McNeill's Brewery

Not Rated.
McNeill's BreweryMcNeill's Brewery
BEER AVG
3.62/5
Based on:
32 Beers
1,268 Ratings
Place Score: 84
Ratings: 67
Reviews: 48
rAvg: 3.69
pDev: n/a
Taps: --
Bottles: --
Cask: N
Beer-to-Go: Y
[ Brewery, Bar ]

90 Elliot St
Brattleboro, Vermont, 05301-3269
United States
phone: (802) 254-2553

view map and get directionsMap @hereforthebeer

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Place added by: BeerAdvocate

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Ratings: 67 | Reviews: 48
Reviews by Flashy:
Photo of Flashy
4.38/5  rDev +18.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

McNeill's smells of sh*t?! I am willing to grant you that the place is more appealing when they aren't tearing down half the block, ripping up all of the sidewalks and building a five story parking garage behind it; but smell's of sh*t?! Give the place a break. It looks like they are lucky the building is still standing. But smells like sh*t?!
I wonder if a road crew had just hit a sewer main down the block before your visit or someone can't tell the difference between the smell of spent grain and...sh*t.
McNeill's is the only 1st Rate brewpub in New England that I've been to (though I know there are others). The beer is exceptional and the stew isn't bad. And Vermont is infested by those flies at certain times of the year. It's like avoiding Yellow Jackets in Germany.
Though the crowd tends to be a bit hippie we love this place and it's kid friendly. The gin mill next door has the worlds best two dollar hamburgers. Love the German beerhall style seating where your sitting next to whoever and NO TV (except on Election Day and apparently when the Red Sox are in the Playoffs). And Far333, I love those prints and have never seen a concert photo there (though the t-shirts could be nicer).
Word of warning. McNeill's beers do not seem to travel well. I've had it in other bars and it's not the same.
Stopped in 12/22/2012: Place looks great, lines are clean, patrons interesting and employees nice enough.

More User Reviews:
Photo of jmdrpi
3.54/5  rDev -4.1%
vibe: 3.25 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.75

beers were all good, they had a wide selection.

the place is a bit of a dive - but they had a real dartboard and some board games to occupy yourself while drinking.

Photo of 31Sam13
4.75/5  rDev +28.7%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4.75

I really have an affinity for the place. It is in a cool, nondescript location, is filled , generally, with mellow people who want to enjoy some good beer. The place has been under the management of a new guy who is doing a great job with the food and hiring good people. A true diamond in the rough...

Photo of KingCobra686
2.75/5  rDev -25.5%

Mcneils beer offerings are awesome, but unfortunately their beers greatly outshine their brewery location. Their brewery is essentially a run down dive bar that only sells mcneills beer. They are not able to sell bottles on the premise, so i was forced to go to a package store down the street to stock up on bombers of mcneills. Prices are decent and the staff was very friendly, so it was worth the stop there, but overall the operation was very lackluster compared to most other vt breweries.

Photo of GarthDanielson
3.46/5  rDev -6.2%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3.75 | service: 3 | selection: 3.75 | food: 3

I've been here a couple of times. I wanted to give it more than one shot to see if one experience was just an anomaly. It's on a side street in Brattleboro, but right next to public parking, which is clutch. You walk in and are directly facing the bar, with open seating/tables to your left. Long bar, with a ton of seating. Current beers are listed on a chalkboard behind the bar...they will hand you a beer list with every beer they make on it, but that's more of a guide, don't try to order from it. Done that each visit, and always asked for something not currently on tap. 3 casks available, along with the 6-9 taps. Seems like there is always a cider available, too. The food is limited and basic, but tasty...bar pizza, wraps, etc. Every time I've been there it's been a single bartender on staff, so if someone orders food, they have to go back to make it, so hopefully your beer isn't approaching empty when they take off. Also, each bartender I have dealt with has had the same initial approach: 1) hand you beer list, 2) immediately ask you what kind of beer you drink. Also, both times, the bartender has not been enthused by my answer of "I drink any style." Really no time allowed to develop your own interest in a particular brew, rather they attempt to push you through their offerings. Oh well...the beer is good, the prices are great, and the bar itself is comfortable. Great atmosphere and great music...decent place to hit up if you are in the area.

