a small microbrewery to a regional leader in the craft brewing market without losing focus on our end product, our award winning ales. With a focus and commitment to quality and consistency, we have earned the admiration of craft beer lovers, the respect of our competitors, and a shelf full of awards from international judges. As declared in our Pledge: "we stand for beer" -- brewed with the finest ingredients, all under the watchful eyes of passionate and committed brewers in the Nation. The BridgePort Brewmasters.* And we promise to produce the finest examples of American craft brewing with every beer that bears our name. Every Beer. Every Time.
Now, keep in mind that this is about the brewery. That's it--there's nothing else. Did you just feel the arm of the PR flack take you away from the big room with the pretty copper and into a stuffy office with a woman and a plastic smile? And seriously (since this has turned into a full-fledged rant): "we stand for beer"? That's the best you got? I remember when Delta Airline's ad used to be "we get you there." This is just marginally better, and what it's doing in a description of the brewery is mystifying. Tell me about the brewery. Show me pictures. Tell me about the beer, who created it and what they were after. Tell me what's in it. Don't tell me that the

Okay, I've said my peace. BridgePort has a new website. They'll be so delighted they sent me an email letting me know. (Though it should be said that all the major breweries have similar websites, and I'm not just picking on BridgePort. Full Sail's is just as bad. Widmer's is as promotional, but does tell you about the beers in detail. Deschutes, as with so many other things, gets kudos as having the most data-rich website, but they could do with more info about their beer, particularly with regard to ingredients. And so on.)
*That's not really even a sentence, and why is Nation capitalized? Sure, typos riddle this site, but I'm not getting paid eighty grand to write copy for a national company.


  1. Yes, they do. Why can't they take a page from Laurelwood's or HUB's, or hell, even McMenamins?

  2. I've noticed they're either high-end suckage (Flash, graphic-heavy, pretty but useless) or very low end (amateurish, Geocities look-and-feel). What's with that? I've got at least 3 or 4 articles in mind revolving around this topic, and I have half a mind to start seriously offering functional websites to breweries myself. Hmmm...

  3. Right on!

    The moment I read this I almost left a 10-page comment listing every crapacious brewery website I could think of. Fortunately good sense prevailed and I never left the comment.

    But it leads me to another question: what's your opinion of the content and design of beer blogs?