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What makes a new place worthy?

Discussion in 'Feedback & Help' started by johnmichaelsen, Oct 10, 2012.

  1. johnmichaelsen

    johnmichaelsen BA Moderator Staff Member

    Location:
    Oregon
    I've added a few new places to the data base in my time, and have always tried to explain (as requested at the end of my review) why I felt the place in question was worthy. I was taking a look at the websit of a new place just recently added to the data base, and my initial reacion was "what the hell? why was this place added to the data base? what makes it worthy?" I haven't been to the place (but it's in a town that I drive through from time to time), so this isn't meant as criticism (it might be great for all I know), but their website doesn't include a draft or bottle list (hell, it doesn't even include a drink section), and their daily specials all refer to deals they have on bud and bud lite (or other "domestic" beers). There is literally nothing on the site that indicates they serve anything other than macros (the BA listing indicates they have 10 beers on tap and 55 bottles, so I'm assuming they probably have something other than macro stuff).

    Anyway, it occurred to me at that point that even assuming this place offers nothing but macro beers on tap and bottles, would that neccessarily mean it isn't worthy? I honestly don't know the answer to that, and so hence this post.
  2. UCLABrewN84

    UCLABrewN84 Member

    Location:
    California
    For some cities, such an establishment would be the best offering in town. I have only added places that have a fairly strong craft presence. I wouldn't feel comfortable adding a Chili's for example even though they may have Sam Adams and Widmer Hefe.
  3. mudbug

    mudbug Member

    Location:
    Oregon
    This. I'm going to Mountain Home Ak for a week and there isn't even one listing for a place with multiple taps. BOOOO!
  4. johnmichaelsen

    johnmichaelsen BA Moderator Staff Member

    Location:
    Oregon
    This is pretty much consistent with my understanding of the term as well. I currently am on assignment to Morgantown WV, and there really aren't a lot of great options there. Still, the places I've visited, while they havesn't been great, they've been good enough (for Morgantown) that I could understand why they were deemed worthy, and thus added to the data bank.

    Naturally, I don't check every new place that is added to the data base, but I tend to check out those places where I live or travel. Most places, the website will make some mention of their beer list, or there will be something to indicate that they've really upped their game from a craft standpoint.... something that explains why they were recently added to beerfly/places.

    In the example I provided, the place is out in the sticks, but there are some decent places nearby (including the small town where this place is located), and even an excellent regional brewery close by. Shrug. I haven't been to this place yet, so I can't say anything for certain, but on their website, there isn't even a hint of a craft beer presence. In my experience, that struck me as a bit odd, which lead me to ponder the question of just what makes a place worthy. I guess I don't know.
  5. drtth

    drtth Member

    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    While I understand your concern, I don't share your view that it is a real problem. A low, loose filter criterion guarantees that some places get in that I think don't fit but it also helps ensure that good places or those getting better are more likely to get in as well. Often the way the review is written can tell us a lot about why and how the place got included. So I've learned to avoid certain places (e.g. with TV sets) even if they do have a good beer rep.

    That said, I personally think worthy means some choices among craft beers that are served properly, promptly and cheerfully at a reasonable price. Taps should rotate and kegs kick relatively quickly. Lines should be clean. I frosted glasses should be available. Etc. etc...

    Edit: After that it depends on what I'm looking for. E.g., good food and good beer, etc. etc. which is why there should be (as I think there are) multiple criteria for worthiness, just as there are multiple criteria for reviewing a beer.
    rousee likes this.
  6. MasterSki

    MasterSki BA Site Editor Staff Member

    Location:
    Illinois
    Here are the criteria we use for place approvals:

    1) Is the place a licensed establishment? No homebrew clubs, home bars, 'license pending' breweries, etc.
    2) Is the place open for business yet? If not, will it be opening very shortly?
    3) Do they sell beer (or homebrew supplies)? For breweries, is their beer available for purchase somewhere?
    4) Is beer ALWAYS available (i.e. no festival/special event venues)?