Photo of huuvola
4.4/5  rDev +19.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3.5

October 2009 review (see below for update):
I was a bit apprehensive about visiting McNeill's after reading a few earlier (negative) reviews on BA, but my fears were quickly allayed after taking a seat at the bar. This is a great little brewpub, resplendent in rustic Vermont charm. Yes, the building needs some love (the bathrooms, in particular, are showing their age), but the staff is friendly and the beer is very good.

Don't come here looking for a shiny, flashy new brewpub, come for the beer, and don't shy away from talking to your neighbor. We ended up, by chance, talking with owner/brewer Ray McNeill, a personable and friendly guy. He's a bit of a character, but has a lot of local knowledge (and beer knowledge... and bicycle geekery). He told us a bit about the bar and gave us some solid recommendations for dinner in Brattleboro.

We enjoyed the McNeill's Champ Ale (pale ale), Ruby Ale, Dead Horse IPA, Kolsch, and "My New Invention" (hoppy IPA, brewed w/organic ingredients). All were very solid beers. The only downer of the visit was that they weren't serving any cask beers (despite a beautiful array of cask engines at the bar). The bartender told us that they haven't had cask running for six months or more (not sure why that is). Despite the lack of cask, we left satisfied, and happy to have visited this Brattleboro institution.
===
August 2012 review:
I visited McNeill's again over the weekend and continue to enjoy this beautifully unique brewpub. It's even better now. Highlights from our 2012 visit:
--The place has been thoroughly cleaned and significantly fixed up since our previous visit. Fresh paint (inside and out), redone bathrooms, and spruced up decor. Looks great!
--Beer selection was stellar. Three beers on cask(!) and I think about 8 other beers on draft. Something for everyone.
--Service was prompt, friendly, and informative.
--Food: We had the cheese plate, which was basic but delicious (2-year aged Cheddar, from the local cheesemaker).
--Atmosphere: Just a classic Vermont experience. We ended up talking with one of the artists who has some artwork hanging on the brewpub walls. Friendly local fellow who is doing his utmost to "Keep Vermont Weird," as the bumper stickers say. Another memorable visit, and we'll be back.

Photo of sespourteille
3.13/5  rDev -15.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3 | service: 3 | selection: 3.5 | food: 2

I am forced to rate this place high because it was a yearly after camping stop for a long time. Very simple, small and unimpressive at a first glance, McNeill's can surprise you if you just give it the chance. Every year there would be a beer on their list that was just out of place rare. This would of course be the one that my father bought each time because it was always a treat to find something out of the ordinary at such an ordinary looking place. The food consists mostly of homemade mom sandwiches and chips with salsa, but hey, who goes to a bar to eat. If your walking by it's worth going in and looking at the menu, having a few and playing a round of darts with friends.

Photo of Durge
4.3/5  rDev +16.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4

A one room pub with a smallish bar and four long tables for the public drinkers. This night they had one cask ale and eight drafts flowing and all seemed to be in good order despite the previous reviews that warn of off nights. I sampled or ordered most everything and all was good. The bartender was completely knowledgeable and a friendly guy who was quick to offer samples where there was any interest. The clientele was pretty much as advertized, but entirely a positive. Plenty of character and easy to join any conversation from what I experienced. Apparently the owner/brewmaster, Pat, is currently in very poor health and I was impressed to hear how sincerely the locals were concerned about Pat’s condition and also for the very future of what seems to be a largely beloved institution. The place is obviously an integral part of this community and provides some sort of vital function to this little hub of south-eastern Vermont. The beer was all good to very good. Apparently the place very recently underwent a thorough cleansing and bathroom to bar nothing seemed hideously divey about the place to me. But it seems that might not have been the case in the past. It’s not glamorous, but it's comfortable and fine for drinking good beer and meeting nice folks. So all in all, a very good experience, not to miss if in Brattleboro or the general vicinity. Be sure to keep in mind that it's CASH ONLY, but prices are reasonable for the quality of brew.

