WTF?! Consumer Reports Names Shock Top a “Best Buy” in Craft Beer

Go-home-CR

There was a time before the Internet put thousands of real-world user reviews at your fingertips that you would have to rely on publications like Consumer Reports to help sort out the bad dishwashers from the good, the most reliable VCRs from the tape eaters, and the sweet rides from the lemons.  Those days are officially over.

Our buddy Adam over at BeerPulse shared this gem today, pulled out of a craft beer roundup performed by the once respected (at least by me) Consumer Reports: 

Shock Top, a CR Best Buy, has big malty flavors of molasses, caramel, and honey with relatively low bitterness and some sweetness.

Look at the bold letters up there.  That’s right, Shock Top, a brand wholly owned by AB InBev (which means it cannot qualify as a “craft” beer) and which brews some pretty watery messes, has been honored as a Consumer Reports craft beer Best Buy by their panel of “experts.”

While Consumer Reports puts the beer (which I’ll assume is their flagship Belgian White) at the top of the “craft” beer food chain, the uneducated dolts over at BeerAdvocate – you know, the beer geeks who obsessively scrutinize and catalog every beer they drink – give it an overall rating of 70, one point away from being classified as “Poor.” Boy – what do they know?!  They should leave the heavy lifting to the experts over at Consumer Reports!

Here’s a quote taken at random from the first review listed on BeerAdvocate, written by member ElijahRivera:

Sweet orange up front, then I get some spice that must be the coriander. The orange flavor tastes very artificial. I guess the wheat is there, but not the way you’d want it to be. It finishes with some off tasting grain, corn, and fusel alcohol flavors that help you remember that you are drinking an AB product. Whereas, a better witbier would help you forget that you are imbibing alcohol.

Sounds pretty awesome, Consumer Reports.  Way to go, geniuses.

Now some of you might say I should cool my jets – Consumer Reports is for a mainstream audience, not for beer geeks, and so they’re going to gravitate towards more crowd pleasing offerings.  I get that, but the fact that they’ve labeled an imposter brand as a can’t-miss-craft-beer makes me crazy.

This is exactly what Big Beer wants to happen – have people buy their craft beer clones thinking they’re getting an authentic product made by an independent brewery.  The fact that Consumer Reports, in what I hope is their ignorance, has taken this bait and disseminated it across their publishing empire adds fuel to this unholy fire.

It also makes Consumer Reports look pretty stupid among people who know a thing or two about the beer industry.  If they’re wrong about this, where else are they off the mark?  Because of the miracle of online user reviews on everything from cars to kayaks to Hello Kitty phone cases, I’ll happily never know.

Goodbye, Consumer Reports. Thank goodness it’s no longer 1992.

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Categories: Beer, News

Author:Jim Galligan

Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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42 Comments on “WTF?! Consumer Reports Names Shock Top a “Best Buy” in Craft Beer”

  1. July 1, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    This seems like a pretty egregious mistake for a group as well read and respected as Consumer Reports. I’m no Nostradamus, but after this mess I’m guessing there will be some openings for “craft beer experts” on their staff in the near future.

    Then again, I’ve never actually read an official Consumer Report for a food product. Time to go see if they recommend Applebees for a good steak…

    • July 1, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

      I hear that they’re going to name Bartles & Jaymes “Vintner of the Year”…

      • July 1, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

        Man, I really thought Boone’s Farm was going to take the trophy this yea.

        • July 1, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

          No – you can’t win back to back, so maybe in 2014. :)

        • July 1, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

          Whats the word? Thunderbird! What’s the price? Fifty twice! Or maybe they’ll go for a little of Natty Bo’s Malt Duck.

  2. Chris Slaby
    July 1, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    Here, here! I just posted this on their FB page.

    • July 1, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

      Uh oh – I hope they don’t get all lawyery about they logo treatment above!

      • Chris Slaby
        July 1, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

        Eh, I’m pretty sure you’d be covered by fair use.

        Also, looking further at the original link, Shock Top was not the only non-craft beer they tried as part of their “craft” beer taste test. Kirkland Signature, aka Costco, as craft beer?! Very disappointing indeed, especially given that there is no shortage of actual craft beer in the U.S. right now.