    We don't make any value judgement beyond that. It's up to the user base to a) submit places they think deserve inclusion, and b) review places to show their relative merits. If a place sucks give it a low score. If a place gets bad enough reviews people won't bother going there for craft beer anymore. (We do actively look for bogus accounts and reviews to prevent fake hype.)

    drtth has the right idea - there's no fixed measure for worthiness. There's value to knowing about a high-end restaurant that has only a handful of beer selections and there's value to knowing about a shitty bodega liquor store that happens to be open late. We err on the side of inclusiveness and let the reviews sort out whether a place is worth your time and effort - if a place isn't listed at all, how would you know it was rejected for being 'unworthy' rather than just not submitted in the first place?
    TrappistJohnMD likes this.
  7. emerge077

    emerge077 Member

    Location:
    Illinois
    To answer the OP, it's possible the place was added by the owner or employee, and they furnished more info about the beer selection than what appears on their site.

    To answer the broader question "What makes a new place worthy?"

    Add Place: Rules & Tips
    This simple criteria bears repeating... "Add only beer-centric places".

    The "beer-centric" term is open to broad interpretation, but obviously a place needs to have some focus on beer to be added. Consider your audience: traveling & local BA's. Ask yourself Is it a place you'd tell other BA's about? Or just a random place you drank a beer in?

    Quality/Service-wise: Do they clean their lines, serve at proper temperature, use clean glassware, have a beer menu, etc. etc.
    Selection wise: There is no "minimum" here, but a respectable beer selection should go without saying.

    My 2 cents... The Places database isn't intended as a phonebook listing of every last bar, restaurant, & liquor store in existence, simply because they "serve beer". Hopefully it's where the BA user base can seek out better beer options wherever they are.

    Some research is necessary for submissions to be vetted. Adding every submission doesn't enhance the database, instead it does the opposite. Yes, there are geographical exceptions to the rule. Random places can often go unreviewed, sometimes for years, especially in less traveled areas.

    Is this a "real problem", no. Does it make the database less useful? That's for you to decide.
  8. johnmichaelsen

    johnmichaelsen BA Moderator Staff Member

    Location:
    Oregon
    Damn, emerge077! Talk about stealing my thunder. I was all set to post a vehement retort to Masterski's post until you posted your well thought out, well considered, eminently reasonable response. For the most part, your response almost entirely encapsulates my feelings about what "should" make a place worthy.

    Personally, I find the attitude that "because it's too difficult to come up with any set criteria for what makes a place worthy, we mustn't have any criteria at all," to be a complete load. I fully expect the criteria (if there were any) to be subjective, but saying that we can't have any standards at all unless we can make it completely uniform...

    "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core pornography"]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it..." Justice Potter Stewart, 1964.

    I have no idea what would be the appropriate criteria for determining what makes a beer destination worthy or unworthy.... but I know this. I have no difficulty detecting a completely crappy, unworthy beer destination when I see it.

    Thanks for your excellent post emerge077. Perhaps I'm mistaken in my comment above, as you seem to have set out what I would consider appropriate criteria for determining what makes a place worthy or not rather well. Cheers!
  9. leedorham

    leedorham Member

    Location:
    Washington
    I think being very unworthy is a good reason to be in the database too.There are a lot of places popping up that use the word brews or even hop/hops in the name but really make no effort to present a decent beer list. I'd like them to be publicly shamed so as to warn unsuspecting BA's wanting to give them a try.
  10. MasterSki

    MasterSki BA Site Editor Staff Member

    Location:
    Illinois
    Matt and I definitely disagree to a certain extent on this issue, but I was merely passing on the site policy as it was explained to me by powers that be. We had a long discussion about this in the Site Editors forum, and the consensus was that reviews are a more useful tool to determine what is 'worthy' than subjective standards that varied from one Beerfly Guide to another. On one hand we had Matt thoroughly vetting every submission in IL, and on the other we had guides rubber-stamping every BMC frat bar and corner bodega in the state.

    There are certainly places that have a nice selection of beer that don't mention it on their websites, and oftentimes that information is communicated through the submission notes. I suppose businesses could misrepresent the amount of beer they carry to get through the approval process, but I can't imagine how it would benefit them - it would just lead to angry customers and crappy reviews. For the most part though, the approval process is self-selecting - people generally don't try to add places that don't have anything worthwhile.

    Personally, I'm not going to approve a restaurant that has two macros in bottles on their beverage menu and nothing else, but a corner bar where many of the customers drink beer is 'beer-centric' - there's no requirement that a bar be 'craft beer-centric' or 'good beer-centric'. A place with 10 draft handles and 55 bottles is beer-centric, even if all the beer is swill. There's a significant portion of the user base that isn't interesting in making pilgrimages to beer meccas, but merely want to know where they can buy beer in their immediate vicinity.
  11. johnmichaelsen

    johnmichaelsen BA Moderator Staff Member

    Location:
    Oregon
    "There's a significant portion of the user base that isn't interesting in making pilgrimages to beer meccas, but merely want to know where they can buy beer in their immediate vicinity."

