They Brew it, I sell it, You Drink it... and so do I..

Friday 7 December 2012

Do Brewers Know, Or Want To Know??

We've all had an instance of having a bad bottle of beer before. I know I've certainly chucked a couple of beers down the drain in my time, be it because it was infected, flat or just not very good. But the ugly question of what to do about it when it happens has been popping up in my head for the past few days...

Do you quietly slag off the beer on twitter hoping that the brewery won't see your tweet...?

Do you actually tell the brewery, on twitter or otherwise...?

Do you take it on the chin and accept that this is now part of "crafty craft beer culture"...?

Or do you (go to an extreme in my opinion) and not buy beer from that brewery again...?

We get bottles brought back to the shop from time to time (it's actually very rare) and we obviously give a refund. When it comes to a case of beer that's infected the brewery is usually informed and it is replaced or refunded, but when it's a single bottle would they like to know..?

I suspect that the brewers would actually like to be told.. or would they? I'm not a commercial brewer so I wouldn't really know. Also, I know myself, telling a brewery that I had a bad bottle from them would be quite embarrassing.. It smacks of me trying to say; "I had a crap beer from you, I want a free one now!". I think this is what some others might think and so, just take it on the chin and chalk it up to a bad bottle and move on without saying anything.

I've also heard some conspiracies about brewers purposely putting out beer that they know isn't up to their standards.. I didn't really pay this any mind, but thinking about it, all these new breweries that are starting up and have a hard time of it on the cash terms, if they make a big batch of beer and it's got a slight fault do they A; sell it and know that someone will drink it, or B; chuck it down the drain and lose a hefty sum of money which is quite vital to a new brewery? This is probably over thinking things a little too much, but I still think consistency is one of the most important things in beer when it comes to customer loyalty.

Another thing that's really bothered me lately about consistency is bottle labels. Now every now and then we'll get a case of beer without any labels on. This obviously happens when a case from the fermentation room gets mixed up or something similar. This problem is very usually quickly fixed. We'll give the brewery a DM, and until now all brewers have been very polite about sending us a sheet of labels which we put on ourselves.

More often than not unfortunately though, it's the odd one or two bottles in a case that don't have a label on. It would be a little pedantic to go asking the brewery to mail us one label.. or would it?

It's really difficult to sell a bottle of beer without a label. Really. Not to mention possibly illegal? Most of the time they go in the pound bin, which is very damaging to the brewery from a customers point of view. "What beer is this?" they ask.. "Why doesn't it have a label?" to which answers are given but looked upon like it's a bit of a poor show.

I know quality control is a very high priority in every brewery, but when it's coming up to the busiest time of the year, it's not a time to rush things and make simple mistakes, they end up costing a lot more, in my view.


  1. Tell the brewery in all the cases you've mentioned.

  2. If you are sold beer that is obviously "off", the redress is with the retailer, not the brewer, just as it is with a duff fridge. Being involved in the retail business you will be well aware of this.

    "Not to your taste" is a different matter, of course.

  3. A pub would have no qualms about sending a cask back, I see know reason why this is different. As for odd bottles not labeled, just drink them, but mention in passing the mistake, with feedback on how you found the beer.

  4. A dodgy bottle will happen even to the best, so the benefit of the doubt should always be considered. Now, if those dodgy bottles start getting away from the realm of the exceptional then you, as a retailer, should tell the brewer and see what their reaction is.

    Another thing is when a whole batch is dodgy. A good brewer will now that, or at least they should, therefore, putting that beer out on the street was their decision. In that case, it wouldn't buy from them again.

    What's a no-no to me is the "take it on the chin and accept that this is now part of "crafty craft beer culture"-nonsense. Regardless of their sizes the labels they put to themselves, all commercial brewers should be professionals in the field and as such, they will take any measures at their disposal, and the some, to prevent a badly made beer to reach the consumer. If they are not willing/able to do so for whatever reason, then they shouldn't expect to get paid for their products as much as a professional, they should set "amateur" prices until they learn their shit. The consumers shouldn't be the ones paying for their training.

  5. Will be interested to see brewers' responses to this. As consumers, we don't mind the odd mistake, as long as it is a mistake from smaller breweries without vast quality control teams, but it's a real turn-off when you give feedback, and then find the same mistake being made six months or a year later.