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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

BeerAdvocate's Misguided Question

This morning, BeerAdvocate tweeted that they were soliciting comments to this hypothesis:
From what the bro and I have been reading, it appears that most people feel that special release beer events have gone too far. Generally speaking, these special release day beers gain an insane amount of hype, get put on eBay before they're even released, bad distribution systems are put in place, people are waiting in lines for many hours/traveling from afar in hopes to get their hands on a bottle or taste, hoarders/campers are an issue, many walk away disappointed, etc, etc, etc. There are exceptions of course ...

So assuming that most think they've gone to far, what are some solutions? (Examples from some of the exceptions perhaps?)
In the eight plus years I've had a login at BA, I've commented on exactly four threads. So I didn't take it very seriously when Todd wrote not to post if you disagreed with the "general consensus." So I commented. And my comment was deleted. D'oh! Now I know. Anyway, since BA is clearly not the forum for dissent, I'll use my own. Here's what I wrote, and I offer it partly as Beeronomics bait.
I disagree that this is a problem. The issue is one of demand outstripping supply. If breweries wanted to put the supply and demand into equilibrium, they would either produce more beer or raise the prices. An example: for the first three years of production, Deschutes enjoyed the intense scramble for Abyss. Last year, they produced far more Abyss than in previous years. The result? Bottles are still available, months later, at local grocery stores. They'll sell the full run, but the scramble is no longer mad.

Breweries have to be a little careful not to abuse what is actually a wonderful manifestation--a constantly-growing interest in intense, specialty craft beers. If they make it too difficult or too expensive for consumers to buy their beer, they risk alienating them. But one of the main goals is to create exactly the fervent interest these specialty releases produce. The market is self-correcting, and to the extent there is a problem, it will resolve itself--to the detriment or benefit of individual breweries. In this balancing act, smart breweries will use specialty releases to bring attention to their products, which will in turn boost sales on regular releases--the bread and butter of most breweries.
Your thoughts?



  1. Seems to me your comment is a solution to the problem they posed, you just disagreed with the premise that breweries have gone too far with special release beers. It's a shame they deleted it (and probably others like it) because this is a legitimate solution to "the problem".

  2. I agree that your response seemed well-reasoned, intelligent, and not incendiary in the least.

    I can see why they deleted it.

    I use that forum to check beer reviews occasionally, but I cannot stand their "holier than thou" attitude.

  3. It may be a first, but I agree with your comments. Special releases are just nice little marketing ploys. Although some locals just look at them as drunk fests.

    Good beers and bad beers weed themselves out. If a brewery has a throng of bad "Special release" beers,that may work against the brewery. The opposite applies.

    There was a big hype on Stumptown Tart, but most came back saying, "Ewwww!" Bridgeport retooled the beer and the Cherry version was slightly better. Either way it was a tool for the brewery. Test marketing if you will.

    The Limited Special releases are more problematic for me. I'd like to acquire some limited releases, but can't always get to limited sales or events. Maybe that's just my bad luck?

    I think you're post was deleted because you had more than 150 words. They're sticklers on that.

  4. First, I do not agree that 'MOST think they've gone too far'. People who have attended any highly anticipated special release event know what to expect. Some may not like the crowds or the lines, but as mentioned here, it's all about supply and demand - if you want the opportunity to try special releases (which are special in part because of their limited quantities), then you've got to be willing to pay for it - whether paying for it means dollars, traveling, waiting in line, taking the day off work, or whatever.

    Additionally, I'd challenge BeerAdvocate's comment about 'insane' hype as well. The number of releases generating 'insane' hype is a fraction of the total beer releases during the year. Breweries creating this kind of hype should feel accomplished, and not have people telling them that they've 'gone too far'.

    I agree with Jeff, and don't think this really is a problem.

  5. It is the consumers that are creating the hype not the breweries. Like sheep they line up waiting for the (self) hyped-up product with their fellow hypers. After awhile that is followed by a "mob mentality" blow back because their sheep experience may not have been very rewarding.