  3. July 1, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    When I think of Shock Top, I definitely think of Best Buy as a similar brand.

    • July 1, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

      Yes, they are twins in tortured experiences, that’s for sure!

  4. July 1, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    The report even takes time to define what a craft beer is, according to the ABA, but still cites Shock Top as a craft beer. Unbelievable!!

    They also include Goose Island 612, Blue Moon and even Costco brand beers!! Hardly craft beers.

    You’re right to note that this is for a mainstream, largely uneducated audience and many brewers will admit that faux craft beers can help them in that they are ‘gateway’ beers for the uninitiated. But to put a non-craft beer at the top of their craft beer list makes the report null and void. It becomes a beer survey, not a craft beer survey.

    The report also omits the importance of locality when it comes to craft beer. The craft beers they pick are widely available, but not exclusively. Here in Minnesota for example, you’d be hard pressed to find a Dogfish Head beer. By explaining that most craft beers are limited to local/regional distribution would have helped better define what a craft beer is. It would have also helped to better differentiate the faux beers, which are readily available in all 50 states (for a reason)…

    • July 1, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

      I caught that, too – the requirements were listed on the page, and they still included a handful of beers that do not qualify. Nuts.

      I also think that beers like Fat Tire, etc., are great gateways into craft beer for the uninitiated. We can do without Shock Top, Batch 19, Blue Moon, Landshark and all the rest, thank you very much!

  5. July 1, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    CP is appealing to the mainstream markets and appalling to the niche markets.

    • July 1, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

      Well if they’re this off-base in the beer vertical, it makes me think that they might wholeheartedly endorse exploding cars or name Irwin Mainway’s “Bag O’ Glass” as the Toy of the Year.

  6. Brendan
    July 1, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    Did they also review New Coke? I’m suddenly curious.

    Part of the problem here Consumer Reports’ raison d’être (kinda fun to write like a wine snob) is so that no one gets suckered by slick marketing hype.

    The other part of the problem is that there are legions of beer geex who wouldn’t be fooled, who can usually write better than this, and who would happily lend their Beer Geekdom to CR.

    • July 1, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

      The reviewed New Coke, saying it’s far superior to the classic version, but can’t hold a candle to the taste leader in their latest round up of premium colas, Sam’s Cola, found exclusively at that emporium of upscale merchandise Wal*Mart.

      these folks really know their stuff.

  7. July 1, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    I KNEW IT!!

    I’ve always hated CR and firmly believe that if Ford marketed the Pinto all over again (pre-recall IED version), they’d give it their highest rating.

    Flat out morons.

    • July 1, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

      Yes, they loved the Tata Nano, the world’s cheapest car, noting that beyond its propensity to spontaneously combust, the interior was cheery chic and the car promises frugal fun (and possibly a funeral).

  8. Diss Content
    July 1, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    Consumer Reports was unique in that they weren’t swayed by advertising dollars, and actually used some semi-scientific criteria for the durable goods they were testing. Finding out which water heater lasted the longest and used the least energy, was of some value and objectively measurable. Same with measuring the number of dead prostitutes one could fit in the trunk of a Malibu, which was seven; again the number is seven.

    Measuring the quality of beer is deep in the territory of subjective, and a beer isn’t typically considered a durable good. I say typically since I’ve seen unopened cans of Billy Beer on eBay. Be that as it may, there isn’t much value in a Consumer Report on a beer, unless the average American doesn’t have a buck to throw down on a single can, and do their own test. Besides, what self respecting craft beer would ever dream of having their label embellished with “Best Beer according to Consumer Reports”? As if.

    • July 1, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

      Agreed, but if they’re going to do taste tests and proclaim winners, at least know what you’re tasting. The fact that they got such a basic thing wrong – what constitutes a craft beer – is unsettling, especially when it’s explained ON THE SAME PAGE.

      Also, in honor of your hooker stuffing stats, a modification of a Truly Tasteless joke from my childhood:

      How do you get 20 dead prostitutes into the trunk of a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu LT with Sunroof Package?