Photo of woolybear
3.48/5  rDev -5.7%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 3.5 | food: 3

April 23 visited for the second time as part of a VT/NH beer tour. My first visit was also a good experience just got to spend a little more time there on this second trip. Had the Dark Angel a nice fulled bodied, rich stout with a nice malty finish. The atmosphere is very much of a small rough neighborhood pub. A eclectic variety of clientele but still inviting in many ways welcoming. May be a bit loud or rough for some beer drinkers but if i lived near by this would be my neighborhood pub. Also something to be noted not that it effects the experience but there is no parking.

Photo of FrankLloydMike
4.14/5  rDev +12.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4

I've stayed over in Brattleboro three times now, and among the town's many draws is the homely McNeill's. The vibe here is pure Brattleboro--what I would call an elegant stay of decay. Well, maybe not that elegant, but it's certainly charming.

Tucked a short walk away from the main drag in an old, wood building that looks like it's about to fall off the side of a cliff is one of the dingiest, but most laid-back brewpubs I've ever had the pleasure to visit. I love the long, communal tables (plus the turned metal legs and Shaker chairs), I love the coziness the place exudes, and I love the three cask engines. I also love that I found a three-year-old issue of BeerAdvocate (actually a whole stack of Vol. 2, No. X, but I only took one copy) that I had been hoping to find for some time. I don't mind the dust or stacks of junk in the corner, and in a way they add something to the experience. The one thing that I do mind--that makes me wonder if I should drop the atmosphere score a bit--is a rather unpleasant, stale smell. You get used to it and it's not overpowering, but it's far less than ideal when enjoying a fine beer.

The service here is always friendly, whether or it's slow or packed. I'm still puzzled as to why the bar here is an inverse of every other I've visited with the bartenders stepping down behind the bar and appearing oddly short. Maybe it's a more ergonomically correct position from which to pump the cask engines.

That reminds me--McNeill's has some great beers, and while some others have mentioned the occasional dirty line, I've never experienced it. The three casks--including the lovely Dead Horse IPA and even better ESB on my most recent visit--compliment the fresh, tasty draft lines. In addition to the casks, I really enjoyed the Sunshine IPA (I think that's what it was called). McNeill's, like many older New England breweries, specializes in wonderfully balanced takes on English-style ales, which I really enjoy.

The beer is great here, but there's just something about the experience of coming back from a hike, or huddled and hurriedly walking up the road with the crunch of snow underfoot and settling in with a pint and a game of cards at McNeill's long tables. Sitting there, leaning back and sipping a fine cask ale, it's not hard to feel at home.

Photo of zoolzoo
4.1/5  rDev +11.1%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 5 | selection: 4 | food: 3

This place is...interesting!

Locals certainly love this place and some of the clientèle were colorful to say the least (friendly too). Its somewhat divey, theres really nothing "nice" about the place but who cares? Thats not what McNeil's is all about. Ah yes I played the ring game for about an hour while enjoying my chips and dip. I got pretty good at it in fact.

They brew their beer downstairs right below the pub. The bartender was awesome! He was friendly and took my friend and I on a tour of the "brewery". Its like my basement... but smaller. McNeil's makes some pretty good stuff down there, though. I had the summer IPA and a brown ale. My friend liked the summer IPA enough to get a growler fill of it.

Photo of indiapaleale
3.34/5  rDev -9.5%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.5

This is a staple fixture in what is a two place beer scene in Brattleboro.

My wife and I dropped by earlier today. Ray (owner) was sitting at the bar watching the Sox game. He was nice enough to tell us where the closest ATM was as we totally forgot it was cash only...remember that!

Its got an old tavern or saloon feel inside. Its messy, stuff is all over and it makes you feel as comfortable as you'll ever feel in a place that isn't yours. It just has that atmosphere about it. lots of big tables to sit on and drink and talk. I like that about McNeill's.