    Samurai Artist at The New School Beer Blog is an example. After admitting to having been at multiple (years) Pliny the Younger events and having multiple glasses he then offers the wisdom that Pliny the Younger is Over-hyped. So now we enter the over-hyping of how over-hyped beer X is phase.

    Once again the brewers really don’t have much to do with this. It is driven by beer blogs and BA in particular. BA is the vast wellspring of all that is overhyped with beer. A classic mob mentality web site.

    PS: apologies to Samurai Artist…I’m not trying to bust you up and I like your blog. I just thought your blog post was just so much more hype…only in the negative direction.

  6. You conveniently forget to mention that the post said:

    "If you disagree with the general consensus that they've gone to far ... than this thread is not for you; please don't post. We're looking for opinions on solutions in this thread for those that feel things have gone too far."

  7. I think this last post may be from a BA staffer--anyway, it's very similar to a tweet I just tried to respond to. Anon, re-read my post. I absolutely mentioned that I didn't follow your rules:

    "So I didn't take it very seriously when Todd wrote not to post if you disagreed with the "general consensus." So I commented. And my comment was deleted. D'oh! Now I know."

    I'm not really sure what more I can say at this point. Your comment threads, your rules. Doesn't mean I can't disagree elsewhere.

  8. So if someone tells you don't touch that red button would you still touch it? Have a hard time banging a square peg into a round hole? Come on ... no need to give bloggers a bad name.

  9. It's crazy to delete constructive comments EVEN if they are, say, off topic. Spam and slander, that is fine...come on it is BEER talk. Deleting that is weird.

  10. I seriously doubt the general consensus is that breweries have gone too far.

    How are special release beers much different than wines from small wine producers? I've visited a bunch of outstanding wineries in the Napa and Sonoma Valley areas that only sell to club members and restaurants.

    Your opinions are right on point. It's too bad they deleted your post, but I never read their forum anyway. I read your posts from time to time though, so if the point is to determine whether they *should have* deleted the post or not... eh, que sera sera.

  11. I love the irony that the site which acts as the largest breeding ground for beer hype is the same one complaining about the resulting situation.

    In my opinion, beer is not over-hyped, but it is taking on a lot of newcomers. And when people are new to a hobby, they are easily exited and enamored, which just helps feed the hype machine. It's not a bad thing, it's just what happens. You can't blame breweries for trying to capitalize on this. They are businesses and it as been proved time and again that hype is a boon for business, be it good or bad.

    People new to craft brewing are going to gravitate toward sites like BA because of the prominence of them. After a while they realize that most of the people gushing over a particular beer are just as new to the scene as they are. They learn how to weed out un-bias information from the sea of fanboydom and eventually move on to sites like this one, where a generally higher level of discussion can be found.

    As someone who has only been doing the craft beer thing for a few years, I can say that this was my path of progression. I’m guessing the big difference is that now craft brewing is bigger than ever and constantly expanding. This leads to an environment where there is always a group of new adopters, the bread and butter of hype. Nothing wrong with the current situation, just the nature of business.

    I wonder if the people complaining are the same ones that whine about the theatre crowds on opening weekend? If you don't like the crowd, don't go. And if you think you are entitled to see a movie on opening weekend or drink a limited release beer and not deal with the hassle of other like-minded individuals, I'm sure your local ACLU chapter is looking for volunteers (sorry, Jeff).


  12. Personally I don't think hype is a bad thing, but I do strongly feel that breweries need to learn from their mistakes (and those of others) when planning these events.

    Take the Pliny the Younger release for example: all it would have taken is a couple of minutes perusing the BA and Ratebeer trading forums (not to mention all the chatter in Beer Talk) to realize that they were going to have much, much bigger crowds than prior years.

    Even if they didn't have time to check on the geek sites, it should have been obvious upon seeing the line stretched around the block on release day that they were going to sell out and could have cut the growler limit in half at that point, essentially doubling the number of people who could have walked away with some. Sure, it would have pissed off some of the people who had "pre-trades" set up (don't get me started on that rant), but at least the people who drove several hours to patronize the establishment could have drank some of the beer rather than leaving empty-handed.

