Do you find yourself wracked with guilt every time you leave home without your dog? As much as you love your pup, you have to make time for work and social commitments, too. With a professional dog walker, you can have the best of both worlds! Even stay-at-home dog parents like myself need a bit of extra help from time to time. In fact, my dog walkers Bridgett and Larry of Ultimate Pet Services recently helped my family through a crisis. My husband was hospitalized with appendicitis, throwing my three dogs way off schedule. Bridgett and Larry made sure our fur kids had food, water, potty breaks, and a bit of special attention until life went back to normal.
What Does A Professional Dog Walker Do?
While the main function of a dog walker is obviously to walk your dog, there is much more to it. These animal professionals must deal with a variety of canine personalities – not to mention the humans! They must know how to safely greet dogs of all ages, sizes, and behaviors inside the home, and confidently navigate whatever comes their way outside. For these reasons, professional dog walkers often offer both private and group walks to suit each dog’s personality. Private walks are best for shy pups, seniors, and those with impaired mobility. Younger, more active dogs may prefer the energy and camaraderie of group walking. Many dog walkers also offer additional services such as pet sitting, waste clean up, pet supply delivery, and much more. Some will even drive your pooch to veterinary visits.
Should You Hire A Dog Walker?
If you are on the fence about hiring a professional dog walker for your pooch, ask yourself the following questions:
How many hours do you spend outside the home? Even if your dog can “hold it” for eight hours, should they really have to?
How To Find A Trustworthy Professional Dog Walker:
Unfortunately the dog walking business does not have strict regulations to protect you or your pet. While anyone can call themselves a dog walker and place an ad on Craigslist, there are ways to recognize the professionals among the impostors.
Choose a business that is fully licensed, bonded and insured. This shows that the individual or company is serious about their business and protecting their clients.
Ask about experience, safety, background checks and anything else you may want to know! Don’t be shy. You will be entrusting this person with your home and your precious pup. Make sure you’re comfortable with their level of training and professionalism.
Collect references from past and current clients. Are there vets, groomers, or other animal professionals in the area who recommend them? Be sure to follow up and contact these folks!
Questions to ask when interviewing potential dog walkers:
Will the same person walk your dog each time? Once you find a trustworthy dog walker, can you rely on them to consistently care for your dog? If other employees will tend to your pup, are they equally professional and reliable?
When will your dog be walked? Will this be consistent each time? When I am out of town I ask the dog walkers to come over between 12 PM and 2 PM. This is about halfway between when my husband leaves for work and when he gets home. Make sure you hire someone who can consistently accommodate your schedule.
Are they willing to run your dog or just walk? Some dogs enjoy a leisurely walk, but others need more vigorous exercise. If you have a high-energy pooch, hire a professional dog walker who can provide the activity level your dog requires.
Do they offer additional services like training, play sessions, feeding and watering, etc? If you work long hours, look for a dog professional who offers additional services. Perhaps your puppy needs basic obedience lessons or extra socialization. Maybe you need someone to give your dog their dinner on certain evenings. Hiring a multi-tasker can save you time and money.
Do they have experience with special needs pets? Seniors? Dogs with behavioral issues? Some dog walkers are only comfortable caring for average, healthy dogs, and that’s okay! If your pooch has special physical or emotional needs, be sure the person you hire is equipped to handle them.
Are they trained in canine CPR? Several organizations including Pet Tech and the American Red Cross offer pet first aid courses that cover everything from CPR to snake bites. Watching YouTube videos isn’t enough! Make sure you entrust your dog to a caregiver certified in pet first aid.
What is their protocol if your dog becomes lost, sick, or injured? Dog forbid an accident occurs, does the walker/company have a plan in place? When a dog is lost, sick, or hurt, every second counts. Make sure the people you entrust with your pooch are prepared for anything.
Do they provide photos or reports of their sessions with your dog? My dog walkers text me photos of my dogs walking, playing, eating, and enjoying treats. They also leave a written report of who did what on their walk. These simple gestures let me know my fur kids are safe, happy and well taken care of in my absence.
You should never have to choose work and social commitments over your dog. With a professional dog walker, you can have it all – and so can your pup!