    This will probably sound incredibly naive, but why do that? I've been on BA for a while now, and originally, I was under the impression that if a place was on BA, that was a vote of confidence from the founders and an indication of quality. Some places were/are better than others, but if a place was on BA, that generally indicated there was something exceptional about the place (not that it was necessarily exceptional). I'm aware that things have become a bit, ahem, watered down since those days, but I ask you.... is that necessarily a good thing?

    "A place with 10 draft handles and 55 bottles is beer-centric, even if all the beer is swill." Is it? Do you really feel that's true? (just speaking hypothetically of course, as I have no idea what place you're referring to) Maybe 20 years ago that might be true, but I'm not sure that's an accurate statement today (depending upon what part of the country were talking about - I realize in some areas of the country your statement may be completely accurate). I'm with emerge077 on this, as I see this to be a completely fluid, subjective state of affairs. This is all just talk and my opinion of course, but I really see little benefit in setting the bar lower and lower all the time. With the increasing interest and proliferation of good beer destinations, you'd kind of expect it would be just the opposite. Just my two cents...
  12. MasterSki

    MasterSki BA Site Editor Staff Member

    Location:
    Illinois
    I'd actually argue the converse has happened - the standards that we had in place in the early days of the site are being surpassed by more and more establishments and we've increasingly taken that fact for granted. In 2007 a place like Cooper's (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/15405/) would have been a good craft beer bar, but now it's far below average. However, does it make sense to not approve new places that are similar in scope? If I want a quick beer before a show at Stage 773 across the street, it's nice to know I can go to Coopers and have a Centennial IPA or Elliot Ness.

    For certain the definition of a good beer bar is fluid and subjective, but if we follow suite and change our inclusion standards we'll end up with a weird hodge-podge of old bars that are grandfathered in and only the most elite of the new places. The only way to maintain a consistent standard of places would be to actively purge bars and stores that haven't kept up with the times from our database.

    You can sort places by rating, you know. ;)
  13. johnmichaelsen

    johnmichaelsen BA Moderator Staff Member

    Location:
    Oregon
    "The only way to maintain a consistent standard of places would be to actively purge bars and stores that haven't kept up with the times from our database."

    Which I think you should, even though I realize it's probably not all that practical. :)

    I'm not sure I agree with the rest of your post. I think it could be done, though I freely acknowledge it would be more work for you. Seriously though, there was a time when any time I saw a place on beerfly, I figured it probably merited a visit on my part, if I ever had the opportunity. That's no longer the case. Too many inflated beer destination scores and too many folks adding places just because of the free advertising and exposure. Not that I have the answer to those particular problems... I simply point out the obvious (I think), that it IS an increasing problem.
  14. MasterSki

    MasterSki BA Site Editor Staff Member

    Location:
    Illinois
    While I concur that there's inflated scores and such, is there much value in having user ratings if we only approve A bars? I think the beer listings show that knowing what beers to avoid purchasing has as much value as knowing which ones to seek out. I like being able to hop on here and see which nearby bars are mediocre or outright bad instead of wondering if they aren't on here because they've been rejected or merely because no one bothered to add them in the first place.
    daryk77 likes this.
  15. DefenCorps

    DefenCorps Member

    Location:
    Oregon
    I agree with you, and this is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. IMO, about 95% of the locations on this site would be purged solely based on that criterion. When you add in the fact that many, many establishments don't change the carbonation levels for different beers (or if they do, definitely not enough), the truly beer-centric locations in the country are a handful.
  16. gtermi

    gtermi Member

    Location:
    Texas
    Good craft beers at a reasonable price. Thats all I ask
  17. emerge077

    emerge077 Member

    Location:
    Illinois
    Agreed that's a widespread issue at beer bars... really though it's just something to consider when adding a place, definitely not a "requirement" otherwise most wouldn't qualify, as you said.

    To the discussion:
    I'd say at least half the places added don't get reviewed, some for years. As it is, unreviewed places listed don't really tell you much, other than linking to their website or twitter.

