Quality control and compensation

A blog entry about beer

Sometimes I’m not sure if I’ve just become more aware or just a bit spoilt. Recently I’ve gone through a bit of a rough patch as far as bottled beers go .Bottles of two of my favourite beers have been either a complete mess (sour and murky) and the other a bit lacklustre (the company doing the bottling really let the brewer down). It breaks my heart to tips away bottles of a beer that just don’t cut the mustard!]

Also I’ve had some bloody awful beers like Arbour’s Deeper Down DIPA that was clearly rushed out and full of diacetyl, it was a complete mess. It’s not just UK brewers that appear to be having issues with consistency and quality control I had a massively over carbonated bottle of Witchmaker IPA from Jester King in Texas. The Jester King beers wasn’t cheap and their lack of attention to the bottling process really ruined what could have been a great beer. This isn’t about naming and shaming but Arbor and Jester King deserved a slap on the wrist.

So what can the humble beer drinker do in these moment? Weather you are in a pub with a duff pint or at home with a dodgy bottle what should we do as consumers? Sit there and be very English about iit, mutter to ourselves and when asked just say “Everything is fine” or should we stand up and speak our minds?

I’m sure most of you reading this blog has taken back a pint to a surly barman and told them “There is something wrong with this?” only to be told “I’ve got a pub full of people and they haven’t complained”. From my stand point it’s not a matter of being awkward but maybe more about getting what you have paid for. If I buy a pint of Dark Star HopHead I want a lovely glass of crisp, bitter session ale that is going to both dance on my tongue and quench my thirst not a sloppy, infected murky half because the arsehole of a landlord doesn’t know how to keep his house in order.

It’s not just us drinkers and enthusiasts that expect their beloved beers to taste good its the brewers too. So as regards to drinking beers ina pub what should you do with a pint that is flat or infected or old? What should I get in return?

The great british pub sometimes appears to the the one place in the world that is unaware of the notion of customer service. The phrase “the customer is always right” often becomes “The customer is a ******* idiot and don’t know what he’s talking about”

Personally in a pub I’d expect a considered response, polite attitude and a replacement.

As a bottle beer drinker at home I can’t really take it back to the shop like a faulty TV, I’ve got battle on or just tip it down the sink.

But as someone with an online presence i can talk to the brewers themselves. I’m not out for getting freebies and Twitter shouldn’t be abused but I hope my opinions will be taken seriously. No small UK breweries can have sensory analysis departments like Stone or Dogfish Head but their quality control department should be their beer drinking public.

So what should I expect from a brewery if the bottle in my hands is not what I expect it to be. I personally think if there is an actual problem with the beer (infected or badly conditioned) I should be compensated. Afterall a brewery should be concerned with the publics opinion of their products. From my recent experiences I’ve had mixed replies. Some say sorry, some send over replacement bottles, some are actually concerned, some ignore me, some explain the situation in a professional manner and some just forget.


So my question to you is what do you do in this situation and what do you expect in return?

8 comments to Quality control and compensation

  • The Beer Prole

    I probably don't actually complain as much as you'd expect for someone who basically has arguments about this kind of thing for a living. But I'm not sure how far you'd get with Ivor the Landlord at The Pit And Sawn-off by quoting The Sale Of Goods Act.


    • hopzine

      Its funny we both blogged about this at the same time, seems like there is quite a bit of dodgy beer knocking around at the moment.

      • The Beer Prole

        Yep and both of us have discussed certain, usually good breweries that neither of us have mentioned in the posts, in my case because I hope it's just a blip for them.

  • Zak

    The sale of goods act is relevant where there's a clear problem with fitness for purpose of goods – eg a faulty telly. It's a bit more nebulous when it comes things doing a job, but not very well, or being serviceable but not up to scratch.

    But what the SoG act makes clear is the chain of responsibility. You have a contract with the retailer who sold you that bottle, and you should raise it with them. It's then up to the retailer to pursue that claim with their supplier, and so on, back up the chain to the brewery. Sometimes that chain is short, sometimes longer, but that's how it works.

    If you find something that's clearly faulty, then you should just drop an email at the time of drinking, and see what happens. Interestingly in this case, it seems that bottles of that beer that have been left to condition have carbonated and cleaned up nicely.

    • hopzine

      Thanks for taking the time to reply in such detail from the retailer's position.

      As for Arbor Deeper Down IPA i did contact the brewery with my concerns. I'm glad the beer improved with suitable time to condition, but should it have even been made available if it wasn't ready to drink?
      From my experience breweries in the UK have been very gracious in replacing problematic bottles as have a few as far away as America.

      My intention wasn't to bad mouth some breweries but to raise my concern for what appears to be a growing problem. This "craft" beer thing appears to be blowing up and demand is so high that quality is being forgotten sometimes.
      just the concerns of an enthusiast and a consumer.

    • The Beer Prole

      Yeah, the contractual relationship is with the retailer, but it seems a shame to have to:

      (a) argue the point with someone in Tesco; or

      (b) try to claim a refund from an independent retailer when I know they're not at fault and almost certainly sold the beer in good faith.

      Which is part of why I let it lie four times out of five.

  • Phil

    Good points well made Rob. I hate it when you get that "what do you want me to do about it" look when you complain about a beer that's clearly not right.

    I had a recent example with a batch of De Molen Vuur and Vlam at my local (unusual I know). I'd had two bottles that from an non expert opinion seemed to be suffering from DMS, they reeked and tasted of that awful smell of cabbage, broccoli (veg basically).
    With the first I drank it uncomfortably, not really knowing what it was, the second was the same and I mentioned it as I'd done the research to sort of shrugged shoulders I don't know look. So I stopped buying it.
    It was only after a mate proudly passed his glass to me one evening and said I've had one of those De Molen's you are always going on about, I took one sniff and said "Vuur & Vlam" at which point the whole collective group screwed their faces up that notice was taken. A learning point methinks..

    With Breweries I tend to go direct to the brewer when I can, thankfully I've never had a negative response or been ignored so far, if that was the case I think I'd be tempted to say F-you then and avoid in future.

  • Dave

    Good blog rob and some valid points made.
    I had, what seemed at the time, a never ending run of beers which were over carbonated which essentially robbed (no pun intended) them of any flavour from the very same brewery I believe you are talking about. I was relieved it wasn't just me when I read your comments on twitter.

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