Welcome to the first installment of my semi-regular series Tim Complains About Beer (alternate title: Old Man Yells At Cloud). I’ve worked in the industry for a decade, most recently as the head brewer of a midwestern craft brewery. And I’m here to tell you why and how you’re drinking beer incorrectly. Each article will focus on a particular way you all are ruining beer. Because who doesn’t like being told they are doing it wrong?
First on my list? Using Untappd. Let’s get into this…
Now, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Come on now, Tim. What’s wrong with rating beer? Yelp helps me figure out where to go to dinner. I use reviews to help me decide which toaster to buy off Amazon.” And you’re right. We all tend to use ratings. But that’s because we all have a passing knowledge of those things. We know how a toaster is supposed to be used and don’t give it one star because it wasn’t an effective garden sprinkler. We don’t give a thumbs down to the local taco joint because they don’t make a decent lo mein. But that’s not how you all are using Untappd. Let’s look at the types of users out there and why they are wrong.
This person has never had a beer they loved. Everything is just okay, even if they love it.
You want to drink this beer all the time and you can barely give it more than 3 stars? I’m sorry it didn’t do your laundry, fix your car and make love to your wife. You know what I have in my fridge at all times? Barbecue sauce. And if I pick a go-to sauce, I don’t pick one I consider to be slightly better than “meh.”
This person insists on trying things they know they won’t like. And they don’t care they’re cutting bread with a spoon; they’re gonna let you know how lousy a knife that spoon is.
Let’s ignore for a second you think pineapples grow on trees. You think pineapple doesn’t belong in beer, but you ordered a beer with pineapple? Do you complain that a meat lovers pizza isn’t vegan? I’m glad self-flagellation is your kink, but that’s not how beer works.
The Style Snob
This rater loves only specific styles. They’re actually propably pretty knowledgeable about beer, but if it’s not the style they prefer, it sucks!
Oh, it was perfect for the style and that wasn’t good enough? You probably also hate all “light” beers because they’re boring. Dude, you’re trying to compare country music to hip hop. You’re comparing Schindler’s List to Weekend at Bernie’s. Just judge a beer for what it’s supposed to be.
The Bad Describer
I’ll get into this in other screeds, but beer is troubled by bad descriptions. Hoppy? Hops can be dank, floral, fruity and herbal. That beer is spicy? Spicy like cardamom, like black pepper, or like chipotle? But this user takes it to the extreme.
Not Christamasee? What the %$#@! does that mean? It’s a scotch ale. What is or isn’t Christamasee about any scotch ale, let alone this scotch ale? I’m sorry this beer doesn’t make you fart elves and candy canes.
Okay, right about now, you’re probably saying, “Big deal, Tim. Why are you so worried about what some stooge on the interwebs has to say? Are you that sensitive?” Well, for better or worse, Untappd has become a resource for sales. They offer up a digital menu board service for bars and restaurants. Untappd rankings are used as shelf-talkers in liquor stores. When you poorly or incorrectly rank a beer, you’re impacting it’s sales. And sure, Amazon has a few, “this vacuum made a lousy blender” reviewers, but they aren’t as prevalent.
So what do we do? There has to be some algorithm that generates, “people who like IPAs rated this…” or “the most common descriptors for this beer are…”I also realize people use Untappd as a beer diary rather than a public rating. Maybe there could be a “make public” feature. I dunno, I’m just spitballing here.
At the end of the day, drink what you like. And in the immortal words of Stephen Stills, if you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.