USA: AB InBev acquires minority stake in beer rating platform

ZX Ventures,a subsidiary of AB InBev has acquired a minority stake in RateBeer, an internet beer rating platform and forum for beer lovers . The transaction seemingly took place last October but was only revealed last Friday through a story published by website Good Beer Hunting.  In an initial reaction many users of the forum were shocked and afraid that AB InBev might influence future ratings or use the platform to promote their own beers.

Craft beer pioneer Sam Calagione, who is also owner of Dogfish Head Brewing, issued a statement on his company’s website requesting his beers be taken down from RateBeer’s website. He argued that “it just doesn’t seem right for a brewer of any kind to be in a position to potentially manipulate what consumers are hearing and saying about beers, how they are rated and which ones are receiving extra publicity (…)” He ends with a call “to our fellow independently-owned brewers (…) to join us in this effort to ensure consumers continue to get the best and most accurate information about their beers,” and to everyone else “to shift the sharing of your beer opinions and reviews to another platform that remains loyal to the principles of journalistic integrity.”

Joseph (Joe) Tucker, who started the website in May 2000 and who is also “the site’s only full time employee”, published his own announcement shortly after the unveiling in which he defended his decision and stressed the independence of the site. As Tucker, lined out, “the focus of the agreement was on maintaining RateBeer’s value as an unbiased beer authority, retaining our operational independence, informing a whole new group of global consumers and keeping them excited about the beer.”

Joe Tucker runs the site from Portland, Oregon. The site evaluates predominantly craft beer, outlets and retailers from around the world.  The site gets more than 1 million hits each month, with 100,000 unique ones. In total, more than 300,000 beers from over 18,500 brewers worldwide are rated.

Based on individual votes, the site calculates a score and awards yearly numerous prizes including Best Brewers, Best Beers, Best New Beers, Best By Style, Best places for beer and many more. Unlike most other awards, these accolades are not decided by a committee or panel but directly by individual voters who need to write reviews on at least ten beers or outlets to have their votes calculated.

In 2016 and 2017 the RateBeer Best Awards have been given at an actual event in Tucker’s home city Santa Rosa, California. A list of last year’s Top 100 brewers (awarded earlier this year) can be found here.

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