beer, craft beer

Review Management: An Opportunity or Threat

It’s rare to see anyone without some sort of social media profile. It’s now central to our daily routine. We’re able to express ourselves to an audience of strangers around the world in an instant. Businesses can connect with consumers without them even taking a step inside. It has never been easier to reach an audience. The potential to grow a brand or business is far easier than ever before, but so is the potential for damage.  Most have utilized these platforms to expand their reach and promote themselves beyond their wildest dreams; others have destroyed their work through carelessness and poor judgment.

The craft beer industry is full of opinionated people. It’s par for the course with anyone in the food or beverage industry. Social media allows consumers to document their experiences and share to friends and complete strangers. With the decline of beer-centric forums, the vast amount of the craft beer community is now sharing their experiences through social media. Opinions are no longer constrained to niche audiences; it has spread to the general public. Critiques for beers and breweries are now easily accessible, with search engines and social media platforms adjusting their algorithms to give significant weight to customer reviews. Consumers look for reviews to validate their decisions; whether it’s visiting a restaurant or making a purchase, reviews are gold for a business.

Every business owner should understand, it is impossible to make everyone happy. You can’t please all tastes or provide service instantaneously to all customers. Many variables exist in the overall experience of a customer.  People are picky and as much as we would hope that customers would take into account the circumstances of their visits, this is simply not the case. We’ve all seen that person in a long line that makes a big deal out of waiting despite the staff moving quickly to help move the line along. While we may not like it, these people also have the privilege to voice their frustrations on public forums.

In this industry you’re bound to get an unfavorable review. I tell this to all of my clients; there’s simply no way to control all aspects of a customer’s experience. What can be controlled is the response to criticism.  The opportunity to connect with a customer and potentially alleviate a bad situation seems like a thing most would jump at. A chance to deescalate an angry customer and possibly win them back by just being empathetic sounds like a no-brainer right?

Oh you’d be surprised.

The first week of 2018 featured two incidents in which brewery personnel harassed a customer for leaving an unfavorable review. These breweries spewed hateful and damaging allegations towards patrons that voiced their opinions. In one case a brewery resorted to homophobic slurs in retaliation to a critical review on Facebook. In another, a full staff went on the offensive and laid out damaging character accusations towards the individual that left the critique. In 72 hours we saw two breweries alienate its customer base due to their inability to respond professionally to criticism.

The beer community has become tight knit. It may disagree on most things, but it will always come together to combat horrible business practices in our industry. We may love craft beer but this community has no qualms in destroying the reputation of breweries that we find cancerous to the community we hold dear.

I understand the thought process; the majority of owners have taken a risk to build their breweries. Owners have every right to be protective of their businesses. To some, a negative review is an attack on their livelihood. Responding emotionally to a complete stranger is easy if you feel you’re being attacked. What many fail to understand is the importance of a calm and tactful response.  I, like many other customers look at some of the critical reviews first. It’s fairly easy to pump your average review score through the help of friends or family. To many, critiques hold more value and the response to said critiques can be the make or break in ones choice to visit. A simple empathetic response to a negative review can sway the opinion of a potential customer.

It has become more apparent that many businesses in this industry are under the assumption that being labeled a craft brewery makes you ineligible to critiques from consumers. You may be investing your livelihood on your business but guess what, so is every other small business. Unfortunately, many breweries have developed a pompous attitude towards its offerings as though they are a gift to the industry. Many of these breweries completely discount criticism and assume that they are experts at all things related to their business. Customer reviews present a free opportunity for growth through the insight of a consumer with no ties to your business. It could provide everything from an insight in the tastes of your consumer base, possible issues in the quality of your beers, or even problems with staffing that may have gone unnoticed. Embrace criticism and utilize it as a tool to develop your business.

