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Comment Tighter Criteria for "beer centric" places?

Discussion in 'Site' started by yemenmocha, Dec 22, 2012.

  1. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Poobah (1,005) Arizona Jun 18, 2002

    I love the PLACES section of BA (formerly the BeerFly) because it helps me to find out about new craft beer spots. My question and sincere concern is regarding the "add a place" function and what seems like a lenient sense of "beer centric" as a criterion for adding.

    Some of the craft beer world is changing. More ordinary, non-craft focused restaurants are adding more taps than in the past - quite a large number, even in lesser beer metros like Phoenix. But often these are just the addition of several BMC adjunct beers or faux crafts like Shock Top, Blue Moon, etc. alongside Stella and similar light flavor macro imports, and then a small smattering of ordinary local beers that are starting to be available just about anywhere. That would have been rare in Phoenix ten years ago. But not now. My point is this - if this counts as a beer centric place, then we're not far off from having an unwieldy list of places that is actually unhelpful for distinguishing which ones are really beer centric and which ones are not.

    I think that (1) we're past the point where quantity of taps automatically equals beer centric, and (2) mere presence of just a few locals equals beer centric. Can a good case be made for tighter use of the criteria?

    Honestly I wonder if some additions are just owners or friends of owners trying to plug a place that isn't really a craft beer centric sort of place. I've been burned before by going out of my way to try a place, and I think other BA's would like to avoid this too.
    DanK4, morebeergood, Zach136 and 2 others like this.
  2. I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. Far too often tap numbers are padded with all too similar products. When I was in college in Lincoln Nebraska there was a misguided view that Old Chicago was a "beer bar" because of the large (albeit mediocre at best at the time) draft beer list. Up the street a few blocks there is a place called Yia Yia's that has +/-6 taps of really good craft and 250-ish craft/import bottles. Yia Yia's, in my opinion, was the only beer bar in town at the time. The beer scene in Lincoln has greatly changed in the past 10 years but Yia Yia's is still best without having a gaudy number of taps.
    yemenmocha likes this.
  3. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Poobah (1,005) Arizona Jun 18, 2002

    Yep.

    Imagine being in Boston and some of the entries are chain restaurants with Harpoon IPA, Boston Lager, etc. We have a similarity to that here where craft beer growth means that many chains or even local ordinary restaurants have the very same boring local taps that you can get anywhere else, plus Blue Moon and/or Shock Top, Stella Artois, etc.

    As craft beer GROWS, I think there could be a need to make the criteria even tighter.
  4. dvelcich

    dvelcich Savant (330) Illinois Feb 6, 2008

    But wouldn't a review of a place that has 30 mediocre taps be something you would want to know about? If I read that in a review, I would know to stay away from that place.
  5. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Poobah (1,005) Arizona Jun 18, 2002

    If it's like I described above, it shouldn't be in my attention span at all - because it shouldn't have a listing in the BeerFly/Places section at all. I don't care if it's on TripAdvisor or Yelp, but ideally a place like BA would instead direct folks to the places that are truly beer centric.
    barleywinefiend likes this.
  6. dvelcich

    dvelcich Savant (330) Illinois Feb 6, 2008

    So should we not review bad beers either? It's the same principle.

    I understand what you're trying to say, that BA should only be promoting good establishments, but they're not really promoting anything. They're just providing a place for people to give their opinions on whether a beer or an establishment is good or bad.
  7. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Poobah (1,005) Arizona Jun 18, 2002

    Then by your reasoning we should add ALL restaurants as we should have all beers, and then review everything whatsoever. o_O

    Denny's
    every Applebee's, Chilis,
    Bowling alleys
    on and on...
  8. dvelcich

    dvelcich Savant (330) Illinois Feb 6, 2008

    We can concede to disagree, but yes. If they have anything resembling craft, they should be reviewed. If you only want to go to the best places, it's easy enough to filter and pick the top five or whatever in the area that work with your travel plans the same way you can filter beers by their reviews to find the best ones.
  9. rocdoc1

    rocdoc1 Savant (380) New Mexico Jan 13, 2006

    I can understand what mr mocha is saying, at least in metropolitan areas. But, when I'm stuck in a small town with few choices I would like to be able to know which is the best of my bad choices. If you search for Carlsbad, New Mexico absolutely nothing shows up. But there are a couple of restaurants that do serve craft beer, and a couple of the grocery stores have a reasonable selection of good beer, even though 75% of what they sell is macro, industrial beer.
  10. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Poobah (1,005) Arizona Jun 18, 2002

    Yes, it is best applied to developed areas where there's too many "best of the bad choices" as you describe. :)
  11. MasterSki

    MasterSki Site Editor (980) Illinois Dec 25, 2006 Staff Member

    I'll chime in with a few of the problems we've run into in establishing hard criteria.

