I’ve said here before that one of the beautiful things about being a craft beer fan is that there are as many opinions as there are beer drinkers, and everyone’s opinion is equally valid.
We came across something on Tuesday that is unfortunately going to force me to offer a qualifier.
Meet Shannon Baldridge. He apparently covers the Pittsburgh bar-and-beer scene for the Philadelphia version of a site called examiner.com. In his post from Aug. 4, he essentially writes off the entire Pittsburgh craft beer community in five paragraphs.
I’m willing to accept most opinions. I will not tolerate factual errors:
The Pennsylvania Brewing Co. (Penn Brewery) decided to no longer brew in Pittsburgh due to a “glass ceiling” of production, which it supposedly reached.
Wrong. Penn moved production to Wilkes-Barre when its owners thought they would have to close the Troy Hill brewery and restaurant last year. It’s an unfortunate move, yes, but I’m hoping Penn will return its production here as the owners have promised.
Currently, the only Pittsburgh-brewed beer comes from East End Brewing Co. and Church Brew Works.
Hm. I’m sure the folks at Rivertowne, Hofbrauhaus, Rock Bottom and, if I may include the Pittsburgh metro region in this, North Country would be surprised to hear they’re no longer making beer.
But the most aggregious thing Mr. Baldridge says comes right after informing us that East End and the Church are the area’s only remaining breweries:
Both brew inconsistent, sometimes low-quality beer and do very little on the production end.
Having been a professional newspaper writer for 15 years, I understand that as a columnist, you’ll sometimes go out of your way to say something to get folks stirred up. I also understand, though, that you have to be accountable for your opinions. Because your readers aren’t going to let say something outrageous like two of the best breweries in the state “brew inconsistent, sometimes low-quality beer” and get away with it.
Do you have examples, Shannon? Which beers are we talking about here? What did you find that didn’t work for you? Which ones have you tried?
Or have you tried any of them at all? I guess I’m doubtful you have.
I like the rules Beer Advocate has set up for its online reviews, particularly these two:
- Do not slam a beer, without mentioning any of its characteristics. At least be constructive.
- Immature / troll-like reviews. Don’t even bother. We delete them.
Does that sound reasonable to you, Shannon? I know a few people who make the beer for East End and the Church, and I don’t think they’d have a problem with specific criticisms of their beers. If you say, to use a purely hypothetical example, you think that alcohol characteristics overwhelm one of their high-test beers, you’re offering a constructive opinion — and no one’s going to have a problem with that.
But when you say all their beers suck … well, you just look like an idiot.
No on expects a beer critic to be a cheerleader, and no one should. But after writing about beer for more than three years, I haven’t found much to gripe about when it comes to our local breweries. Shannon, maybe you should stop listening to Beer Street and get out a little bit more. I guarantee you’ll find something you like.