The Possible Downside of Crowdsourcing Your Beer Recipe

Eno Sarris, March 17, 2016

Right around the time BeerGraphs was born, I had a conversation with a brewer at a major brewery that went on to start his own brewery. We were talking about the wisdom of the masses, and to paraphrase, he didn't give a shit. "I brew for myself, I want it to taste good to me," he said, while admitting that maybe a well-trained beer taster at a competition would have some weight with him. 

I understood his point, but didn't quite agree. To me -- perhaps obviously -- the wisdom of the masses helps push the best beers to the top of the heap. And, it's possible that, especially since the untrained palate is not trained to consider too deeply the truthfulness of the beer to the style it claims to be, it's possible that the masses uncover the genius in between what has come before. 

Think of some of the best beers you've had recently, and they probably weren't true to style. Have you had a single-hop sour like Almanac's Citra Sour? How about an Imperial Red like Ninkasi's Dawn of the Red, or even Troeg's Nugget Nectar? Those are  ambers so hoppy you might want to call them Red IPAs. Maybe they can still win awards in their style by opening eyes, but the bet here is that the masses noticed their quality first. 

A recent discovery has me thinking back to that conversation. MobCraft's crowdsourced beer recipes may be old hat to many -- they really launched in 2014 -- but I'd never seen them before.

Take a look. At first glance, the recipes look super yummy. A milk stout, a raspberry sour, a hoppy lager -- those dominate the current month and I would crush those beers. The Cherry Kolsch? That made me look back on the rest and realize there's a real trend. These beers all look pretty sweet. 

Open up your brewery to the masses and you will probably make sweet beer. Especially since the trend in IPAs is currently to add a fruit taste to it, or to make it grassy and fruity and hazy. Or just make everything sweeter, that's a trend Bryan Roth spotted. I love dark berry sours, but there's also something to be said for the classic Oude Geuze. Remember when IPAs were more bitter? 

I'm not Get Off My Lawning. I'm merely pointing out that, by definition, you won't get a unique twist on beer at MobCraft. You'll get a common denominator, and if you are feeling prickly, you can call it the lowest common denominator. There's certainly a lot of sweet beers on the website right now.

You won't get that trademark Russian River complex sour or bright pale taste that Vinnie Cilurzo created. You won't get Alex Tweet's crushable easy-drinkers with a punch from Fieldwork. You won't get that Tree House grass and fruit. You'll get Vinny's and Alec's and Bob's favorite beers. 

Seen in the light of the recent backlash against the trolltastic Online Beer Critic, this is also interesting. Would doing this mean fewer ugly comments on social media? Fewer harsh online forum posts? Less nastiness? The crowd created these, they should like them!  

Oh no, probably not. 

The reality is that you can't please everyone. That's a reality no matter what your art entails. There are probably great MobCraft beers, but as a brand, it may fail to create the unique appeal that brings us back to our favorite breweries time and time again. Maybe that's fine -- its non-brand IS its brand. And brewers change seats like it's going out of style anyway, so maybe chasing that unique taste is like chasing a fart in the wind. 

But my favorite breweries? You can spot them without the can or bottle. Some of them you can even smell.