Outside the Pint: A Rant About Ridiculous Reviews

Outside the Pint is a look at some of the activities that unfold outside the glass. From marketing to trends to social media to behaviors, OTP taps into the libations scene and candidly discusses the bad, the great, and everything in between.

The Rant

For those of you who know me, it’s probably doesn’t surprise you that I’m about to go on a rant. Actually, the intro is just a mini-rant. What you’ll dive into below is the rant I fired off to begin a Craft Beer Spotlight on Breaking Brews, a monthly feature I used to write that focused on a bar, restaurant, brewery, or libations organization who is doing things right when it comes to their business. The rant, however, is something applicable to reviews across the board and, therefore, is pretty timeless.

As a writer/blogger, I set a certain standard for the content I release. And sure, some articles may be better than others. But in today’s world – a world where everyone has a voice and a platform on which to project that voice on high – one thing I simply can’t wrap my hands around is hiding behind a computer screen to express disdain when no effort to seek rectification of the problem in real time is made. It’s irresponsible and it helps no one. It’s as irresponsible as publishing content riddled with misspelled words and blatant misrepresentations and no semblance of an editing process, but that’s a subject for another day.

The service industry isn’t easy. And bars, restaurants, brewpubs, tasting rooms, etc. can’t fix a problem if they don’t know about it. Nor can they explain why they featured the menu item you disliked or chose the color scheme that hurts your eyes. If the brain trust behind these locales read about your issue a week later online, who does that help? It puts them in a negative light and could potentially damage their reputation.

The purpose of this rant was not to put on blast the writers of the mentioned reviews. Otherwise, I would’ve called them out by name. If you take one thing away from this post, make it this: Don’t let reviews and the comments of others stop you from experiencing things for yourself. If you share the same viewpoint after seeing it for yourself, so be it. At least you tried for yourself.

Rant on.

***

ReviewsI feel a rant coming on.

I’ve been doing these Craft Beer Spotlights since I launched Breaking Brews in early 2014. From Day One, the idea has been to zero in on bars, restaurants, breweries, and other libations-centric entities in Pittsburgh and emphasize the positives they bring to the table. Diverse beer selection, unique cocktails, killer food menus, overall ambiance, general concept, staff’s knowledge and friendliness, dedication to local products, delivering the best experience to guests every visit…it’s all fair game. In order to accomplish this, I feel it’s only appropriate to perform my due diligence by researching each venue to learn their plight, then go straight to the source – ownership, management, brewers, etc. – to learn more. And in doing that, I’m able to experience each venue first-hand equipped with the background of said venue’s philosophies.

My mission is to deliver a report accentuating the positives. Because, after all, it’s factual information about business practices juxtaposed with my personal opinion. And as strongly as I may embrace my opinion, I know full well it’s simply that: an opinion. It’s why I don’t spend a lot of time reading or writing reviews. Actually, that’s not accurate. I’ll take in a review, but I won’t let it dictate what I choose to experience.

For example, my absolutely, positively, balls-out favorite beer in the world might be the one you’d choose slamming your hand in the car door over drinking. But until you actually try that beer for yourself, you’ll never know if it’s for you. My opinion should be a guide, but never the singular determining factor on what you enjoy.

So you can understand my dismay, after choosing The Fire Side Public House in East Liberty as this month’s Craft Beer Spotlight destination, when the authors responsible for the information I discovered (in reputable Pittsburgh publications, mind you) had taken the opposite disposition. One mourned the fact that Station Street Hot Dogs no longer occupied the Broad Street building so strongly, it’s hard to believe any aspect of their report outside of the reference to 40 beers on tap was submitted without any bias. I’m sure there are a number of reasons Station Street no longer operates from this locale, but it’s gone and has been renovated into the shape and vision of new ownership. To be upset because they didn’t keep the same aesthetics is as ludicrous as being upset that Grist House Craft Brewery didn’t embrace a slaughterhouse concept since that’s what their building housed decades ago.

The authors of the other feature tore the food apart. Weeks after Fire Side opened. WEEKS. Maybe I’m jaded, but not many players outside of Mario Lemieux scored a goal on their first shot in their first shift in their first game. But that didn’t mean they didn’t go on to lead incredible NHL careers. There are many factors that go into nailing down the direction of cuisine, time being one of those factors. And no, I’m not making an excuse for perceived poorly-executed entrees. What I’m wondering is if any in-person feedback was provided prior to this publication going live.

New restaurants, brewers, etc. WANT that feedback so they can improve where necessary and within reason. But not from behind a computer screen. In person. Not from your platform, but from a real-human-interaction, real-human-emotion perspective…as hard as that may seem to be in this digital culture. We should be out to help each other grow, not look for the first opportunity to tear each other down.

In both these cases, do you think these subpar offerings were mentioned to the server and/or management while “in the moment” so feedback could be absorbed and improvements could be made or was it simply stored up as fodder for literary blast cannons that could potentially damage the reputation of the establishment going forward? I’ll take ‘the latter’ for 200, Alex.

In a world where each and every one of us has a platform, it’s easy to criticize. Statistics and the majority of online reviews will tell us it’s twice as hard to write something nice about a beer, a cocktail, or a venue than it is something critical. I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t mention these authors used their platform to express their opinions, to which, for better or for worse, they are entitled. But perhaps something more could’ve resulted had a conversation with the proper personnel taken place. A comped meal. Hell, an invitation to come back and let them try again.

This is why you can’t let reviews, positive or negative, be your absolute driving force.

Me? I choose to use my platform to speak positively. I’ll give you my side of the story, you process the info any way you desire…then go patronize the locale and formulate an opinion for yourself. You may just find a beer, a cocktail, a meal, or a destination you love. Or, you may not. Either way, at least you made the decision on your own.

Good talk. See you out there.

 

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