This month, Super Chewers doggy paddled into the ocean’s unexplored depths, where a menagerie of catchable crustaceans and floating fish lurk in the Sniffs From The AbyssSuper Chewer BarkBox. VGB (Very Good Boy) Baloo–that’s him with the big ol’ bunny ears–dove right in to embrace that wet dog smell.
Long before his watery descent, Baloo waited patiently for a forever family in a Texas shelter. The day his human, Bella, adopted him, his life turned upside-down.
Baloo is a bone-afide Super Chewer. No shark, crab, or plush toy can stand up to his mighty chompers!
Water with NO SUDS = . Baloo can fetch the foam & rubber Floatus Blowfish or Going Deep Maddenfish with or without his sea legs.
*Jaws music gets louder* Dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun–TREATS! Pumpkin, bacon, & kelp morsels are exactly what this land shark craves.
The Treat Lock Hermit Crab comes in for the win, ready to take on challenging chewers. Just pop in the specially-designed treat lock treats for a new way to play! On land or at sea, #BarkBoxDay is ready for any wild adventure. Grab a scuba suit, your fish-out-of-water’s uncovering the secrets of the abyss!
Special thanks to Bella & Baloo for turning their backyard pool day into an amazing photoshoot! You can follow Baloo on Instagram at @bully.baloo. <3
Ready to dive even deeper into the Super Chewer Sniffs From The Abyss collection?
This month, some prickly ~puppies~ doggy paddled into the ocean’s unexplored depths, where a menagerie of crustacean curiosities and phantasmagoric fish lurk in the shadows.
Our friends from @picklesandpits took to the “water” to show us how they celebrate #BarkBoxDay with the best of ’em. It’s time to dive in and embrace that wet dog (hog?) smell!
Above water, canine rescues Tember and Okja are part of a diverse family of creatures. They share their home (and BarkBox) with two smaller, sharper siblings.
Li’l Monster is unusually fond of snorkeling–ahem, bathtime, but his humans tell us that having a toy to use for support and comfort is a great help. Even jellyfish are good company among the “bubbles.”
Mr. Pickles here can’t say no to a deep-sink excursion! At least the glow-in-the-dark eyes of his deep sea friends light their way through the shadows.
The family that plays together, loves #BarkBoxDay together. Grab your goggles, bathtime just got a little less scary.
Huge thanks to Maria and her whole family for staging a #BarkBoxDay photoshoot with bubbles and bathtub balloons! Maria is a huge pittie advocate and rescue supporter. You can follow Mr. Pickles, Li’l Monster, Tember, and Okja over at @pricklesandpits. <3 <3
Take a peek below the waves at the rest of the toys in the Sniffs From The Abyss collection!
Flippable fish, fuzzy jellies, and glow-in-the-dark eyes are just a few tell-tale signs you’ve found these creatures of the deep. Ready to dive in? You can expect more fun, crazy, innovative toys like these in your dog’s BarkBox! Each month, get two toys, designed in-house, two full-size bags of all-natural treats, and a meaty chew! Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month. <– This deal is worth up to $120 in value if you sign up for a 12-month subscription!
There are few things better than the feeling of a dog nuzzling up against you. And until dogs figure out how to maneuver those ridiculous little arms, nuzzling is like a pawesome head hug from your best buddy!
However, looking a little closer, and taking a step back from the irresistible urge to anthropomorphize our pets for a moment…
…we find that when it comes to our dog’s nuzzles, oftentimes there is more than meets the nose. Those little prodding puppy nudges can have a handful pawful of different meanings.
Dog’s are very social animals. And as all dog owner’s know when coming home to their pup, dog’s are big on greetings. Nuzzling is just one of the sweetest ways they like to say, “Good to see ya!”
2. “Im the boss.”
Excessive nudging, that mimics prodding, can be a dog expressing dominance over another dog, or even a person.
3. “You’re the boss.”
When a dog rubs his face around another dog’s muzzle, almost like a face massage with a few licks thrown in there, that’s a dog’s way of giving respect to another dog, or showing submission. Sort of like they’re saying, “Hey we’re cool. I’m no threat, pal.”
