At the recent Beer Boot Camp, a well known South African beer geek asked me an interesting question: what do you do when you buy a beer and find that, having paid your R30-ish for a bottle, it’s undrinkable and ends up glugging down your sink.
It’s a topic that’s been discussed on both the Wort Hogs and East Coast Brewers Facebook pages and one that often comes up in conversation for me. So what do you do? Is it fair to blast a brewer for his or her bad beer on social media? Is it helpful to stay silent?
1. Chalk it up to experience
This is probably the option that most people go for when it comes to buying a bad beer. You’ve forked out the extra cash for a small-batch local brew, taken it home, cracked open the bottle and tasted it. You’ve pulled a face, tasted it again and chucked it down the sink. You’re kind of annoyed but maybe you’re not quite sure what was wrong with it, you don’t feel comfortable contacting the brewer, you certainly don’t feel comfortable taking it back to the store and/or you can’t really be bothered to do anything about it. One thing’s for sure – you won’t be risking your wallet on another bottle of the same, or, most likely, on anything from the brewery in question. It’s the easy option for sure, but it doesn’t help anyone – you’ve still lost your cash, the next person to buy the brew is going to do the same and the brewer has no idea that there was anything wrong with his or her beer.
You don’t have to be a BJCP judge to contact a brewer and offer feedback on the beer. You might not be able to pinpoint the exact off flavour or suggest the right fermentation temperature/cleaning procedure/water treatment process to attempt to avoid said off-flavour, but you can still contact the brewer and tell them you couldn’t drink their beer. Give as much info as possible – was the beer flat? What did it smell like? Did it taste at all like you expected? What flavours did you pick up? What did the beer look like when you poured? It’s also useful to let them know when and where you bought it – and to pre-emptively let them know how you stored it (I’ve often been offered, when reporting an off-brew, the old ‘oh it mustn’t have been kept in the fridge’ excuse). I’d suggest offering this feedback via private channels – look up the brewery’s email address or if you’re more of a phoner, give them a call.
Also read: Band Aid Beer.
3. Give the brewer a chance
Sometimes, stuff goes wrong in the brewing process. You might have got the one bottle that failed to carbonate correctly or bought a beer from the one batch that got contaminated with wild yeast. It’s always worth giving the brewer a chance to replace your sub-par beer and I know a few people who will return the brew to its source and request a replacement. Of course, if the second bottle exhibits the same flaws, then you might want to refer to point 1, above, after politely telling the brewer there are some issues with the beer in question.
4. Shout it from the rooftops
This is a contentious issue. Should you head straight for your social media platforms to tell a brewery that the beer they sold you wasn’t up to par? Some people feel that businesses are now fair game and that if you have a problem with a service provider/restaurant/brewery you skip the personal contact stage and just go straight to Twitter. Personally I find this a little disrespectful. I always like to give a brewer (or restaurant owner, or even someone as frustrating to deal with as an insurance company or government agency) a chance to defend themselves in private. Of course, if you’ve contacted them via email or phone, or you’ve visited the brewery, bad beer in hand asking for a replacement and you’ve received nothing but excuses – or sometimes just nothing at all – in response, perhaps they don’t care about their brand at all, so Tweet away…
What do you think? If you get a bad beer do you chuck it and move on? Do you think it’s ever right to call someone out on social media? Do you return the bad bottle to the store or take it right back to the brewery? Or perhaps, like Billy Carter, you’ve never had a bad beer at all, in which case I’d say you’re a very lucky bugger and you can order for me next time we’re at the bar…