    Firstly, when it was 1-2 BeerFlys per region, the standards were highly uneven - some areas had extremely dedicated and thoughtful BeerFlys who thoroughly vetted places (even calling/emailing/visiting ones that didn't have sufficient website info, etc.) while other BeerFlys had such infrequent submissions that they basically approved anything that came in.

    Now that there are only handful of Site Editors, it's a little easier for us to be consistent, but we still run into problems on this topic. There's the above-stated issue of "best of the worst" - when you're in a small town that has virtually no options, the one place that has Two-Hearted and Abita S.O.S. starts to seem really good.

    It's also really hard to ratchet up standards after 11 years, because you end up with an uneven playing field - you start to get questions/comments like "Why did you disapprove my local Buffalo Wild Wings? I see there are a few other locations on here," "This place is WAY better than Bar X that is already listed," or "My Walgreens has Fou' Foune."

    As long as I've been doing this the mandate from the Bros. has been thus: If the place has more than a token beer selection, approve it. The reviews will determine what is worthy. I won't approve a Chinese restaurant that stocks cans of Miller Lite, but a corner bar with 6 handles, a few of which are locals, would definitely pass.

    We have been working on ways to get users to contribute more place reviews so that it's easier to determine what's worth visiting. Todd may have some more info on that. If something is really terrible, you can always flag it and state your case for its removal.
    cburian, dvelcich, einhorn and 3 others like this.
  12. emerge077

    emerge077 Champion (925) Illinois Apr 16, 2005

    Some previous discussion in this thread...

    Imho, approving everything that comes in isn't going to encourage participation in reviewing places. More listings with no reviews for years on end just makes for more visual clutter and more "where do I go in ___" thread topics. Half the time places are submitted by PR firms and businesses looking for free advertising. Are BA's using the Places directory just to "know where to avoid"? No.

    The core issue is making the navigation of the Places directory easier and more user-friendly (which i'm sure is being addressed in the redesign). Make it simpler and more intuitive, add helpful features like visual maps, links to beer lists, additional photos. Maybe jazz up the city guide pages with photos and top 10 lists. Making it easier to use will increase participation.
  13. MasterSki

    MasterSki Site Editor (980) Illinois Dec 25, 2006 Staff Member

    For argument's sake - pick an arbitrary Zip code and post which places you'd remove from the site (and why if you think it's borderline). I'm really curious how far apart we are in our visions for what should be included.
  14. emerge077

    emerge077 Champion (925) Illinois Apr 16, 2005

    Which is the beauty of dedicated local Beerfly guides. Those who know the local scene well enough and are willing to investigate.

    Observing the database over several years, activity isn't spurred by adding X amount of new listings (no matter how "worthy" they are).
  15. MasterSki

    MasterSki Site Editor (980) Illinois Dec 25, 2006 Staff Member

    I come from an academic culture and I tend to view the website from a library science perspective. There's value to reviews of 'bad' locations, or previously good locations that haven't kept up with the times, as it helps further discourse down the road (i.e. why did these bars/stores go out of business while these other ones thrived?). Presenting only one facet of the culture is somewhat myopic.

    However, I think your viewpoint is more of a functional/community-based one, where extraneous entries distractfrom the most valued content. You want a Mozart "Greatest Hits" box set, whereas I want a complete works collection. I just think it's inconsistent to have an inclusive beer database, but a selective place one.
  16. rocdoc1

    rocdoc1 Savant (380) New Mexico Jan 13, 2006

    Again this is great if you live in a place like Chicago with lots of choices, good, bad and great. But when I travel I'm usually in small towns so I'm forced to start a thread "where do I go in...?".
    Several years ago I submitted a request to have a store listed on Beerfly, I just checked and there are still no places listed in Carlsbad NM. It's a tourist town, I'm sure many BA's have visited the famous Carlsbad Caverns, but according to BA there are no places to buy good beer in my town and that's just not true. It is true that there are no stores or bars that sell even 25% craft beer, but if you come here you can still find beers you'll like if you start a thread and ask a local.
  17. emerge077

    emerge077 Champion (925) Illinois Apr 16, 2005

    It's facetious to assume the "approve only the best places" viewpoint. Even borderline places have a place in the database, just not everything. Much easier to waste someone's time with a random beer than taking the time to go somewhere at random based on a listing on the BA database.