4. “Pay attention to me!”
Let’s be honest… subtlety has never been known as a dog’s strong suit.
5. “Where’s the food? Are you holding out on me?”
This last one may seem like the most obvious, a dog wanting food!? You don’t say! However, a study done at the Institute of Zoology at the University of Zurich, proves that our dogs “need for feed” is more sophisticated than we realized.
Dr. Stanley Coren does a great job of explaining the study in an article he wrote for in Psychology Today, and I’m going to break it down in a similar fashion:
You’re in a hypothetical room with two hypothetical dogs, first give them hypothetical belly rubs, then, name one dog Thelma, and the other dog Louise. Someone takes Thelma for a quick walk, so it’s just you and Louise.
Have Louise sit still and watch you place delectable doggy treats around the room. Afterwards, put a dog-sized screen in front of the treats, obscuring the noms from view. After seeing this and given the go-ahead, Louise is going to go behind each screen gobbling up the goodies. Now lets say you do this a couple of times, but occasionally pull a fast one on Louise by only making it look like you hid a treat behind a screen.
Thelma comes back from her walks and will watch Louise run behind screens all around the room. After this, the two girls finally get to interact with each other.
“Hey, girlfriend! Let’s nuzzle.”
The pups nuzzle “hellos” to one another per usual. And here is the interesting part, if Louise just came from successfully finding and eating a treat, Thelma is much more likely to go run behind the screen she saw Louise go behind and try her luck. If Louise was duped with the ole fake treat hiding act, Thelma isn’t going to really give a hoot why her buddy came out from behind a couple of screens.
“That’s yo’ business, Louise.”
Basically, a greeting between two dogs is not only a friendly hello, it’s also an opportunity to smell each others breath ask one another if they’ve eaten anything lately. As Dr. Stanley Coren puts it, “This confirms what everybody who knows dogs suspects. Dogs are naturally sociable and friendly, but much more so when there is the possibility that some food might be involved.”
Sometimes, I really struggle with coming up with titles for Charlie’s pictures. This was one of those – I simply could NOT think of a good title for this photo.
Mike came into my office and I said, “I need a title for this! What is the title?!”
And he said, “Off the beaten path.”
And I said, “But… is it really? He’s only like a foot off the beaten path.”
And we both started laughing because we are sleep deprived.
And then I thought about it a little more, and realized, in this culture that desperately wants/needs us all to keep in line and tries to coerce us to stay on a path prescribed by others, being just a few steps off the beaten path can be an accomplishment. And that is worth celebrating. And thus, the title was decided.
TGIF! Are you ready for the weekend? If you’re around Central Oregon there are a bunch of things going on with COBW kicking off for ten days—I’ll be rounding up the various events for each day so plan your schedule accordingly. There is also other Oregon beer news to cover and I’ll be updating this post throughout the day on Friday with all the latest so check back often to stay up to date.
Friday, May 17
Central Oregon Beer Week starts Friday! The 10 day celebration comes fully under the aegis of the Central Oregon Brewers Guild this year and there are a bunch of events going on all week long. Here’s the rundown of Friday’s official (and ancillary) events:
Kobold Brewing is hosting the official kick-off party at The Vault Taphouse in Redmond from 6 to 9pm. “Join us at Kobold Brewing / The Vault Taphouse for the official kick off to Central Oregon Beer Week! We won the People’s Choice award at last year’s SMaSH Fest and have the honor of kicking off COBW this year ~ and we’ll have the award winning Zombie Sprint IIPA on tap!”
Worthy Brewing is hosting its final Passport Dinner from 6:30 to 9pm: “Take your tastebuds around the world with Worthy Brewing’s Dining Passport Series. These culinary experiences feature five-course dinners paired with Worthy Brewing’s specialty beers. You can purchase tickets through BendTicket. Individual dinners are available for $65 per person. Please see the dates of each dining experience below and their respective culinary theme.” The theme is Peru.
