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RateBeer sells minority stake to AB/InBev subsidiary, reactions mixed

ratebeerIn a climate that can only be described as “highly-volatile,” Anheuser-Busch/InBev has made yet another acquisition. But, this time it is not a craft brewery that the beer giant has purchased. This time a division of AB/InBev known as ZX Ventures has taken a minority interest in one of craft beers most venerable institutions: RateBeer.com. The sale took place in October of 2016 and was announced to the public and RateBeer users Friday, June 2, 2017.

For those unfamiliar with RateBeer.com, it is a website were craft beer lovers can document and rate beers they have tasted. Since the site first went online in May of 2000, millions of beer reviews have been posted on what the owners call the, “premier resource for consumer-driven beer ratings.”

ZX Ventures is a “global disruptive growth group, incubator, and venture capital team,” as described by the company’s website. The goal of the company is to gather consumer data to better anticipate their future needs. This goal is accomplished by mining data from various sources including RateBeer and other sources from all over the world.

The question that is on many people’s minds now is whether RateBeer can fulfill the mission it espouses on its website: “Our mission is to provide unbiased, consumer-driven information about beer and breweries and to enhance the image and worldwide appreciation of beer.” According to RateBeer owner, Joe Tucker, they can.

“ZX Ventures,” Tucker said in an announcement about the sale. “Has the utmost respect for the integrity of the data and the unbiased service we offer to the entire community and industry.”

Tucker goes on to explain that the integrity of RateBeer’s computational methods and reliance on crowd-sourced reviews, “Obviously won’t and cannot change.” He says that RateBeer has a large and loud membership and a data transparency initiative to ensure data will not be manipulated in AB/InBev’s favor.

But, at least one craft beer brewer, Dogfish Head Brewing Company’s Sam Calgione, isn’t buying it and has already spoken out regarding RateBeer’s move.

“We believe,” Calgione said via Dogfish Head’s blog. “This is a direct violation of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Code of Ethics and a blatant conflict of interest.”

Later in the same blog post, Calgione asks Anheuser-Busch and RateBeer to remove all data relating to Dogfish Head from the website.

“It just doesn’t seem right,” explained Calgione. “For a brewer of any kind to be in a position to potentially manipulate what consumers are hearing and saying about beers, how they are rated and which ones are receiving extra publicity on what might appear to be a legitimate, 100 percent user-generated platform. It is our opinion that this initiative and others are ethically dubious and that the lack of transparency is troubling.”

Calgione fully understands the power that a company like Ab/InBev can wield. In 2011, he had a popular craft beer show called “Brew Masters” that aired on the Discovery Channel. After a short, but successful run of the show that focused on Calgione and his brewery, the series was cancelled. The reason for the cancellation has been widely reported as AB/InBev threatening to pull all advertising on the channel and its affiliated channels if the show continued.

In a Facebook post, the owners of Moonlight Meadery and Hidden Moon Brewing quote ZX spokesperson, Samantha Ross: “It’s really insight. It’s insights into consumer trends. It’s a better understanding of the beer consumer, and the beer markets globally. That’s really going to help us kind of keep our finger on the pulse.”

The Meadery/Brewery’s post then goes on to compare this statement to wartime intelligence gathering.

Among the users of RateBeer, reaction is mixed. Many are condemning the sale, while other congratulate Tucker on working to further the future of the site. Most are conflicted and worry that the site they have loved contributing to for 17 years is now partially owned by a subsidiary of the company they have come to think of as the enemy.

“I do have concerns over impartiality,” RateBeer user The_Osprey posted on RateBeer’s forums. “But, I think the site deserves the recognition and investment and joet (owner Joe Tucker) deserves to put his feet up a bit. I hope the site stays true to what has made it a success so far.”

If, as Tucker has promised, ZX is only interested in the data it can cull from RateBeer, then there is very little for users, brewers and others to be concerned regarding the unbiased nature of reviews on the site. But, as stated in the opening of this article, the craft beer community is in a state of volatility, it feels as if it is under constant attack from market forces exerted by big beer to quash smaller craft producers. The reactions from industry insiders like Dogfish Head and Hidden Moon may be overly harsh, but in this day and age, that is the nature of the game.

