Beer is increasingly being covered on the internet on websites, blogs etc. The European Beer Consumers Union (EBCU) has discussed these websites at some length and the following is a summary of our current thinking.
Read more at or download: Beerratingwebsites.pdf
There are a lot of interactive social network websites which focus on beer and beer tasting. Two of the best known of these are Ratebeer and Beeradvocate. There are also national and local sites. All these websites allow anyone to submit their comments and rating on any beer.
The sites have a number of positive points:
· They constitute very useful databases for beer lovers and beer tasters. A lot of useful information on beer names and breweries can be found on these sites.
·They do not limit themselves to mainstream beers and breweries but include a very wide range of rarer ones.
· They also often contain a lot of other information such as events data, pub guides etc
· Unlike beer competitions where only experienced beer judges rate a beer (see EBCU paper on Beer competitions), every person can cast a vote and give his or her comments. It can be regarded as a very democratic way of expressing one’s opinion.
· These opinions may differ from one another, but a reader definitely gets an impression of what to expect when buying a beer. With the use of mobile apps and smart phone web access this will become increasingly useful.
· The more ratings the more representative the rating for a beer becomes. Strength in numbers.
· These ratings can be used as a basis for all sorts of listings best beer, best brewpub etc They can therefore act as a guide to the beer novice.
But not “all that glisters is gold” as Shakespeare said, there are a number of potential negatives with such rating sites the main one being that the tasting to determine a rating are not done blind. The taster already knows which beer he or she is tasting and so may have preconceived views on the beer.
In addition: Although two beers with the same name may be rated by different tasters it does not necessarily mean it is the same beer. It may be different because:
· The beer could have a different recipe – brewers regularly tweak recipes.
· The beer can have been stored in different packaging i.e. bottle, can, keg, cask
· The beer could have been stored for different lengths of time. A beer stored for a month will have a different taste than one stored for one year.
· The beer can have been badly stored. Compare a beer stored in a cool dark cellar versus a beer stored on a sunlit store shelf.
· The beer could have been served through unclean lines
· The beer may have been served in an inappropriate way e.g. through a handpump when it should have been served with CO2 pressure or served with CO2 pressure when it should have been served via handpump or by gravity
· The quality of the beer is also influenced by the quality of the used ingredients, which are likely different from year to year (different hop crop)
Also: there may often be a competition between raters to have and comment on the most rare, the most extreme, the most exclusive beer. Those beers are likely to get a high rating.
Perfectly brewed and perfectly tasting session beers – which are usually not extreme in character – are therefore unlikely to appear anywhere in the higher areas of these ratings. There are some even more significant reasons for concern. Anyone, including those that are more ignorant about beer can give his or her opinion.
There are numerous examples where inaccurate descriptions are given by tasters i.e. stating that there is too much coriander when no coriander has been used, claiming that the beer is foamless when it should have a good head and has been served in a dirty glass. Comments such as these can be damaging for the reputation of a beer especially if there are only a limited number of ratings for the beer.
If a beer is generally regarded as being “good” or is rare often it will be given a strong rating.
Best beer or best pub lists often are the result of just a few tens or hundreds of ratings. Because the base for these ratings is small it is possible for a brewer or a publican to mobilise their own fans to influence the rankings.
In summary whilst you may have the wisdom of the masses, but objectivity should be the key and this is something that is sadly lacking for some (parts) of these rating websites.
Therefore EBCU will remain cautious about these websites and their ratings and will not be endorsing any of them.
More information is available on request from
Links: Ratebeer: www.ratebeer.com
This document is kept under review so for the most recent update please check the website www.ebcu.org