Immersion Brewing is celebrating its third anniversary: “Immersion Brewing is turning three! Join us for a weekend of celebration with live music (Including Dirty Revival!!), yard games on our new back patio, a bounce house for the kiddos and a special limited release triple IPA beer. Oh yeah, $4 craft beers if you care about that sort of thing.”
It’s not overtly Beer Week related, but Bend’s McMenamins Old St. Francis School has its quarterly limited-edition beer tasting at O’Kane’s from 5 to 8pm Friday. You’ll get a chance to meet OSF brewer Vance Wirtz to chat about the beer (which isn’t listed), and ask him about SMaSH Fest coming up next weekend for Beer Week.
Fort George Brewery (Astoria) is selling 16-ounce cans of Cathedral Tree from its pub starting today: “Cathedral Tree is brewed into oak puncheons, then lagers for a few months in the Lovell basement. It pours bright gold with a white head and light fruit & grape on the nose. And just like the actual Cathedral Tree, this barrel fermented Pilsner is exclusive to the coast. Grab a pint or a four-pack to-go starting Friday, May 17th at the brewery, around the NW coast of Oregon & SW coast of Washington soon after.”
Redmond’s Geist Beerworks is hosting a ribbon cutting on Friday (even though they’ve been open since last year): “Don’t miss out on the fun! Ribbon cutting 4pm, whole hog good eating 4pm, pretzels and dogs all day, Dive Bar Theology 6pm! Cold craft beer all day long! Cheers!”
Pelican Brewing in Tillamook is releasing the brewery’s latest Lone Pelican series beer based on cocktails, Sea Breeze: “Sea Breeze drops Friday at 4pm in bottles and on draft! This is our new ale with cranberries, juniper and orange zest! Chat with our brewer and munch on food specials that pair with the beer! All guests who order a pint of Sea Breeze from 4-6PM will be entered to win Pelican Brewing swag!”
Saturday, May 18
The second annual Sip of Spring takes place at Rossi Farms in Portland on Saturday. “The festival will showcase 13 small Oregon craft breweries, each pouring two beers apiece, plus one Oregon cidery. Attendees can taste spring sippers from Breakside, Crux, Culmination, Gateway, Gigantic, Ecliptic, Level, Little Beast, Migration, Montavilla, pFriem, StormBreaker, Upright and Bauman’s Cider.” Hours are from 11am to 9pm, and the event cost is $20 per person with tickets available online.
The Bier Stein (Eugene) is hosting Swift Cider for Swift Sips on Saturday from 5 to 8pm: “New packaging from Portland’s Swift Cider lands in Eugene! Fly in from 5-8pm to enjoy samples and talk cider with us!”
There are a couple of big events for Central Oregon Beer Week happening Saturday:
The COBW Pro-Am Tap Takeover taking place at the Boneyard Pub features 6 Pro-Am beers that started as homebrew recipes! Boneyard will be pouring these beers all day, with proceeds benefiting both the Central Oregon Brewers Guild and the Central Oregon Homebrewers Organization, and from 4 to 6pm there will be a meet the brewer event with both pro and home brewers on hand—full disclosure, I’ll be one of them!
Bend Brewing Company hosts its second annual Sour Fest from noon to 7pm: “Sour Fest tasting packages start at $12 for a souvenir stemmed glass and 2 tokens or $23 for a souvenir stemmed glass and 6 tokens. Tokens are good for a 6 oz pour or a full pour for 2 tokens. Participating breweries and beers were hand selected by the Bend Brewing Company team and feature some of the Northwest’s most renowned sour beer producers.” There’s a great lineup of breweries that will be pouring so don’t miss it.
Rogue Ales (Newport) is celebrating 30 years of brewmaster John Maier with The John Maier Coastal Brew Fest! “Join us on Saturday May 18th as we celebrate our Brewmaster’s monumental 30th anniversary with our inaugural John Maier Coastal Brew Fest at Rogue World Headquarters in Newport. We’ll be celebrating all day long and pouring beers from our fellow independent West Coast brewers to benefit Newport Fishermen’s Wives. $5 suggested donation at the door. Come try John’s 30th anniversary brew, and get your commemorative bottled signed by the legend himself.” I wish I could be there!
