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Comment BeerFly (Places) 101

Discussion in 'Site' started by slander, Dec 13, 2012.

  1. slander

    slander Site Editor (580) New York Nov 5, 2001 Staff Member

    I remember when ‘place reviews’ (the artist formally known as ‘beerfly’) showed up on this site; I'm thinking sometime early ’02. I recall a lot those early reviews, including my own, as being a few sentences that just really acknowledged that you were there, ‘marking turf’, so to speak, and just ‘listing the good places’. We were young. There were only a handful of beer bars, brewpubs, & beer stores in NYC and I had pretty much tagged them all. Wasn’t until I started to travel for work and play that I thought to use beerfly as a reference for places in cities and states I wasn’t familiar with. A travel guide for beer; imagine that. And so it grew. We got better at it, and started giving good detail. Well, mostly…

    I want to talk a bit about the ‘selection’ piece…

    When you write up an establishment, I don’t understand what you mean when you say “they have a good selection”. I don’t know you. I don’t know what you think a good selection is. Hell, what I think a good selection is now is different than what I thought a good selection was 3 years ago, and 3 years before that. So, when you say “they have a good selection”, do you mean, for example:

    96 taps and they all end with words like ‘dry’, ‘ice’, ‘light’, ‘ultra’, ‘extra’, ‘genuine’, or ‘premium’?
    Or ½ of that, 48 taps, and they’re all meh ‘beers of the world’?
    Or ½ of that, 24 taps, and they’re all solid craft beer offerings from coast to coast?
    Or ½ of that, 12 taps, and they’re all from breweries within 20 miles of where you’re drinking?
    Or ½ of that, 6 taps, and they’re all lovely Belgians?

    While you ponder that, understand that when I read a review of an establishment…

    If it’s a beer bar, I want to know:

    How many beers they have on tap and what they are (imports, macro, craft, etc, and within craft, what % is local/regional vs. not)?
    What about bottles?
    Anything on cask? Regularly, or ‘first Friday firkin’? Can they move it?
    Do they do promos & events?
    Is this place good for craft beer? Are you supporting good people or are you spending 'the douchebag dollar', supporting people who don't treat craft beer/craft beer drinkers well? Dirty lines, beer in bad shape, racking casks from kegs and calling it cask, cheater pints, and general douchebaggery?
    WHAT DID YOU DRINK?
    WAS IT IN GOOD SHAPE?

    If it’s a brewpub, I want to know:

    How many beers they have on tap and what they are (for a brewpub, I’m of the ‘range over quantity’ mindset, myself)?
    Standards? Seasonals? Brewer’s Reserves? Barreling? One offs?
    Do they have guest taps? Whose are they? Do they compliment the house beers or serve to deal the people who insist on a Budweiser even though they make a great house light lager)?
    Anything on cask?
    Do they bottle?
    WHAT DID YOU DRINK?
    WAS IT IN GOOD SHAPE?
    WHAT DID YOU LIKE AND NOT LIKE AND WHY?

    I mean, I’ve been writing these things for 10 years now. I will be the first to admit they’ve got lengthier & more involved, by which I mean I blather senselessly, often well exceeding the 5000 character max on a review and then having to go back in and edit it down. Shape of the bar, check, seating capacity, check, lighting, check, and all sorts of shit nobody cares about, full paragraphs you can probably bypass entirely when reading me, please, feel free, but at least I tell you what’s there beerwise, and what I drank, how it was, what I liked, etc.

    If you could give more detail here, your content would be more valuable to the reader in assessing whether they'd want to go there.
    That’s all I want for 2013 (for now).

    thanx, yo
    slander
     
  2. emerge077

    emerge077 Champion (950) Illinois Apr 16, 2005

    Slander makes good points here, as usual. Descriptive reviews improve the Places database and help out other local/traveling BA's. I'd add that it helps to really consider your audience when reviewing/adding places. Include what's most important about the selection, quality, service aspects related specifically to beer. Details are also interesting to read, just make sure the main points are covered too.