    Maybe if there was an optional prompt to review when submitting (as when adding beers), it would encourage more user reviews. I'd guess purging places after 3 years with no reviews would clean up some of the clutter out there, but it's a very minor issue in the scheme of things.

    If a place with a poor selection is listed here, why would anybody waste time and money going there to review it (unless it happens to be the only place in town)? Personally that's why I use beerfly more than say Yelp, because i'm looking for BA's perspectives on beer places. To search for crappy dive bars, i'll use another site.

    About establishing basic criteria... it's not about only adding "elite places" or accepting everything as an alternative. That's obviously hyperbole. With the current flood of new places jumping on the craft beer bandwagon, there's no shortage of average places that fall squarely in the mediocre category, and that's mainly what gets added nowadays. Adding places with little to no craft beer does a disservice to the BA user base, imho. As johnmichaelsen said earlier, adding these places here "endorses" the place indirectly to an extent.
  18. MasterSki

    MasterSki BA Site Editor Staff Member

    Location:
    Illinois
    This discussion seems mainly centered on bars, and I suspect that's because breweries have objective criteria (do they make beer?) and liquor and homebrew stores have a much easier 'eye' test.

    There's obviously some standards I look for, even with the newish site mandate to approve virtually any place that sells beer. I'll toss out three examples of places I frequent on Milwaukee Ave., where I suspect we'd have consensus on two and disagree on the third.

    Pass - Emporium Arcade Bar (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/29906)
    24 American craft beers on draft. Nothing super-rare but a good mix of locals, old favorites, and PBR for the hipsters. Broad range of styles represented, superior whiskey selection, and tons of old-style arcade games. You can also bring in your own food. No bottles or cans because they interesting in being environmentally friendly.

    Fail - Debonair Social Club (http://www.debonairsocialclub.com)
    2 taps (PBR & Old Style), as well as 312, Goose Island IPA, and Sofie in bottles. Some BMC bottles as well. Beer is served in plastic cups. Hosts Goose Island 312 Rehab Monday dance parties.

    Ambiguous - The Flat Iron (http://theflatironchicago.com/)
    8-10 taps including 2 FFF beers, 2 Bell's, 1-2 Great Lakes, and the obligatory PBR. Beer is served in shaker pints. Fairly even mix of sales between beer and mixed drinks. No bottles as far as I know. Three billiard tables and open until 4am (5am on Saturdays).

    I'd probably approve Flat Iron if someone submitted it, as it's a place you could continue drinking good beer and play billiards after everything else in the area has closed (Piece, Big Star, etc.). However, it's going to get fairly middling reviews on this website, and it's not going to be anyone's craft beer destination. Still, I think it's a place people would want to know about.
  19. daryk77

    daryk77 Member

    I agree with this, I would want to know about any place that has some craft beer offerings and let the ratings/reviews take care of the rest. I also agree with allowing locations that don't have a great craft selections. If they are simply omitted than I don't know if it is terrible place or if it just hasn't been submitted. At least if it is included then I will know not to go there because of the resulting bad scores.

    edit: It doesn't take long to look at a score or read a couple of reviews of a place to see if it is somewhere I want to check out.
  20. emerge077

    emerge077 Member

    Location:
    Illinois
    Sure, if it's the only 4am bar in the area with craft taps. But there's Estelle's too with about the same selection. Though seeing as there are plenty of other options nearby, it's not adding much, imho.
  21. MasterSki

    MasterSki BA Site Editor Staff Member

    Location:
    Illinois
    I'd actually never heard of Estelle's, but that's because it isn't on here either. Currently there aren't any 4am bars listed in the 60647 zip code. I'd probably add The Owl over either of these places though, as they have superior draft offerings (heck, they had KBS a while back)...

    My general point is that while I wouldn't actively add this tier of establishments myself, it'd be very hard for me to disapprove them if they were submitted to me. I can see some value in knowing which Wicker Park bars have craft taps and are open until 4am. The Owl has significantly better beer than Underbar these days, and the latter has a listing on here. (And yes, I realize this is the same fallacious argument made about marginal players in the Baseball Hall of Fame. :p )

    Bottom line - we all have slightly different standards as to what makes the cut. I've been told to err on the side of inclusivity so that's what I'm doing. If a place sneaks through the process due to misrepresentation or stops carrying craft beer then by all means submit an update and we'll look into it. If you visit a place and it sucks balls, write a review to warn fellow users.

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