Widmer Brothers Brewing (Portland) is celebrating Hefe Day 2019 on Satuday! “Join us on Saturday, May 18th for our 4th Annual Hefe Day Party, featuring $1 POURS OF HEFE all event long! On May 15, 1986 Kurt and Rob Widmer delivered the first keg of Hefe to the Dublin Pub, and the rest is history. 33 years later, Hefe is still Oregon’s Favorite Craft Beer, and one that helped define today’s craft beer landscape. In 2016, the City of Portland declared May 15th as Hefe Day to honor the 30th Anniversary of Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen (Hefe for short). To help celebrate the occasion, Widmer Brothers will be throwing a Hefe Day party at our North Portland based Brewery and we want you to join us! We’ll be pouring Hefe for $1 all day to help wrap up a full week of Hefe celebrations in and around Portland.” It takes place at the (mostly former) pub from 2 to 8pm.
The Hoppy Brewer (Gresham) celebrates its 8th anniversary on Saturday: “Come celebrate our 8th year of quenching Gresham’s thirst, we’re gonna rock out with the JT Wise Band from 2 PM til 5 PM and then the Crooked Corner Band from 6 PM til 9 PM. Thank YOU for 8 amazing years, CHEERS”
Sunday, May 19
Pelican Brewing in Tillamook is hosting a Pints for Pups fundraiser from 12 to 4pm: “Bring your pup and join us in a fundraising event for the Tillamook Animal Shelter! If you don’t have a pup, no worries, the Tillamook Animal Shelter will have information about all of their adoptable dogs available! The event will be in the parking lot of the taproom rain or shine! We will have vendors set up with pet products and services, costume contest for your furry friends, raffles, puppy parade and beer garden! If you bring in at least 2 items to donate, you will receive a free pint of Pelican Beer or Pelican Root Beer! $1 per pint sold in the beer garden will be donated to the Tillamook Animal Shelter!”
Central Oregon Beer Week goes into day three include:
Beertography 101 at Crux Fermentation Project from 6 to 8pm: “Do you take pictures of your beer and post it on social media? If you do, you won’t want to miss this event. Join us at Crux Fermentation Project in Bend for a couple of pints and a fun conversation about stepping up your beertography game. You’ll meet with me, Rich Mithoff (SNØB – Say No to Ordinary Beer), Matthew Ward (Bend Brew Daddy) and Jed Bellefeuille (Positive Brew Dude) as we share some secrets and tips that will have you grabbing a beer and your camera. As you probably know, Crux is one of the most photogenic breweries in town for indoor and outdoor photography. Plus, those beautiful vistas are second to none! See you there!”
Silver Moon Brewing hosts Not Cho’ Grandma’s Bingo starting at 10:30am: “Every Sunday morning, Deschutes County Search and Rescue hosts their bingo event here at the moon! Get together with your friends and play for a chance to win money… coin… denaro… cold hard CA$H! A large portion of all bingo sales will go to one of our favorite non-profits; Deschutes County Search and Rescue. What morning event is complete without a FULL Bloody Mary bar! Choose your favorite Crater Lake vodka & then load up at the bar; with over 20 different ingredients – we’ve got you covered.”
On Tap food cart and beer lot is hosting a cornhole tournament with featured brewery Crux Fermentation Project. Whoops — this one is on May 26.
Like it or not, online beer ratings have been one of the big drivers of craft beer over the last 20 years. As a brewery, you don’t need to cater to them, but high scores can drive sales and excitement.
I spent a good deal of time on BeerAdvocate during my first few years of beer drinking (2005-2008). Reading other’s reviews was beneficial for my palate and beer vocabulary. I reviewed a couple hundred beers, which gave me confidence to “review” my homebrew for this blog. However, there were aspects of trying to track down all the top beers that made it not entirely healthy. Whether it was fear of missing out on a new release, or the thrill of the catch outweighing the enjoyment of actually drinking the beer. I find how many new beers there are now freeing, there is no way to try them all, so I don’t try!