They had 6 or so of their beers on tap, nothing too crazy. I had a pint of the Ruby Ale as I know I like it. It was decent, I wish their pints were as cheap as the 22s I see in the stores! $4.25 for a 16 oz pint of $2.99 at the co-op for 22 ounces!

We didn't get food but that is super limited and the kitchen appears to be the other end of the bar.

Definitely stop in for a few beers and talk to Ray if he is there. Play the ring game, sit in the big wooden chair and admire the fact that the bartenders are NOT that short its just the way the bar is.

Photo of rixport
1.94/5  rDev -47.4%
vibe: 1.5 | quality: 2 | service: 2 | selection: 2

Wow.. what a disappointment. The beer was mediocre at best. The 'summer brown' was not even brown.. not even close. The Summer IPA was 'ok', but not that good. The 'cask conditioned' IPA was again, 'ok' but far from great. I had great expectations for this place and have enjoyed bottles I've picked up in the past. My biggest objection to the place was it was dirty, unkept and smelly. Hard to enjoy a beer in a place where all you can smell is cleaning solvents and stale urine. ;-( I'm having a hard time trying to find something nice to say about the experience..

Photo of ImHereForTheBeer
3.83/5  rDev +3.8%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 2

We live here in Brattleboro and McNeill's is one of the reasons why. First, you need to know that Brattleboro is a unique town with vastly different people all living together in harmony, a true "melting pot" if you will. McNeill's is the pub you will find every type of Brattleboro "character" from our smelly hippies to our business men in suites.

McNeil's is designed to be a social pub, with long tables, friendly staff and friendly patrons...there is always a good conversation to be had at McNeill's. With that said lets talk about the beer. It is true some days there are lots of beers with freshly cleaned beer lines and other days there are only two or three beers and the lines are dirty. It is also true that the beer is inconsistent, I like to forget the beers have names and enjoy them for what they are that day 9 times out of 10 awesome. Truth be told Ray McNeill is a great brewer. We enjoy the element of surprise and creativity at McNeill's, we are hooked!

Photo of nramsburg
2.95/5  rDev -20.1%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3.5 | service: 2 | selection: 3 | food: 3.5

I have a tortured relationship with McNeil's. On a given day, it can be charmingly rustic, with some great people at the bar, dats that work, items advertised on the menu actually available, and fresh, clean beer. Of course, reviewing McNeill's under these hypothetical conditions is like judging communism from its implementation in the USSR. Tried to make a reference that would resonate with Brattleboro patrons and likely failed miserably.
That said, on some nights it's great -- the beer is plentiful, and fresh. On others, they're sold out, and the lines clearly haven't been cleaned. Fortunately or unfortunately, it's the same price regardless. I'm not sure if it helps, but the cask ales tend to be better most nights, which is great since their ESB is a standout.
Food can be, surprisingly given the minimal prep space, tasty and distinct. The black bean dip and hummus have been great on occasion.
Despite this review, I'll probably continue to go -- and you likely will as well. That's ok, at least it's cheap, and, come on, who doesn't love the ring game and free darts (even if there are only two working darts)?

Photo of erosier
4.3/5  rDev +16.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4

This is an interesting place. The beers are all made there which is nice because they are all fresh beers. There were 3 casks which made it even better. The service was top notch, no lines for beer or anything like that. The bartenders knew a ton about the beer so that was good too. The quality of the beers were excellent and I have no complaints about them, everything I got I enjoyed. I didn't get any food but I didn't see much of a kitchen anyways. I did get a nice sneak peak at the brewery which is really set up in a very dank and dark basement area of the brewhouse. The three floors below the main house are where all the beer is made and stored and it was quite an interesting setup. Overall a really nice place to visit if you need some good beer.

Photo of plaid75
3.78/5  rDev +2.4%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4

Located at the end of town, in close proximity to the train station and a municipal parking garage.