  13. Okay, now I AM slightly pissed off. The fine folks at BA appear to have VERY thin skin. This afternoon, they tweeted something about how I was disingenuous for not mentioning that my comment got dumped because I didn't follow the rules. I'd reproduce that tweet, but I can't--they've banned me from their tweets. I had the temerity to tweet back:

    Beervana @BeerAdvocate Now who's not reading? From my post: "So I didn't take it very seriously when Todd wrote not to post..." Your site, your rules

    They retweeted a similar complaint, so I tweeted back:

    Beervana @BeerAdvocate I didn't follow your rules and you dumped the comment--which I *mentioned in my blog post.* Not sure what the trouble is.

    At which point I was banned from following them. Thomas Cizauskas joined the fray, graciously (which I guess is why I can see this tweet):

    Cizauskas Now, now. @BeerAdvocate and @Beervana. Kiss and make up. Life is too short, and you're both on the side of good #beer.

    To which--and here's where things seem to be getting uncool--BA tweeted this:

    BeerAdvocate @Cizauskas Agreed, though we have nothing against the guy ... he just didn't listen/took it personally. #BFD Moving on. Beer time.

    What the hell? Now I'm starting to take it personally. But I do agree--beer time.

  14. Wow, BeerAdvocate deleting a post - now there's the shocker of the day. Wow, the site admins having thin skin - now there's the shocker of the minute.

    It is the most overly moderated, and perhaps least fun, site I have even seen in my time on the Internet.

    Banning you from following their tweets? Hurrah! A new low.

  15. This topic reminds me quite a bit of the thread on the rising costs of specialty beer from a month or two back. Personally, I think it's great. Special releases give brewers a chance to experiment, screw up, and interact with the public.

    Personally, I'm a bit apalled by BA's actions. At worst, your comment could be viewed as an extension of the problem statement. But then my philosophy is to only delete clearly offensive or spammy comments.

  16. As I read through the article and the earlier comments I was wondering why you hadn't been blocked. Based on the info from another blogger, this seems to be standard practice. The other blogger was blocked from tweets and from the BA site, so BA's response comes as no surprise. Take heart in knowing that you aren't alone.

  17. I've heard a number of horror stories about their draconian policing. They are incapable of taking criticism or trying to engage in spirited conversation, and just love deleting posts they disagree with, and yet they make almost no effort to weed out snarky and mean-spirited posts on some of their forums. They don't really understand the purpose of moderating or intelligent discussion, nor do they seem to understand that they're the biggest cause of the ills that they lament - see Portsmouth Brewery's Kate Day, which wasn't a thing until their site named KTG the #1 beer in the US. I don't blame them per se, but the ignorance is kinda striking. On a side-note, I think your post was a very good point, well thought-out, and respectful.

  18. Just to be clear, I have no problem that my initial comment was pulled. It's BA's site and I'm sure they have to deal with an insane number of trolls. They have every right to set the rules of discussion and police the threads according to those rules.

    And, FWIW, I just got an email from Todd Alstrom (I think--it was from his BA email account), and all seems to be good.

  19. Just think... if there was no internet... none of this would have ever happened. Let's get back to real life now. Carry on.

  20. You got an e-mail from Todd because you run a prominent blog and he wants to save face, not because he actually thinks what he did is wrong. He (and his wife, and to a lesser extent his brother) is notorious for doing just what they've done to you when someone disagrees with them or has the audacity to question their decisions. Do you know they've banned people from BA for speaking ill of them in private beermails? That's right, they read your beermails.

  21. I basically agree with you Jeff re: supply and demand.

    I'm one who has just decided to drop out of all that hype and miss out on some special releases. There are plenty of great beers that I can buy at the store. No time or energy for the hooplah anymore. But if others want to do that (and overpay for the priviledge), that's fine with me.

    P.S. BeerAdvocate sounds like a bunch of vaginas.

  22. beeradvocate doesn't advocate beer. They advocate for themselves. They are hypocrites. They generate money from the users, they go on lavish beer drinking trips around the world, and then ban the very people who made such a lifestyle possible, while posing about their 'punk' roots.

    They're punks alright, but it has nothing to do with punk rock.