Now that Untappd is the dominant player I’ll glance at reviews (especially for one of our new releases), but I don’t rate. It’s rare to see a review that has much insight into the beer. Even the negative ones are rarely constructive. As an aside, I find it a bit weird when people in the local beer industry rate our offerings. Generally they are kind, but it just seems strange to publicly review “competing” products.
For four or five years I maintained a spreadsheet to track the beers I drank and those I wanted to try. I weighted the beers not just on their average BeerAdvocate score, but on the score relative to their style. That’s to say I was more interested in trying a Czech Pilsner rated 4.2 more than a DIPA at 4.3 because Pilsners generally have lower scores. If all you drink are the top rated beers, you’ll be drinking mostly the same handful of styles from a small selection of breweries. Why is that though?
Whether it is the BeerAvocate Top 100, Rate Beer’s Top 50, and Untappd’s Top Beers they all show a similar bias towards strong adjunct stouts, DIPAs, and fruited sours. I don’t think the collective beer rater score aligns with what the average beer drinker enjoys the most or drinks regularly. It is a result of a collection of factors that are inherent to the sort of hedonistic rating system.
So what makes beers and breweries score well?
People love assertive flavors. Once you’ve tried a few hundred (or thousand) beers, it is difficult to get a “wow” response from malt, hops, and yeast. This is especially true in a small sample or in close proximity to other beers (e.g., tasting flight, bottle share, festival). So many of the top beers don’t taste like “beer” they taste like maple, coconut, bourbon, chocolate, coffee, cherries etc. If you say there is a flavor in the beer everyone wants to taste it… looking at reviews for our Vanillafort, it is amazing how divergent the experiences are. Despite a (to my palate) huge vanilla flavor (one bean per 5 gallons), some people don’t taste it.
Sweetness is naturally pleasant. It’s a flavor our palates evolved to prefer over sour/bitter because it is a sign of safe calories. That said, too much can also make a beer less drinkable. I enjoy samples of pastry stouts, but most of them don’t call for a second pour. Balance between sweet-bitter or sweet-sour makes a beer that calls for another sip, and a second pour.
Even the most popular IPAs have gone from dry/bitter to sweet/fruity. They are beers that are less of an acquired taste. More enjoyable to a wider spectrum of drinkers. I’m amazed how many of the contractors, delivery drivers, and other non-beer nerds who visit the brewery mention that they are now into IPAs.
If you want a high brewery average, one approach is simply to not brew styles that have low average ratings. That said, for tap room sales it can really help to have at least one “accessible” beer on the menu. For us that has always been a low-bitterness wheat beer with a little yeast character, and a fruity hop aroma. Their scores drag our average down, but it is worth it for us.
The easier a beer is to obtain, the more people will try it. The problem is that you don’t want everyone rating your beer. To get high scores it helps to apply a pressure that causes only people who are excited about the beer to drink (and rate it). This can take a variety of forms, but the easiest is a small production paired with a high price-point and limited distribution. You can make the world’s best sour beer, but if it is on the shelf for $3 a bottle at 100 liquor stores you’ll get plenty of people sampling it that hate sour beers. Even with our relatively limited availability we get reviews like “My favorite sour beer ever!” 1.5 stars… The problem with averages is that a handful of really low scores have a big impact.
I’ll be interested to see how our club-exclusive bottles of sour beer rate compared to the ones available to the general public. The people who joined self-identified as fans of ours and sour beers. My old homebrewing buddy Michael Thorpe has used clubs to huge success at Afterthough Brewing (around #20 on Untappd’s Top Rated Breweries). In addition to directing his limited volume towards the right consumers, clubs allow him to brew the sorts of weird/esoteric (delicious) beers that might not work on a general audience (gin barrels, buckwheat, dandelions, paw paw etc.).
As noted above some styles have higher average reviews than others. Simply not brewing low-rated styles goes a long way towards ensuring a high overall brewery average. Anytime I feel like one of our beers is underappreciated, I go look at the sub-4 average of Hill Farmstead Mary, one of my favorite beers. Afterthought recently announced a new non-sour brand, which will prevent beer styles with lower averages from “dragging down” the average for Afterthought.