    The Places/Beerfly directory is super-useful resource on BA that seems fairly underutilized... check it out sometime.
     
    flexabull likes this.
  3. Thanks for the post...

    For what it's worth, slander, I thoroughly enjoy reading your Place/'Beerfly' reviews... sure, they're a little 'stream of conciousness', but they paint a picture of the moment in a way that few, if any, other reviewers can capture. I always aspire to describe the atmosphere, taps, what I had to eat/drink, listened to, and who (if anyone) I shared the visit with when I review a place... but yours take it to another level.

    Cheers,
    B
     
  4. Retsinis

    Retsinis Advocate (555) California Sep 25, 2009

    Good points and I agree. I do my best to cover what the review asks for me to grade on the point scale, i.e. atmosphere, food, value, selection, service, etc. I generally try to list some of the beers that were on tap when I was there to give an idea of what is offered, pricing, size of pours, and whether it was a bad pour when it was, which is not too often, but it does happen.

    Often I tend to review new places, or trying a spot that already has some positive feedback that I've heard about, and my review may just be re-inforcing that (or on some rare occasions debunking homers)

    But I concur, specifics are important, and the audience should be considered, imo. Many Yelp reviews are pretty terrible too at times.
     
  5. Todd

    Todd Founder (1,440) Colorado Aug 23, 1996 Staff Member

    I agree, for the most part. While more (words) isn't always better, the more key details a reviewer can provide the more it benefits everyone. You could apply this to beer reviews too.

    That said, the Internet, beer and our audience has drastically changed since we started; attention spans continue to shrink, more and more non-beer geeks are coming to the party and social media as reduced comments to 140 characters or less. We can't expect everyone to contribute in the same way. It's just not going to happen. Eventually we'll need to cater to this in order to secure site usage/growth, while also ensuring that we meet the needs of our hardcore users. I'm confident that we can achieve both.

    To slander's request for more: the solution would be to create prompts and incentives for users to contribute in more detail.
     
    djaeon and msubulldog25 like this.
  6. hopsbreath

    hopsbreath Savant (475) Oregon Aug 28, 2009

    Member 160 and active as ever...damn. I only recently ran across your Cascade review and thought "what the fuck is this"? Brian's "stream of consciousness" assessment is spot on and I enjoyed it immensely. Went on to read your write ups from the rest of OBF weekend. I'm inspired; don't review individual beers much anymore because I've lost interest but place reviews on here seem way more fulfilling then yelp. I think I just found my New Year's resolution.
     
    msubulldog25 likes this.
  7. slander

    slander Site Editor (580) New York Nov 5, 2001 Staff Member

    I really just meant "Talk about the beer more".

    There are reviews up here without a single reference whatsoever to 'beer', and others where the only reference is where the writer saw 'a sampler on a wood tray' or 'some fermenters in a room behind the bar'.

    You don't have to get crazy. I'm wasn't asking for more content as much as 'more helpful to the reader in assessing whether they might want to go there', is all.
     
  8. I would also like to point out that there are regional and local differences for your selection criteria. Take for example suburbia versus urban locations. There are more than a few locations in suburbia that don't have extensive histories with one offs, rare seasonals, or out of market drafts which I still consider to have a better selection than many of the "great selections" of urban locations so often its a bit tongue and cheek.

    The only way to know for sure is to check the places website and actually go there.
     
  9. rousee

    rousee Advocate (520) Massachusetts Aug 13, 2004

    I review a fair amount of places on here and would say that I usually get into most of the details you describe. I could probably be more thorough with the actual beers I had on that particular visit or the ones I remember seeing but that information might not be useful for someone that visits the establishment a year or more later after my visit.
     
