Immature Markets and Rating Sites

My RateBeer post yesterday produced some great comments, including a link by an anonymous poster to this thread over at BeerAdvocate. In it, a member posted an email exchange he had with Cigar City Brewing in which a slightly snippy customer's email devolved into this final response by the owner:
I think you'll be happier buying your beer from Redhook or someone similar. Their customer service tastes so awesome! I am choosing to take the business path that is much less traveled and sincerely say, Dennis I do not want your business. And I encourage you not to do business with me.
In the day comments were open, the thread got 184 comments. To the question who was the bigger jerk, responses were running just about even. And here is the problem. When a public discussion breaks out about whether or not you are a jerk, as a business owner, you've already lost the battle.

To me, the whole thing is further evidence of an immature market (the point I was making when I highlighted Cigar City's stout, identified by RateBeer as America's best beer). It's the kind of thing a brewery might have done in Portland in about 1990. Now breweries are practiced at handling criticism and actively engage on the blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. I can't imagine that kind of incident happening here.

A second theme in those comments was the value of ratings sites. One view:
Beer and pub ratings are silly, are they not?
I don't think they are silly at all. ... They also open people's eyes to a world of beer they might not know of. In your case get people to hunt down fresh cask beer.
My opinion? RateBeer's a little silly, but BeerAdvocate is a great resource. In terms of the ratings, I find BA quite useful. Many a time I have stood in front of the coolers at Belmont Station and looked at a beer on BA. Particularly when I'm looking at a new brewery, I find the ratings useful in identifying which beer to buy. When I was at EastBurn recently, I looked up a beer on their taplist. BA is also a great resource for news and general brewery information. I go there regularly.

Ultimately, a ratings site is only as good as its raters. The folks writing about Northwest beer on the site are quite reliable. You can click on names and see how they've rated beers you like and see where their biases are. I haven't given a shout-out to BeerAdvocate before, but I should. Good work, gents!