I remember there being debate over the minimum serving size for a review on BeerAdvocate. I think a few ounces of a maple-bacon-bourbon imperial stout is plenty. However for session beers, can you really judge a beer that is intended to be consumed in quantity based on a sip or two? We don’t do sample flights at Sapwood Cellars. We sell half-pours for half the price of full pours. Not having a flight reduces people ordering beers they won’t enjoy just to fill out a paddle. It also means that more people will give a beer a real chance, drinking 7 oz gives more time for your palate to adjust and for you to get a better feel for the balance and drinkability. What kills me is seeing people review one of our sessions beers based on a free “taste.”
Another option is physical distance. Most trekking to Casey, De Garde, or Hill Farmstead are excited to be going there and ready to be impressed. It helps that all three brew world-class sour beers, but I’m not sure the ratings would be quite as good if they were located in an easily-accessible urban center.
The trick to getting to the Top Beer lists is that you need a lot of reviews to bring the weighted average up close to the average review. So having a barrier, but still brewing enough beer and being a big enough draw to get tens of thousands of check-ins and ratings. Organic growth helps, starting small, and generating enough excitement to bring people from far and wide. Lines (like those at Tree House) then help to keep up the exclusivity, not many people who hate hazy IPAs are going to wait in line for an hour to buy the new release – unless it is to trade.
Many of the best rated beers are bulletproof. Big stouts and sours last well even when not handled or stored properly. This means that even someone drinking a bottle months or years after release is mostly assured a good experience. Most other styles really don’t store well and are at their best fresh.
Conversely, hazy IPAs are one of the most delicate styles. I think it’s funny that some brewers talk about hiding flaws in a NEIPA. While you sure don’t need to have perfect fermentation control to make a great hop-bomb, they are not forgiving at all when it comes to packaging and oxygen pick-up. That’s partly the reason that the best regarded brewers of the style retail most of the canned product themselves. Alchemist, Trillium, Tree House, Tired Hands, Hill Farmstead, Aslin, Over Half etc. all focus on direct-to-consumer sales. That ensures the beer doesn’t sit on a truck or shelf for a large amount of time before a consumer gets it. Consumers seem to be more aware than they once were (especially for these beers) that freshness matters.
Of course the margins are best when selling direct too, so any brewery that is able to sell cases out the door will. It can turn into a positive feedback loop, where the beer is purchased/consumed fresh which makes the beer drinker more likely to return. This worked well for Russian River, not bottling Pliny the Elder until there was enough demand that it won’t sit on the shelf for more than a week.
Sure the actual packaging process (limiting dissolved oxygen) is important. But generally an OK job on a two-week-old can will win out over a great job on a two-month old can.
The ultimate is to have people drink draft at your brewery. That way you can control the freshness, serving temperature, glassware, atmosphere etc. That said, I notice the scores for our beers in growlers are usually higher than draft. I suspect that this is about self-selection, people who enjoyed the beer on draft are more likely to take a growler home and rate it well. It might also be a way for people to appear grateful to someone who brought a beer for them to try.
This is one area where blind-judged beer competitions have a clear edge over general consumer ratings. When you know what you’re drinking, that knowledge will change your perception. Partly it is subconscious, you give a break to a brewery that makes good beer. Or after a lot of effort to procure a bottle you don’t want to feel like you wasted money/time. It can be more overt. I’ve had friends tell me that they’ll skip entering a rating for our beer if it would be too low. I remember boosting the score of the first bottle of Cantillon St. Lamvinus I drank, it was so sour… but I didn’t want to be that 22 year old who panned what people consider to be one of the best beers in the world.
I could also be cynical, but I can imagine someone buying a case of a new beer to trade and wanting to make sure they get good “value” by helping the score for the beer. Might be doubly true for a one-off beer with aging potential!
Sapwood Cellars has done pretty well in our first year. Out of more than 100 breweries in Maryland, we have the third-highest average score (4.06) on Untappd. That isn’t even close to meaning that our beer is “better” than anyone below us though. In addition to being solid brewers, we’re helped by our selection of styles (mostly IPAs and sours) and by selling almost all of our beer on premise. Hopefully that feeds a good reputation, which further drives scores as we continue to hone our process.