I stress to my clients the importance of responding to reviews. Done right it exists as a tool to promote yourself in a positive light, regardless of the type of review. I’ve seen customers change their reviews due to a positive interaction in response to the negative review. In the majority of situations where customer’s temperament remains unchanged, an empathetic response lets a potential customer know that the business cares enough to be mature and bite their tongue to criticism, warranted or not.  Take a second to step back and cool off before making the mistake to make an emotionally charged response. It’s not a good look for the public to see a business berate their customers on its social media page. If you find yourself not able to do that, hire a professional to manage your reviews. Review management is marketing in itself and you are harming your business if you are not responding appropriately. Don’t be the next thread on Beertrader ISO:FT. It’s simple, don’t be a jerk.

craft beer

The Bruery Melange 9 (2014): Revisited


It’s not often you are fortunate enough to return to your favorite beer when it’s not something that is brewed year round. It’s not a secret that I’ve been a massive Bruery fanboy. It’s one of the first breweries that I tried when I was first discovering the craziness that is craft beer. In the spring of 2014 I was able to try a sip of what I was told was a “super exclusive membership beer” and I instantly fell in love. It hit every note I wanted in a beer. It was tart, sour, and the blends of different beers and adjuncts made me feel like this I could drink this beer every day and not get tired.

Melange 9 was the product of one of The Bruery’s blending competition. A couple times a year The Bruery invites its members to blend their own beers with a mix of existing Bruery beers as well as easily accessible ingredients that can bring. The winning blend for this was their Sour in the Rye blended with a bit of anniversary ale and white oak sap, with ginger and coconut added.

While The Bruery did release a new batch this past year, it seems as though they added a bit too much anniversary beer to the blend. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t like the original.

The Bruery Melange 9 poured light tawny in color with a light head that quickly dissipated leaving no lacing on the glass. The nose was as bright as it was when it was fresh. If I could use one word to describe the aroma of this beer it would be tropical. Coconut and ginger combined with the sweet and tartness that comes with the blend of barrel aged sour blonde and old ales makes you feel like you’re on vacation.

You can see upon tasting this beer how it has developed. As many Bruery beers end up doing, this has become much more acidic than it was fresh. Aging has caused the adjuncts to fade but not completely, instead taking a back seat to the lactic acid sourness that the base presents. That base blend is still complex, with the anniversary beer’s sweetness still cutting into what I would imagine would be enamel ripping if it was not present. It’s not the same beer it was when fresh but it has not changed enough to the point where it doesn’t remind of that first time having this beer. It’s still delicious and as always I absolutely love revisiting this beer.

craft beer, Uncategorized

Minorities in Craft Beer: A Response to Good Beer Hunting


“So why are we going 5 hours out of our way to go to a brewery?”

The sun is shining brightly as we’re driving through Wisconsin on this beautiful summer day. It’s the beginning of June and this is day two of my road trip from Ohio to my hometown in Southern California. Our car is quickly filling with beer as we stop at breweries along the way, trying to maneuver bottle after bottle in an already cramped Dodge Dart. The passenger on this trek through the United States is my younger brother. He’s a bit hesitant about this segment of the trip. I get it. As we travel further from Chicago, we begin to see fewer people who look like us. We’re heading deep into the country, parts of the US we’ve only heard stories about.

“Don’t you know the Midwest is full of racist people?”

For many in my community, this is the sentiment. I’ve dealt with my share of racism. I’ve been stopped for committing the crime of “driving while brown.” I’ve had one of my own teammates voice her fears of moving to a new part of the country because of “all the dirty Mexicans.” I’ve experienced more casual racism than I would like to admit. I guess wearing a bowtie makes people feel comfortable enough to voice their bigoted thoughts… For some, like my family and countless friends back home, years and years of dealing with these instances makes them very wary about trusting people outside of their own race. It’s a defense mechanism.


After another couple hours of driving, we arrive at our next destination, Decorah Iowa, home of the award winning Toppling Goliath Brewery. Upon entering, I am handed a glass.

“Clark’s sharing brews to welcome Mikkel for their collaboration.”

We make our way outside to find a tasting already in progress. It’s a full crowd of beer enthusiasts, chatting and enjoying the day, having excellent brews. There is no pushing or shoving, just a crowd of people that are actively trying to make sure everyone is getting a chance to taste the next beer that is being shared. While the crowd is friendly, it’s obvious that my brother is uncomfortable. From his perspective, it’s understandable; two skinny Latinos, who most would see and think aren’t old enough to drink, much less travel without their parents, don’t necessarily look like they belong at a brewery in the middle of Iowa. He was very slow to open up and hesitant to talk to strangers in a patio filled with older Caucasian males. Minutes later, I notice that his demeanor had changed. He was no longer uncomfortable; instead, his expression resembled astonishment at what he was experiencing. These strangers were actually reaching out and trying to make him feel welcome! While he may not have known a single thing about beer, and admitted as such, they were happy to educate him on what we were drinking and made an effort to bring him into the rest of the group. He looked right at home in a place full of strangers.