    Not that there's anything wrong with posting a regional forum topic... if there's nothing in the db for Carlsbad, now's the time to add something.
  18. rocdoc1

    rocdoc1 Savant (380) New Mexico Jan 13, 2006

    But it only works if it's approved, and the rules (last time I checked) only allow places that sell mostly craft. That doesn't happen in small town America where 90% of the people love their BMC
  19. MasterSki

    MasterSki Site Editor (980) Illinois Dec 25, 2006 Staff Member

    It sounds like you and I only really disagree with about a very small percentage of the listings then. I'll use the US for my data set, but I would presume other countries would have an even heavier emphasis on breweries and less 'borderline' non-brewery places (i.e. Sweden has 151 places, of which 80 are breweries).

    ~17,000 US Places
    ~2,700 Breweries (which are always approved provided they are licensed)
    ~700 Homebrew stores (which are so few in number they are almost always approved)

    That leaves ~13,500 discrete bars, eateries, and stores chosen through subjective criteria. If we're only talking about 5-10% of these sorts of places being 'unworthy' of inclusion, that's a trifling. Is an extra page of places in Illinois really impeding site usage or cheapening the value of the site? The lack of advanced search features (that you mentioned above) is a far bigger problem than having a handful of mediocre bars and stores lurking. Their inclusion isn't the cause of all the "where do I go in ____?" threads; that's simple laziness, as it's pretty easy to sort by rating and then ignore places with small sample sizes.

    If it is the ONLY craft-focused location where you are, it will almost certainly be approved. As much as the Bros. have pushed for more objective criteria, there's definitely a sliding scale based on the overall beer culture in the area. Just make that clear in your submission notes.
  20. TMoney2591

    TMoney2591 Champion (895) Illinois Apr 21, 2009

    In terms of the seeming divergence between Mr. Ski and Mr. 077, I can see merit in both views. Frankly, the idea of imposing an objective standard of "worthiness" is likely a lesson in both futility and pointlessness. I will say, though, that some measure of due diligence ought to be taken by the editors.

    I encountered such diligence when Mr. 077 was the (or at least one of the) old BeerFly guides for Chicagoland. On a few occasions, he discussed certain proposed additions to the database with me, both some that I wanted to add and some others had submitted. One way or another, the place was somehow checked out, be it in person, via phone, via e-mail, something. This, to me, seems necessary in order to ascertain just how relatively "worthy" a place is, as it places it in some form of context: physical (involving an actual visit or at least some understanding of the surrounding area), apparent (say, calling for a current/past/future tap/bottle list), or even just the word on the street from someone who may or may not be familiar with things. One way or another, a deeper image of the place is gained by the editor/guide, allowing for the vetting of "unworthy" or PR-firm-only-hyped places.

    Despite the added effort this undoubtedly requires, it is better than just letting any place be added for the sake of it, and, though it still doesn't fully resolve any necessarily subjective issues of objective prerequisites, it helps with some form of filtering. I, for one, appreciated this sort of effort, even when it meant places I sorta kinda thought were "worthy" were excluded. At least I was given some rationale and came away with a firmer grasp of "worthiness".
    Redrover likes this.
  21. emerge077

    emerge077 Champion (925) Illinois Apr 16, 2005

    A few extraneous listings isn't what i'm against here. Applying an "anything goes" criteria over a longer period of time will result in a bloated Places directory. BA's use the directory to find places based on quality and proximity. Nobody wants to waste their time going to a crappy bar because maybe they serve SNPA. Times are changing, and it's getting easier to find better beer in more places.

    Honestly i'd be all for requiring a review, just the same as when a new beer is added. Review-less listings accumulate over time, some sit there for years... sifting through them just adds time to a search.

    All i'm saying is to apply some basic selectivity, verify that a place is indeed "beer-centric", meaning they not only have a decent selection, they also pay attention to quality and know what they serve (on a basic level at least).

    This I agree with, and that level of due-diligence is a good reason to have local beerfly guides, provided they have the time and interest to keep up with it. The input from local BA's that submit places and provide good info is just as important.
  22. I like what you're getting at. However, could you provide an example (the actual link) of a non beer-centric place that is listed, so that others can get an idea of what you mean.