Time will tell if RateBeer remains the unbiased source of beer information it has been in the past. This sale inject controversy into an area of craft beer culture that, though accustomed to controversy, should remain pure for the sake of integrity.

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2017 in Beer, Beer News

 

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Zombie-themed brews to keep the walking dead at bay

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead (Photo credit: andres musta)

America has a fascination with zombies. They are on our television and movie screens in such memorable show as The Walking Dead and movies like Zombieland as well as part of the current vernacular. Surely you have heard someone talking about the coming Zombie Apocalypse. With the third season premiere of The Walking Dead last  Sunday night, Oct. 14, and Halloween coming in just  a little over a week, it seems a good time to talk about zombie-related brews.A few notable brews spring to mind:

The evil geniuses at Three Floyds Brewing Company have concocted a brew that goes by the name Zombie Dust in conjunction with a few friends in the comic book industry. The result is a potion with intense floral and tropical fruit notes on the nose and pronounced yet somehow restrained bitter hops on the palate. One reviewer on the beer rating site, BeerAdvocate.com described the beer as, “… APA (American Pale Ale) category demolition right here. Forget about topping this ever.”

Another interesting zombie-themed brew is Epic Brewing Company’s Epic Hop Zombie. Described on RateBeer.com as a, “Stunning IPS, [with] pure and unadulterated hop aroma,” this brew is a monster of a beer. At its original brewing, the masters at Epic used a top secret hop to provide the hop kick this beer displays. Unfortunately, they also used all of them, so thirsty hop and zombie heads thought they would have to do without the gut-wrencher until 2013.  But, the resourceful folks at Epic found a small supply and succeeded in resurrecting the brew for a release this past summer. Watch for more of this epic brew (see what I did there?) next year.

Though technically not beer, mead is making a comeback of sorts and is often considered to be in the same family as beer. That said B. Nektar Zombie Killer Mead is an excellent choice if you are looking for a refreshing change of pace. This award winning brew of apple cider, honey, and tart cherry juice will wake up your taste buds and leave you wanting more. This brew is described by a reviewer on RateBeer.com as, “Flavor is exceptionally well balanced; lightly sweet, lightly tart, peach jam, white zin, cherry, honey, golden raisin, watermelon, apple juice. Dangerously drinkable, mostly dry.”

So, before the Zombiepocalyze or looming end of times, grab a few zombie-style brews to ward of the walking dead and keep the home fires burning.

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2012 in Beer, Beer Styles

 

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Rate Beer annual Winter Gathering to take place in Jax

Jacksonville’s beer industry has been on an upswing for the past four years since the opening of the pioneering Bold City Brewing Company. When Intuition Ale Works joined them just a few years later, it seemed the River City had a real beer thing going in the area known as the King Street Beer District. Since these two local powerhouses made the scene three more breweries have opened, one is nearing completion and should be open around the first part of 2013, and several others are in their planning stages. Kickbacks, the Riverside/Avondale beer temple has been joined by several other beer-centric bars and restaurants like Dahlia’s Pour House, The Garage, Carmine’s, Lola’s, and Pele’s.

Jacksonville, it seems, has become a beer destination.

No greater proof is needed than the recent announcement by Rate Beer – a website dedicated to rating, discussing, and reporting on, all things beer – that their Winter Gathering 2013 will take place in Jacksonville, tentatively February 21-23. To win the event, the First Coast was pitted against Albuquerque, N.M. and Salt Lake City, Utah in an online vote conducted by Rate Beer. After all the votes were tabulated, Jacksonville won with 58% of the votes and not a hanging chad to be found.

The event will bring beer enthusiasts from around the country to experience all that Jacksonville has to offer the beer world. Tentative plans include a welcome dinner at Kickback’s, a bus tour of all the breweries in the city, and a Grand Tasting. The event is only open to members of the Rate Beer website, but membership is free.

Rate Beer is an independent website on which users can rate and discuss beers they have tasted. The site began in May of 2000 and has garnered over 200,000 users from over 60 countries since then. Owner Joe Tucker’s goal is to serve the entire craft beer community world-wide through beer education, promotion, and outreach.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Beer, Beer Festival, Events

 

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