Ethics of Beer Reviewers & Websites!

sponsorRecently I have not been back to my blogging best due to work and other commitments. Yes going to bars is one of my definite commitments. I have also been researching a business project that I am likely to invest in, and thus break free from my corporate life. More on that in the coming months.

I have been blogging on beer for several years now, in varying states and capacities. I write what I think because this doesn’t end up in newspapers, or affect advertising revenue. Why ? Because I don’t charge to read my articles on beer. Nor do I take inducements though I have been offered them over the years.

So what about beer blogs I read where they review beers favourably for fairly average beers or events? what about articles I read on new beers being released from maybe less than favourable companies? Are some of these breweries still considered “Craft” or “Crafty”?

I have read many websites that either claim ‘Send us your samples’ or ‘Donations’ accepted, or annual subscriptions accepted. So what do professional wine writers such as Robert Parker & Jancis Robinson do? what are their ethics?

I always do my best to stay independently. Every year during the Bordeaux primeurs season, the Union des Grands Crus offers all accredited visiting wine communicators free transport, meals and accommodation. I tried it one year, but felt uncomfortable about being in the pocket of those whose wines we are there to judge (as I wrote in The Bordeaux primeurs circus) and so for many, many years we have hired a car and stayed independently in a hotel – Jancis Robinson

 So what about Robert Parker who is arguably one of the great wine reviewers of all time that started in a Baltimore home with a simple newsletter to consumers on wines. He vows to never work for Trade based companies.

For me only, it is imperative to pay my own way. Even more important is to refuse all advertising from any source. This guarantees total independence.  and  are 100% subscriber funded and supported. I purchase more than 60% of the wines I taste, and though I do receive unsolicited samples at no cost, I do not feel it is unethical to accept samples that I did not request In order to pursue this independence effectively, it is imperative that I keep a distance from the trade
Independence: For me only, it is imperative to pay my own way. Even more important is to refuse all advertising – from any source. This guarantees total independence. The Wine Advocate and eRobertParker.com are 100% subscriber funded and supported. I purchase more than 60% of the wines I taste, and though I do receive unsolicited samples at no cost, I do not feel it is unethical to accept samples that I did not request In order to pursue this independence effectively, it is imperative that I keep a distance from the trade Robert Parker

So we can see from both of these two wine icons how they accept donated wines or trips. I have heard that when Parker does tasting there are blind wines in distinct categories so that its objective, not based on labels or price points. Though he has had his critics including myself, I had to admire what he has done for the wine industry globally.

So back to Beer Website. I looked at both Beer Pulse and The Full Pint, as Rate Beer & Beer advocate the other beer websites are subscription based. But sites that claim to be Beer News websites should really be declaring if they are just re-writing a ‘Press Release’ or if news is due to the brewery being a sponsor of the website. In Australia we had the Cash for Comment affair a where radio broadcasters were receiving cash incentives to speak favourably on certain companies or issues without declaring their ‘financial interests’.

There is a wine reviewer in Canada called ‘Nat Decants’ who writes a newsletter and her website was shown as ‘Pay to Play‘ for wineries that wanted their wines reviewed. As long as a winery wanted their wines in her newsletter, they would have been a subscriber to her newsletter, but then promised a ‘Glowing’ review.

So what is my view of anything in Australia? Well I only know of one major website that promotes some breweries or events, but it appears to be on a ‘pay to play’ basis. But I think too we have some great Websites and Apps that are becoming more and more helpful such as Craft Beer Calendar, and Now Tapped that will be greater promotional vehicles for bars and breweries in Australia.

Personally I would like any reviewers or websites in Craft Beer in Australia and US, Canada to be honest about their commercial arrangements when discussing new beers, or certain breweries. Some bloggers have a lot of sway in what they say to their readers, and I think full disclosure is something we should all be asking about. We expect the same when we read food reviews, and knowing a blogger paid for their beers, or trip to Belgium is definitely more real, than free flights, hotels and positive reviews of another session IPA that is being released.

As stated I only write these posts to help the discourse in the discussion of beer. I think any blog or article on beer is great as long as its being honest in their approach, analysis and reviews.

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