From the outside, the building appeared to be a bit run down and reminded me of an outdated mill of some sort.

The interior was very spartan, with long picnic style benches. The bar was on the smaller side, but cozy. There were about a half dozen house beers running, including a murderous DIPA.

I was told that the brewing equipment was located on the floors below, which was confirmed when I saw one of the brewers emerge from the stairwell in Wellington boots and an apron. The only complaint I have is that the brewer, an otherwise unidentified woman, reaked so badly of b.o. that I was a bit turned off of the beer. I mean, afterall, she is preparing what I am drinking.

Photo of ThirstyBird
3.56/5  rDev -3.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4

I have been to McNeill's a couple of times now as my girlfriend's family is from Brattleboro so I sometimes need to entertain myself.

I like the feel of the place with the long tables and the smell of stale beer. The utilitarian set-up using duct tape and extension cords seems very laid back and I don't mind that feel.

The service seems to fluctuate - at least it has on my two visits. Once being very good and the second time the bartender seemed a little disinterested even though they weren't very busy.

I look forward to going back as much for the feel as the beer.

Photo of swierczt
3.4/5  rDev -7.9%
vibe: 2.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.5 | food: 2

While in Brattleboro, went to McNeill's twice over the weekend (Saturday and Sunday afternoon they open at 2 pm). Atmosphere is plain with a small bar and several long rows of tables. The bartenders were entertaining. Beer is a bargain at $3.50 a pint for any of McNeill's beers or $2.50 for a short pour of Rock Art Barley Wine. Growlers are filled with McNeill's brews for $8 if you carry in your growler with you. It's an additional $2 if you need the growler itself.

On Saturday, there were six of McNeill's brews on tap. Champ Ale, Ruby Ale, Summer IPA, the Blond Bombshell, as well, as two cask conditioned - Dead Horse IPA and Extra Special Bitters. When returning on Sunday, two additional taps had been added - the Oatmeal Stout and Pullman's Porter. As I mentioned above, there was one guest beer on tap - Rock Art's Barley Wine. Overall, a decent variety.

I was disappointed to find out that McNeill's is not currently bottling any of their beers in 22oz bottles, as they were during our previous trip to Brattleboro a few months back. Apparently, they are in the process of getting their bottling line up and running. I heard that Rock Art is assisting McNeill's with this.

Food options are very limited and are listed on a chalkboard. Roasted peanuts, nachos made in a toaster oven, chips and salsa or stuffed grapeleafs comprised the menu. Don't plan on going here for a meal, but to enjoy a few pints. With that being said, there are plenty of other decent restaurant options within walking distance.

Photo of iceball585
4.14/5  rDev +12.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

My friend who grew up in Brattleboro recommended that we check this place out while we were in town. I like all the beers that I had from there so far so we agreed to check it out.

From the appearence of the outside and the name you would think that you were going to walk into an Irish pub or something along those lines. The inside of this place has a real rustic feel to it. Long wooden tables at one side of the room and a decent size bar at the other side of the room. This place is definatly aimed more toward the locals in the town. In fact I think that everyone looked at us when we walked in and no one knew who we were. But everyone there was still friendly including the bartender. We never waited more than a minute to get served at the bar which was very nice. The overall vibe and crowd were mostly hippies or yuppies (still nice people though).

They had about 10 of their beers on tap which was nice because so far I haven't been disappointed by any of their beers. The prices were reasonable for a brewpub like this. I didn't see any menus so I really don't think that they have food there. I didn't see a door to a kitchen either so I am pretty sure they don't offer food.

Overall if you are looking for a relaxing night out in Brattleboro and don't really want to be a part of the busy bar crowd, then give this place a try.

Photo of currysage1
3.93/5  rDev +6.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3

Been to this establishment many times over the years. Do yourself a favor, get a room at the Latchis and stay the night. You won't want to leave once you've started.

Some people believe that the rustic look means a place is shabby and beneath them. I don't think so, not if that is what the place is going for.