      Cuisinart.

      How do you get them out?

      A straw.

      Here’s another one:

      What’s the Best Buy in craft beer?

      Never mind, this isn’t funny…

  9. vortec42
    July 1, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    Consumer reports only looks smart if you know nothing about the products being reviewed. Given even a casual expertise in the field of the review, they will probably look like asshats. They’re like the guy who knows a little bit about every topic. Expert at nothing.

    • July 1, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

      I can’t imagine what the people at the car companies think, especially when they have to re-engineer stuff to make these morons happy.

  10. July 1, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

    MMMMMMM…Shock Top! That sounds delicious! Does it come in a 40 ounce? Because I want to sit on my front porch and drink it out of a brown paper bag.

    • July 1, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

      No, but it should… ;)

  11. yuniform
    July 1, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    To be fair, Stone IPA, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA and Samuel Adams Hopology Collection Latitude 48 IPA all rate higher than Shock Top’s Wheat IPA. It’s not their Belgian White. The “Best Buy” designation is because it’s cheaper than all the other beers. Thanks, economies of scale!

    • July 1, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

      BUT IT’S NOT CRAFT BEER!! That’s the part that kills me – it’s cheaper, etc., and to each their own taste wise, but Shock Top can’t be a craft beer best buy if the beer itself isn’t made by a craft brewer.

      Also, thanks for the insight on which beer they’re referring to.

  12. July 1, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    Thanks Jim! Great article! It is a shame how loosely the word craft is used these days.

  13. July 2, 2013 at 9:11 am #

    Hi,

    We have recently launched a new magazine called Craft Beer Magazine:

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/craft-beer-magazine/id643848007

    Any way I could reach you?

    Thanks,

    Fredrik

  14. Rick
    July 2, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    10 years ago or so I bought a CR issue, needed a new washer or something. The cover proudly proclaimed “5 best cars under $20k”. One of the cars sticker price was $20,019, or some number thereabouts. I wrote them a hilarious article on false advertising for their “Selling It” section, the last page in each issue. Umm, never got published!

  15. Moo
    July 2, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    Goose Island is wholly owned by InBev as well.

    • July 2, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

      I know, Moo, but at least they were a craft brewer that was acquired, as opposed to a fake one created to exploit the burgeoning craft beer marketplace.

  16. July 5, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

    Not to defend them for including Shock Top as a craft beer, but I’ve found the review and can clarify a couple of point. First, the style reviewed was the Wheat IPA. Second, apparently “Best Buy” does not equal “Highly Rated.” They only gave it 77 out of a 100. There were a number of more highly rated (and actual craft) beers. The highest rated beer was Stone’s IPA, with a 95 out of a 100.

    • xandersherry
      July 5, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

      And there was a typo there; the Stone IPA scored 94 out of 100, not 95. And Shock Top is still not a craft beer. That was not a typo.

  17. EJN
    July 10, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

    Don’t lie! You know you drink Shock Top and Blue Moon when no one is looking!

    • July 10, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

      You caught me!

  18. KOB
    July 24, 2013 at 11:11 pm #

    The term craft beer is a joke anyway. Is Sam Adams a craft? they didn’t even brew their own beer for a long period of time. The real interesting part of the story is how well Shock Top Wheat IPA did in their ratings.

    You didn’t check your sources very well. The reviewed the IPA, not regular Shock Top.

    • infinity
      April 22, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

      Shock top is still not and has not been Craft beer.. no matter the style.

    • April 22, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

      it doesn’t matter if it was the regular Shock Top or the IPA or any other style of Shock Top, it’s still not a craft beer and never was…

  19. September 11, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

    Everything about that Consumer Reports post is glaring evidence that their “experts” have no clue about what constitutes good beer. I’ll just pull this quote out of it, “The best lagers are very tasty but not quite complex or intense enough to be excellent”, which is just absolutely incorrect. It is akin to saying white wines could never be excellent, and it ignores the growing trend of a greater appreciation for craft lagers. Thanks for highlighting this injustice, and thanks for the shout out, Jim! Let me know if you ever need a beer writer intern.

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