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.


  1. Hear, hear! Thanks, unclecrappy, for defending the area’s craft brews. I’m sure Shannon is going to be surprised at the passion his “review” is going to garner. He’s going to have some ‘splaining to do.



  2. Thanks, I wanted to say that but there would of been a lot more obscenities in my version.

    I think he was talking about breweries in the City of Pittsburgh, so he really only left out the Hofbrauhaus. And I think he has a small point. There should be more beer made in the borders of the city.

    Too bad that’s the only point on beer the column made. Beer coverage like this is what motivated me to start my podcast.


  3. I think this ranks along the lines of the Beer Advocate magazine review of Pittsburgh where the writer couldn’t have possibly done more than read BeerFly reviews.

    I have never had a bad beer from East End and to leave out 3… THREE brewers is really lacking in homework. Any craft beer fan who’s been to Pittsburgh in the last 2-3 years knows of Rivertown and Rock Bottom. Now with Hof being in the mix I’m really shocked.

    I’ve read some of his other articles and this carelessness doesn’t surprise me. Its summer so we should probably all be drinking Corona with a lime. Joke.

    I think Scott needs to chime in on this one “Some of East End’s beers are decent, but he does have a lot of kegs returned for being skunked. “


  4. I have my opinions about Examiner, but here’s something we should all know.

    1. The amount of experience they look for in a contributor is, uh, low.


    2. Most importantly, writers are paid per page view:
    “Examiners are paid a very competitive rate based on standard Internet variables including page views, unique visitors, session length, and advertising performance. This is not a full-time “quit your day job” kind of opportunity, but Examiners can definitely earn some extra cash while gaining exposure through their writing. Examiner.com uses PayPal to compensate Examiners.”

    So, yeah, don’t click the link.


  5. I think the folks at Red Star Brewery in Greensburg (Westmoreland County) would be equally surprised to hear that they are no longer making beer.

    Shannon claims that no beer from CBW has “jumped out at him”. Well, that’s fine, he’s entitled to his opinion, but does that indicate that CBW makes low-quality beers? Heck no.

    Great blog post, Uncle Crappy. I await Shannon’s response.


  6. I don’t know all of the local details, but from my position his description of why Penn Brewery left doesn’t seem logical – a ‘glass ceiling’ is a term that references an inability of either women or members of a minority to advance past a certain level in business – I don’t understand how that relates to a brewery and its decision to move its operations.

    So Shannon will have to deal with the wrath of UncleCrappy – and maybe will tighten up the quality of his deliverables (thankfully UC does not read my work).

    Have a great time in Buffalo


  7. I too have never had anything close to bad from East End. Not a fan of Fat Gary but that’s personal preference. I’d drink if my choice was that, or any mass produced swill.

    Nice of the Examiner to take down Shannon’s bit of “journalism”. Too little too late.


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