Nice long pub tables, a throne fit for a king, darts, ring toss game ( my favorite ). They brew many different beers ranging from Pilsners to Oatmeal Stouts. They have won numerous awards for their beer over the years. No I don't work for them, I just want some good light to shine on them.

Yes it can be true that the locals get preference over everyone else. So what, saddle up to the bar order a beer like you know what your talking about, strike up a conversation and your part of the crowd. Thats all you need.

Food is so-so, but that isn't exactly what you'll be going there for now is it?

I gave good numbers to quality, and to selection. I did this for the simple fact that everytime I'm there I have 3 or 4 pints of different brews and end up bringing 2 growlers home with me to boot. Not once have I gotten a bad beer.

Try the Slopbucket Brown, or the Firehouse Red.

And the "guitars" on the wall are paddles.

Photo of Billolick
4/5  rDev +8.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5

Just 5 minutes from the local Food co-op (well worth a visit) in downtown and bustling Brattleboro, this place is dripping with athmosphere and down to earth good vibes. Relaxed, dimly lit and unassuming. they were pouring six of their own creations and the IPA was smooth, tasty and moderatly hopped. This place has been an outpost of good beer for many a year, I've heard reports that the beers are not what they used to be, but go for the Vermont gritty charm and a couple of pints of their better then average house brews.

Photo of tgbljb
4.5/5  rDev +22%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5

I have been wanting to visit this establishment since seing it on the American Beer video. It was everything I expected it to be. A bunch of long tables inside where everyone gets to meet ther fellow drinkers. This is a bar for people who like to drink good beer, and don't really care about the food. I had a chance to meet the owner and talk with him for a while. I'm glad I could squeeze this stop in on my trip to New England with my wife. Well worth a stop if you are in the area. What a true beer bar is meant to be

Photo of Jwale73
4.05/5  rDev +9.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 3 | selection: 4

I love this place. My wife is from Brattleboro and whenever we visit, I make her take a trip to McNeill's. Their stouts (oatmeal and imperial) are beyond reproach and the Barley Wine is some powerful stuff. I can't comment too much on the food situation as there have been some changes to the laws in Vermont; however, I believe they have some form of a menu now, although I believe you can also bring take-out in from one of the many restaurants around town. Service is average. I've had to stand at the bar for awhile because the bartenders have the tendency to chat up their friends. A great feature is that they have a large cooler full of 22 oz. beers and you can also grab a growler to go. If you are in the area, it is well worth your time.

Photo of tboom29
3.7/5  rDev +0.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.5 | food: 3

Recently visited McNeill's on a camping trip to Brattleboro, VT. This place is what I look for in a brewpub. The decor is spartan, but does have several funky guitars displayed throughout the bar. Comprised of only one room, the bar is in front as soon as you walk in. The days brews are listed on a chalk board behind the bar. Long community tables are throughout, which I like and it encourages talking among patrons. Darts are in one corner, and the ring toss on a string game as well. One TV is in the corner, it was off on our visit, which is another plus in my book. Blues music played unobtrusively throughout the day. A big picture window is in the front of the pub, which lets plenty of sun in and allows for people watching on a hot day.

There were about 5 beers on tap when we were there. They have 3 cask engines, but only one beer was on cask, the ESB, which was my favorite that day. I would have liked to have seen more on tap as they had the handles for it. The beers we had were all quite good, not spectacular, but solid. There is lighter food fare, such as peanuts, hummus, nachos, and grape leaves. I wouldn't come here for dinner, this is a place to drink beers, however the peanuts made for a nice snack I didn't see anyone eating anything besides the peanuts.

The service was efficient, if not overly friendly. There was only one bartender, and the place was full during our session, which lasted several hours, but the bartender capably handled everyone. As for value, this place can hardly be beat. Pints were $3.25, growlers were $7 for the initial purchase, $6 for a refill.
Overall, the value is great. McNeill's would be my choice for my local pub if it was only closer. It's worth a trip to the area to check it out.

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McNeill's Brewery in Brattleboro, VT
84 out of 100 based on 67 ratings.