Craft breweries in Colorado want big beer to stay out of their business.
Owners of Joyride Brewing and Black Project are asking that their products be removed from RateBeer.com, a popular online forum where users talk craft beer, consumers rate the products and people discover new beer to try.
Both breweries liked their names on RateBeer until last week, when Good Beer Hunting – an online news site dedicated to craft beer – broke the news that Anheuser-Busch InBev now owns a piece of the site. ZX Ventures, which AB InBev runs, made the purchase last October, but the deal went unpublicized.
Local breweries like Joyride and Black Project, and others across the country, essentially think of this deal like McDonald’s buying Yelp; ratings could be skewed when a big-time company, and competitor, owns the page.
“I thought it was troubling that they would try to control a point of information that people think would be independent, and think would be non-biased,” Dave Bergen, the owner and brewmaster at Joyride, said. “I don’t think any brewery should own a stake in a site that is supposed to be user-driven.”
Joyride is a small brewery by Sloan's Lake, in Edgewater. Bergen decided to join the movement, seemingly started by Dogfish Head Brewing in Delaware, which asks RateBeer to pull down all reviews and mentions of their beers. Bergen says the site is under no legal obligation to do so, but he hopes the site respects the request.
“Obviously, the infamous Super Bowl ad where they mocked craft brewers, saying we're all moustache-curling hipsters who only drink pumpkin-peach beers -- I think that they’ve made their intentions known as far as what they really feel about the craft beer consumer,” Bergen says.
He says he would not be bothered by AB InBev ads on the RateBeer. His concern is transparency. He wants to know if page administrators would manipulate ratings, or if RateBeer.com posts an article listing the Top 20 Craft Beers in Colorado, for example, Bergen questions if AB InBev would give preferential treatment to their breweries.
“We definitely don’t expect them to have Budweiser or Bud Light on a top 20 list, but brands such as Goose Island, Elysian, Breckenridge, Wicked Weed – these are all great breweries that make terrific beer, and nobody’s doubting the quality of the beer that they make. It’s just the ownership of it and the practices Anheuser Busch has engaged in the past several years,” Bergen said.
Ratebeer says "all ratings and reviews will remain completely independent." They haven’t directly addressed the request to remove beers from the site, but say it's "unprecedented" for companies to ask for user reviews to be taken down.