Hours flew by and we got back in the car heading to our next destination on our road trip. Our interaction following this visit is still as clear as the day it happened:

“Dude, these white people are really nice.”
“No dude, that’s beer people.”


As I stand in line for yet another beer release, it’s easy to see that I don’t characterize what one would expect a craft beer nerd to look like. As a Mexican/Venezuelan American, I am well aware that I am typically one of the few splotches of color in an otherwise white male dominated community. Living in Ohio, it’s even more noticeable. Regardless of where I’ve lived or traveled, one thing has remained true:

Craft beer doesn’t care what you look like. It doesn’t care what the color of your skin is, your sexual orientation, gender, religion, political ideology etc. This is one of the few communities that is welcoming. For a kid traveling across the country looking for his new home, I knew that no matter where in the country I was, I could find a home in the craft beer community.

It should come as no surprise that I’ve found myself pretty frustrated with Good Beer Hunting’s recent article regarding the lack of diversity in the beer industry. What could have been an opportunity to do some good for the community instead completely fell completely flat. Their attitude following the criticism they received shows that they are clueless as to what this is all about. Our issue is not at all with the topic, but rather how it was addressed. We are receiving representation from people that have no understanding about the issues at hand. In Good Beer Hunting’s discussion with The Brewsroom last night, both stated that they have no experience working for a brewery or even selling craft beer. The extent of their knowledge is in the marketing perspective of the beer industry and therein lies the problem. What we have here is an outsider’s perspective of serious issues within the craft beer culture with regard to minorities and women. Their attempt to provide a dialogue about the lack of inclusion instead became a sensationalist witch hunt, going after good people that are actually making a difference in the industry and using the plight of women and minorities as fuel for their attempt to gain clicks. I mean it worked,  I guess. I’m sure that their site has seen a lot of traffic after publishing that post.

The lack of minority inclusion in the beer industry is far more complex than some brewery employees being goofy on Instagram. With regard to their opening remarks, GBH truly misses the point of these accounts. With the industry quickly becoming more and more pretentious, it’s refreshing to see breweries let loose a little and take themselves less seriously. I know that the stereotype of the “pretentious neckbeard” bashing people for their beer choices is something that repels a lot of my friends from the community. These accounts do far more to welcome people than they do to exclude them. They are able to break away from being a business and are able to humanize themselves to their consumers. Some do cross the line, and I’m not defending those instances, but they definitely aren’t the cause for minorities feeling excluded from craft beer.

What this article fails to take into account is how important cultural and socioeconomic status are to this issue. Any marketing class will teach you that failing to do this will lead to failing marketing campaigns or, even worse, alienation of the market you are trying to attract. Craft beer already has an uphill battle trying to break Hispanics from brands that they have seen for decades. In terms of the Mexican market, brands like Corona, Modelo, Pacifico, and Tecate are ingrained into the culture. For many of us, these are the first brands we saw or drank. At this point, going to a family party and not seeing these brands would be shocking. That is not even considering the battle that beer has had trying to fight with the spirits market.

Craft beer is a luxury item. While we are beginning to see craft beer in places that were once only reserved for macro brews, we need to remind ourselves that the ability to afford an 8 dollar pint is a privilege. As of 2015, the median annual personal earnings for a Hispanic person is $25,000. While the thought of going around handing out sour brews to my local community sounds pretty awesome, the individual would most likely scoff when they heard the price, regardless of whether they enjoyed the beer or not. The wealth gap in the United States does have an effect on minority inclusion in craft beer. Moreso than anything else, this is the main reason for the lack of minorities in the craft beer community.

Dave Infante does an amazing job touching on the topic of the lack of African Americans in the beer industry in his article There are Almost no Black People Brewing Craft Beer. Here’s Why. Craft beer has always been “white,” and racism in the United States did not do much to help minorities in the beer industry. As is stated in the article, this lack of diversity has more to do with simply having an industry that began so white.

The industry, however,  is quickly changing. The Hispanic craft beer scene is growing and you only need to look to California to see how quickly the scene is becoming more diverse. If you frequent any Southern California brewery, you’ll see people of all races enjoying brews together. Sales reps are beginning to understand this too. One of my friends who works for a large beer distributor in Toledo told me just how much of a hit pairing 5 Rabbit beers with some of their Mexican restaurant accounts has been.

