Not that the topic ever goes out of fashion, but Heather Vandenengel's piece for All About Beer on "The Agony and Ecstasy of Beer Reviews" seems particularly timely given Vinland owner David Levi's fresh accusations of Yelp review manipulation. The issue explored in Vandenengel's piece, though, isn't complaints against the sites themselves, but rather the fallacy of user ratings. In this way it matches up closer with mentality of restaurateurs like Jason Loring and Harding Lee Smith who've said they do their best to ignore Yelp ratings.
Vandenengel includes an exchange with Maine brewer Jake Austin, co-owner of Austin Street Brewery in Portland, who tells the author he avoids mobile ratings app Untappd because "it just seems like an easy way to spout off about beer, but you don't actually know how well-educated [the reviewers] are; you don't know their palate, what they like for beers."
On the other hand, Austin reveals he does check reviews on BeerAdvocate and RateBeer to get a better contextual sense of how he's performing. "As a 1-year-old brewery, he wants to make sure his opinion of the beer is matching up with consumers' thoughts. So far, he says, things have been lining up perfectly." His beers currently average 4.35 out of 5 points on BeerAdvocate and closer to 3 out of 5 on RateBeer.
The overall picture painted by the interviews with brewers and review site operators seems to show that, in the beer world, brewers and review sites are in an uneasy alliance, united in their distrust of user opinion. In fact, no users were interviewed for the story. Any home-reviewers in the audience who'd care to weigh in?