Every week Taranaki’s The Daily News publishes a column called ‘The Daily Brews’, which reviews a beer. It’s passed around from staffer to staffer and sometimes to a volunteer. Last week Matt Rilkoff won/lost the game of Daily Brew roulette and chose Tiger, giving it a glowing review for being flavourless and therefore easy to drink and match with food. This in itself wasn’t too bad – everyone’s entitled to their opinions, after all. What was mildly offensive was his dismissive, negative manner towards craft beer. The opening two paragraphs read:

Awash as we are under a tsunami of complex and haughty craft beers it is often forgotten they make up just a fraction of the beer people actually drink.
Not only are craft beers prohibitively expensive, they are usually so intensely flavoured they feel like a three-course meal rather than the egalitarian amber you want to drink with your mates around a barbecue.

Unusually, The Daily News then opened the column up to comments on the website – and holy moley did people comment. All up there were 71 comments, the vast majority of them negative.

I hate to say this, as it’s not going to win me any friends, but I think we over-reacted. I say we because I was one of those commentators. But as the comments started to build (often just rewording what earlier comments had said), it started to  feel not so good. It started to feel mean and bullying. We became, as a group, just what Matt had accused us of – haughty.

We’re not going to make any converts with this attitude. One of the nicest things about the beer community is the welcoming nature and the willingness to share information in an equalitarian manner.

In a way, I think it was the internet. People are not at their best on the internet where they can’t read the faces of the people they’re talking to and no one will recognise them later. We don’t do it intentionally. But I think if a bunch of us had been talking to Matt in a pub, not many of us would’ve spoken to him the way we did. I think many of us would’ve commented as Jess did, with her constructive comment:

Hi Matt, on a purely constructive note, it sounds like maybe you just really like lager. In which case, no problem, but that doesn’t mean the Craft Beers in New Zealand can’t service your requirements. There’s lots of delicious craft lagers, which similarly do not have overwhelming hop flavours etc. You might like to try some of them – Tuatara Helles, Townshends Te Laga, Epic Lager, and Three Boys Tres Amigos Cerveza, to name but a few – before deciding that craft beer is too intensely flavoured for you to enjoy’.

For this reason, I’d like to invite Matt down to Thirsty Thursday at Montrose. There’s craft beer on tap, and they should have a great lager for you to try. If my Dad’s there, he’ll buy you a beer (he’s the older chap with the white, short beard). If Jo from Liberty Brewing is there, he can talk to you how beer is made, how important it is to have the right ingredients and why the end product seems (to you) expensive. Shannon Ryan will probably be there, a home brewer, who can chat to you about making your own beer, if you really want to save money. And what’s more, if you don’t like the beer you’re drinking and can explain why – none of them will care. They’ll probably find it interesting.

This is the way I’d rather the beer community was. Welcoming, interested, and sharing. Not a bunch of internet bullies.

And as for the rumours that Matt was simply trolling – well, we’re certainly not doing ourselves any favours in feeding the trolls.