The issue is not that craft brewers are trying to keep us out, it’s that this industry is still trying to find ways to properly use marketing to their advantage. Where once I could only find macro brews at my local 711 back home, I can now go back and find a great mix of craft beers filling the shelves, taking away prime real estate from big beer. Craft beer will see an explosion in minority involvement with this next generation. While Hispanics are less likely to drink than non-hispanic whites, and are more likely to abstain from alcohol, acculturation can lead to higher levels of alcohol consumption. Hispanics are joining the craft beer scene at a faster rate than anyone else. All it takes is some market research to see that the breakdown of consumers is quickly becoming diversified. At least in California, breweries are taking notice and you’ll find that most festivals have some sort of craft brewery participation.

Craft beer is one of the few communities that welcomes people from all walks of life. From my experience, frequenting the “dumpster fire” that is the Facebook craft beer trade groups, no matter how angry people are or how off the rails things may get, I have seen very few, if any, racist comments or slurs mentioned. We only have to look at the Craft Draft 2Go debacle from last fall, in which the owner was outed as a Nazi sympathizer, to see how quickly the beer community comes together to eliminate these types of bigoted individuals from the community. The community is very close and does a very good job at regulating these types of situations. Racism is not taken lightly here.

This community is far from perfect. I continue to see women have a tough time being respected in the community, but this is far more a problem with the attitudes of the craft beer drinkers than the craft brewers. It’s improving and I’m seeing more and more males stand up against the misogynistic comments that are often thrown out to females in the beer threads. We have a long way to go here and women in this scene continue to have to deal with more garbage than the rest of us. The issues in craft beer are representative of issues in our society as a whole. Racism and misogyny are still prevalent in the United States.

We are aware of the problems that exist within our little community. What we don’t need is a privileged “whitesplaination” of our issues. Good Beer Hunting attempted to highlight the lack of diversity, but their lack of understanding of the issues at hand led to a lazy and sensationalist attack on breweries that actually do promote inclusivity in the beer community. I have no connection to the breweries mentioned, as I do not live in St. Louis, and the breweries would be quick to tell you that the beer community does not hold back on their criticisms regardless of how popular you are as a brewery. When people began to criticize GBH’s article, they were quick to dismiss them all, claiming that they were contributing to the problems mentioned. The irony here is GBH continues to dismiss the perspectives of the people they are claiming to champion for. I find it hilarious that GBH claims to be for diversity in the industry, but a quick scan of their staff shows no minorities. GBH writer Michael Kiser has the audacity to carry this “holier than thou” attitude toward the criticisms he has received and acts like some type of martyr for our cause, yet he is completely okay with cultural appropriation in his personal life. I’ve said this many times over the last couple of days, “we are not a tool for you to promote your business.” He spoke about our inclusion in the beer industry like it was some type of marketing tool. The attitude of GBH’s staff regarding this topic has been offensive and over the past couple of days they have continued to dismiss our perspective because it did not fit their narrative. Imagine having someone from outside of your community try and act like the moral authority on something that actually has to do with your people. That’s offensive.

Craft beer is one of the most welcoming communities I’ve been lucky to be a part of. I firmly believe it changed some of my family members’ perspectives on people outside of our own bubble and continues to impress me with its kindness and selflessness. The past couple of days have reinforced this for me. Unlike the Good Beer Hunting staff, the people in the beer community never once dismissed my perspective. Maybe they should reflect on that….



