Just like every other hobby and interest you can think of, beer enthusiasm has quite the online presence. Whether you are a home brewer, someone who just turned 21 and looking to get into beer, a trader or even a professional brewer, there are many places people to call home to get your fix of beer discussion. Going into our ninth year at The Full Pint, I’ve observed many of these communities first-hand and would like to share my thoughts on some of the very popular beer enthusiast communities you might want to check out if you haven’t already. Not every one of these groups might be a good fit for you, however there is no doubt that each of these communities are bursting with enthusiasm.
BeerAdvocate – One of the original beer websites,founded by Jason and Todd Alström, BeerAdvocate is one of the most popular, and most visited, online beer communities. The biggest attraction is their forum, which is broken down into generalized topics, beer discussion topics by region, and beer trading. This community is made up of many people from the U.S. that have just gotten into craft beer, long time veterans, those into trading craft beer, and those who utilize the user ratings as a tool to figure out what beers are the most popular, and subsequently what beers to begin their journey with. This is also probably one of the largest beer trading communities, and over the last few years, has become the stock market for beer.
As this beast has gotten bigger over the years, it has been harder and harder for the Alström brothers to keep the peace, and many users refer to the infamous “Ban Hammer” when someone violates the rules of the forum and are put in time out. Early in my journey, I thought the Alström’s were too tough on their users, however my tune has changed, as the secondary market on beer has made for some unruly folks.
Bottom line: BeerAdvocate is a great way to meet others in your area that are into craft beer and trading, and a bad place to be obnoxious, as the moderator’s tolerance is low. Their Top Beer List is a good guide to find new beers you haven’t tried that are widely regarded as tasty.
RateBeer – When I first started my journey, I was spooked off by BeerAdvocate and found a nice home in RateBeer.com. Years ago, this was the only other option besides BeerAdvocate to discuss and trade beer. While there are some newbies like the young DannyFullpint (or LtDan in my case), there was a good saturation of people from around the world that were there day in and day out, sharing the knowledge and science behind our favorite beverage. I gained a great education just by reading the forum daily or reading highly regarded members’ tasting notes. One thing that stands out with RateBeer is their database and ratings system. The amount of time and care put into their database will blow your mind. As more communities have opened up, less people are using the forum feature of the site than in previous years, but I still head over to RateBeer to get accurate information about a beer before any other website. As for the trading culture, I have over 50 successful trades, all from very generous people from around the country.
Bottom line: While the discussion community has dwindled off, RateBeer’s database still maintains the highest level of integrity. If you want to conduct a no-nonsense trade where you don’t feel like you are getting bent over, this is a good place to go.
Facebook – Facebook came well after RateBeer and BeerAdvocate, and wasn’t initially a place for sub-communities. In the last few years, people that have wanted to have looser rules that the big two sites have flocked to public and private beer groups on FB. A quick search will turn up many trading groups, groups appreciating certain styles of beers, and groups for specific regions of beer enthusiasts.
Bottom line: The biggest plus about being part of a Facebook beer community is that people act a bit more civil when their real name and picture are front and center. Hiding behind a handle and an avatar gives people a sense of security and a license to troll hard. On the other side of the coin, you are now opening yourself up to privacy concerns. Should a trade go bad, or should you offend someone in a group, they are a few clicks away from gathering a bunch of info on you.
ProBrewer – I don’t have an account on ProBrewer, as I am not a brewer at all, but I have browsed this site often and found it to be a good resource for both new and veteran brewers looking to have a civil discussion about ingredient sourcing, equipment sourcing, recipe design and more.
Bottom line: I’m sure there might be some discussions that get heated, but this is a very professional forum with little-to-no trolling, at most maybe a little eye rolling.
TalkBeer – A few years ago, as a result of a mass banning over at BeerAdvocate, a new forum-only website called BeerTrading.org started up. They changed it to TalkBeer.com, likely to accurately portray what the site is about. You will notice the discussion board software is identical to BeerAdvocate forums. The community as it stands is made up of veteran beer traders and beer drinkers, dealing with higher stake trading, and talk of the most cutting edge, sought after beers in the world. I pop my head in there, and even have friends from there that I’ve met in person. There is a lot of heavy-handed critique, insider talk and inside jokes, so if you aren’t ready for that, you might be scared off. The rules are very laxed, unlike BeerAdvocate, as many comments are met with a funny animated gif or meme.
Bottom line: This is the deep end of the pool as far as beer communities go. I like the board, but you have to know what you are getting into and it’s not for everyone.
Untappd – Untappd is similar to both RateBeer and BeerAdvocate as they have a user-derived database of beers and beer ratings, but that might be where the similarities end. A few years ago, Untappd launched and started a whole new community and beer subculture. Basically, you load the Untappd app on your smartphone, and begin “checking in” beers. Whether you are home or at the bar, you log what beer you are drinking, you can take a photo of it for record, give it a basic rating and optionally write a review. Depending on what style of beer, or other events, you can gain badges. This is where logging beer becomes a game of sorts. People who were never up for the chaos on the message boards took to Untappd as a way of “ticking” beers.
Bottom line: Untappd is a great way to keep track of the beers you’ve tried, especially in a festival or bottle share setting. It also promotes trying new beers constantly. The only thing that I find concerning is those who tie their Untappd activity to their Facebook or Twitter account are now showing real time just how much beer you might be drinking in one session, opening yourself up for concern and or judgment from others who might not understand your passion.