  10. slander

    slander Site Editor (580) New York Nov 5, 2001 Staff Member

    I hear what you're saying. Many places don't have 'one offs, rare seasonals, or out of market drafts', and often these places will be soooo much better than the ones that have it all. Maybe it's because they support your locals, or that they are more interested in keeping great beer on constantly than being the 'look at me! look at me!' first to have the new thing on once and done, or the beer guy likes to rotate between 3 killer IPA's and that's all you right now, or any number of things. It's really all subjective. My point being though to tell about what they do and why you like it.

    But I also want to talk about this...

    "The only way to know for sure is to check the places website and actually go there".

    Yes and no. See, as one of 3 site editors who pushes the yay or nay button on new establishments in the 'places' queue, I can tell you that it's very often a research project to figure out what's what in approving places. Some bars and generally all restaurants post their food menu on their website, but only sometimes their drink menu, and that will more likely be wine & cocktails than beer, although some are stepping it up. Often, I'm looking at facebook page photos and website galleries to see if I can see the tap towers or someone got a picture of the blackboard listing tap selections. So, yes, the only way to know is to go there...
     
    Chaz likes this.
  11. MarcatGSB

    MarcatGSB Initiate (0) Michigan Jan 8, 2011

    This post is very timely. You make some really nice points, I have to say, and I agree with them all.
    There is one problem with the Places reviews...and that is the subjectivity of the region. I just came back from a 21 day road trip from the UP of Michigan down to Tampa FL and around that area. When reading reviews of the Asheville beer scene, I was getting very psyched...However, two or three places that have ratings of 88 to 90, wouldn't fair a 75 in Chicago...They just don't have the level of distribution and collective buying power that larger areas like Chicago, and even Grand Rapids (because of Chicago) has. On topic, and just my .02 cents.
     
    TubaManJack likes this.
  12. slander

    slander Site Editor (580) New York Nov 5, 2001 Staff Member

    Gives a picture of a time and place, is all.
    If I saw that you drank the 'AleSmith IPA' and 'Sierra Nevada Celebration' a year ago, at least I could assume that they pour craft beer there. It probably won't be those on when I go there, but it's a whole lot better than the vague "they have a good selection"...
     
  13. slander

    slander Site Editor (580) New York Nov 5, 2001 Staff Member

    Excellent point, and something I've struggled with having written reviews across 40 states...
    I think when writing place reviews, the content content content of your review is more important than the overall score, as it's often skewed by the non-beer specific items (atmosphere, service, food and the ever vague 'quality' which some think of as 'quality of beer' and others as 'quality of overall experience').
     
    flexabull and MarcatGSB like this.
  14. John_M

    John_M Moderator (1,100) Oregon Oct 25, 2003 Staff Member

    Not much to add, but I have a couple of thoughts....

    Slander's OP topic seems to come up periodically, and once again I think he makes some good points and recommendations. My thought all along has been that the site should contain something along the lines of Slander's Beerfly 101 post, as an aid to reviewers (many of which are new or just plain clueless when it comes to review content). Perhaps it could be located on the home or help page, or just linked in some fashion to place reviews.

    In terms of Todd's observation about the best way to encourage more extensive and detailed reviews, I guess I was under the impression that this was what Karma Points was all about. Sure, it's a small thing, arguably even somewhat silly, but at least it did create some incentive to contribute. I for one would would be more than happy to go back to the old Karma Point system. Previous posts from the bros have consistently stated that they would be cominig back in some form at some point, but it's been roughly a year now and, well, I'm starting to think that "some form at some point" is now never going to come. In any event, I agree... some sort of incentive to provide better review content is certainly not a bad idea.
     
  15. Todd

    Todd Founder (1,440) Colorado Aug 23, 1996 Staff Member

    We've consistently stated that some form of achievement system (aka Beer Karma) is coming back as it is. We didn't hire a fulltime developer and begin development on a complete site redesign for nothing. ;)

    I can assure you that some sort of incentive/achievement system is forthcoming, amongst numerous other things that have been requested over the years.

    Agreed on the 101s for reviewing.
     

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