craft beer, Uncategorized

The Parallels between Craft Beer and Sneaker Culture

“Five minutes to go…
2 minutes…
10 seconds…
Alright, let’s get this bid in.
Dang it. I lost. Outbid again…”
When I was in college this was a typical routine. Scouring through endless pages of Ebay listings. Searching obscure names like “Bowerman shoes” or “Nike track shoes”. Adjusting my search constantly in order to hopefully catch a break and win shoes at a fraction of the cost from some clueless parent liquidating her son’s “old junk” without his knowledge. Deadstock OG Steaks or Marathoners from 2008 for 30 bucks a pair, copped that (The former I’m still using almost 6 years later). My collection grew and grew, to the point where at its peak I probably had over 50 pairs of just racing shoes. I was in deep and I knew it.
Then I was introduced to sneaker culture and I realized that I was just playing on the surface; the rabbit hole was deep and it was cutthroat.
In the couple months hanging with my college teammate I was shown just a tidbit of what the scene was like. Some of it was fairly similar to my experience, taking photos of new pairs and updated collections or hitting the various forums looking at the For Sale/For Trade posts or discussing the next releases. Other things were completely different to me. While the majority of people involved were simply enthusiasts, for some, this was business. Camping overnight for the latest releases only to flip them for profit was a regular thing. Counterfeits ran rampant across this scene and I learned to spot fakes. I distinctly remember heading to LA for a sale with a muscle tagging along; in this scene it was not uncommon to see people get robbed. It’s a luxury item, and unfortunately as with all luxury items, there are always people looking to take advantage.
Recently I found myself looking through Ebay again. I’ve been out of the game for almost 5 years now but with my Streaks on their last legs I’ve been trying to find a replacement for my road races. I stumbled upon an article about pairs of Promo Nike Zoom Fly Off Whites. The online sale was set for the following week.
“Just when I thought I was out… They pull me back in…”
I thought this would be easy, I’m become somewhat of a master with these things through this whole beer thing.
A tickets for Dark Lord Day? Check.
Fundamental Observation? Check. 
Duck Duck Gooze? Took a couple times but… Check. 
I have trained for this, no way I’m losing.
“Ah you think darkness is your ally? You merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it.”
I struck out. And instantly I saw pairs going for double retail. I looked to twitter to see people complaining about it all.
“I’m never doing this again.” 
“Why would they treat their loyal customers like this?”
“Everyone is cheating and I’ll never win.”
This looked familiar…
Oh right, this is craft beer.
Craft beer isn’t just an emerging fad anymore and from the looks of it, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. It seems like every place you go to you’ll see some kind of craft beer on tap. Chain Restaurants, bowling alleys, hell, you can even get it on tap on some airlines. Everyone I know seems to be drinking it now and new people from my past keep coming out of the woodwork, jumping real deep into this scene quickly.
When something gets this popular it’s only a matter of time until it brings out the worst in people and things get out of control.
Websites going down from the sheer amount of traffic for a limited release. Grown men lining up before noon on Thanksgiving Day for a chance at getting Bourbon County the next morning. Lines wrapped around blocks in NYC for a couple of cans of IPAs. People flying out to Anchorage Alaska for a chance to get sets of A Deal with the Devil (#BIL). You would think that after all that investment people would at least drink the beer right? Nope. Just like the sneaker scene, these are instantly being flipped, sold for maxprofits or traded for something they can’t get their hands on. Then you have those people that seem to only have these beers as a sort of status symbol. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the same people post a picture of a rare bottle that they probably kiss before they go to bed each night hoping to get the approval of some stranger from Naperville, Illinois.
“But it’s nowhere near as crazy as the sneaker scene.” 
You’re right, no one is currently getting shot or stabbed for beer, well at least not yet. This scene is quickly running off the rails though. In the past couple years I’ve seen some ridiculous antics all for the sake of an alcoholic beverage. People recapping and waxing bottles of beer with the intention of swindling some unsuspecting pour fool out of their beer. Guys leaving their kids in their car for hours while they stood in line for a couple bottles or even worse, bringing them out to releases where they end up leaving visibly intoxicated and putting them in danger. I’ve seen instances where people have bullied store workers to sell them cases of limited beer before releases or even outright stolen beers from coolers. Not to mention the daily entertainment watching some neckbeard blow a head gasket because some guy from Florida is trying to lower the trade value of their local brewery special release.
For many of us these stories have ceased to surprise us. Usually the reaction is the same now:
Beer is stupid.
The parallels between the sneaker and craft beer scenes are apparent. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying I’m against trading and such. I know I’ve done my fair share. What people do with or for their beer is their business. It’s just so interesting how two completely different scenes have become so similar. I feel like the majority of the community is most likely pleasant. There’s a reason why people like me end up hanging around for so long. There’s good people, enthusiasts, that genuinely enjoy hanging out and talking with others about these things that bring us together. Again, It’s a luxury item, and unfortunately as with all luxury items, there are always people looking to take advantage. I’ve heard the argument that this is only a fad, that the bubble is bound to break, but I don’t know. The game has to be part of people’s fascination with this.  I’m not above it. I know I’ll be on my phone waiting for the next big release.