    Thanks.
  23. Hanzo

    Hanzo Champion (955) Virginia Feb 27, 2012

    Only the good places have many positive reviews, if some friend of a restaurant owner put their place up just for publicity wouldn't it have one great review (theirs) followed by one or two terrible ones before the rest of us got the hint? There is really no way to stop this other than the first person that falls for this dupe after seeing the owner/friend list the place and rave about it to blast the place in the review after they find out the truth.
  24. emerge077

    emerge077 Champion (925) Illinois Apr 16, 2005

    Here are a few:
    These were all added by a PR firm over a year ago, still no reviews. Helpful to the traveling BA that takes a chance on one? Not really... it's just a form of free online marketing, and that should be weeded out imho. Making it a requirement to review would filter out this sort of marketing spam from the database.
    yemenmocha likes this.
  25. MasterSki

    MasterSki Site Editor (980) Illinois Dec 25, 2006 Staff Member

    That's not really what I asked for, but fair enough. I was hoping to get a better sense of what percentage of listings currently on the website shouldn't be included - you've merely given me one example (that happens to exist 13 times).

    I would agree necessitating a review would certainly dissuade some of the fringe places (like Fleming's) from trying to jump on the craft beer bandwagon, but on the flipside there are a lot of legitimate places added by their own social media or marketing staff (and clearly they shouldn't be reviewing their own establishment).

    There are a lot of places that have no reviews that are still 'worthy' and not all of them were added recently. In fact, you and I added these establishments!
    http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/29906/
    http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/29209/
  26. emerge077

    emerge077 Champion (925) Illinois Apr 16, 2005

    Alright then, take a look at Scottsdale, AZ. On the 2nd page there are 2 Flemings and a pizza place that has about 12 beers that are 2/3 macro. (pdf, 2nd page) Also "Cold Beer and Cheeseburgers" would qualify as a borderline place, based on Yemenmocha's recent review, though their online menu is about 40-50% craft. So that's 4 places out of 23, or 17%.

    After a few (1-3?) years with no reviews, I think place listings should be purged (or at least verify they're still even open).

    The submission page for places could have a checkbox for employees, when checked would bypass the review stage.
    Any other user could then be messaged once the place is approved with a link to review it. Just an idea...
  27. MasterSki

    MasterSki Site Editor (980) Illinois Dec 25, 2006 Staff Member

    I like all of your suggestions. I do actively try to verify if places are still in business, and I've been systematically going every establishment a state/province level (currently on Connecticut); there are indeed a lot of place that no longer exist.

    FWIW I went through Arizona a long time ago (~18 months) and I remember being puzzled by that pizza place as well. I think 17% may be on the high end though, as somewhere like Glendale seems to only have 1 'borderline' location at most. It'd be hard to selectively exclude one specific Old Chicago location when we have dozens of other ones on the website, and while House of Spirits doesn't look great I think there's room for 4 stores in a city of 230,000 people.
  28. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Poobah (1,005) Arizona Jun 18, 2002


    Yes, the Streets of NY is an egregious example. That's exactly the sort of thing that will mean that a long list of ordinary chains should also be included, with their high macro selection (BMC) and a smattering of imports and crafts. Sandbar chain (mexican grill) locations are starting to be added by someone. A few have better selections than others. I had a short list of examples when I started the thread but I'm a bit lazy this afternoon and won't re-research it. The point is a general one and it applies in a lot of cases out there, as others have indicated.
    http://desertridge.sandbaraz.com/?page_id=203
    http://chandler.sandbaraz.com/?page_id=203
  29. MasterSki

    MasterSki Site Editor (980) Illinois Dec 25, 2006 Staff Member

    The only Sandbar on here is the one in Chandler, and it has a pretty good draft list relative to other Chandler establishments (similar to The Hungry Monk in its mix of Four Peaks, SanTan, Oskar Blues, and a few macros). I wouldn't see any value in adding the Desert Ridge location though.
  30. MasterSki wrote:
    I'll go along with that, and also second what rocdoc1 said. Often when I'm traveling on business I need to know where to go to get dinner along with any craft beer at all. The only way to do that is to search beerfly, and if a craft beer purity test was keeping out places deemed unworthy--rather than letting the reviews determine what is worthy--then I'd be buying a sandwich and trying to find a beer store with a cooler instead of discovering a place to enjoy a decent meal with a decent beer using Beer Advocate reviews as a guide.

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