The Beer of the Month Club Strikes Back!

I received a response from Brett Olson of the Beer of the Month Club about my recent Saranac rant.  I went on their site and clicked around and discovered that they’re total beer nerds, so I dropped them a line about my post so they could defend themselves.  Brett sent such a well written response,  I’ve decided to paste it below.

First off, thanks for contacting us and giving us an opportunity to respond to your post.  We always welcome and appreciate the feedback of our members as it helps us keep the club as good as possible, and, in our not-so-humble opinion, the best one available.
Regarding the Saranac beers: We’re sorry you didn’t care for them, and that you tend to dislike their beers in general.  We’ll have to agree to disagree on them being “awful” – our panel thought these brews were pretty nice.  I jumped on BeerAdvocate just to see if we were crazy, and it turns out that both beers have B ratings (ok, one is a B-) after over 400 reviews each, including solid B ratings from Jason Alstrom.  Individual reviews varied (as they usually do) from really liking them to really hating them, and everything in between.
So, basically, I don’t think we’re alone in considering these brews to be good.  But, you’re not alone in thinking these beers suck.  So, alas, that’s kinda the dilemma with all things subjective – disagreement is usually more common than consensus.  It’s like Flying Dog – you mentioned you tend not to care for their beers.  I’ve heard that before from some other people, while obviously many others really like their stuff.  We tend to like them; in fact we featured Tire Bite and Kerberos Tripel (a somewhat odd take on a tripel, but we dug it) last year.  That being said, our panel and our president have heard and will consider your feedback.  Again, thank you.  It is appreciated.
When we select beers for the club, we do focus heavily on variety.  We want to appeal to a broad palate with the Domestic club, and so we attempt to include beers that are approachable, but we don’t hesitate to challenge our members too.  You mentioned how you wouldn’t expect us to feature Storm King – don’t underestimate us: we did feature Hop Wallop, for instance, in May of ’07.
We do have 4 different beer club options.  It’s possible you may find the Domestic & International Club more appealing.  Many of the international beers we feature are a little more aggressive, like this month’s phenomenal Kulmbacher Eisbock.  Or, you might want to check out the Rare Beer Club if you’re interested in some very good, very interesting, and very complex off-the-beaten-path beers (750ml bottles: available in 2-, 4-, and 6-bottle per month options).
If you want, check our site on the 1st of the month when we post that month’s selections, and give us a call prior to the 3rd if you want to skip the shipment – that’s easy for us to do.  Unlike our competitors, we post all of our featured beers on our website, and we keep newsletter archives online of all of our past selections going back to 1995.  We’re proud of our products, stand behind them, and invite craft beer geeks everywhere to read all about our previously featured beers.  We know beer, we love beer, and we’re trying our damnedest to expose more people to beer – real beer.  I think that’s a goal we both will agree upon.

Brett Olson

Well said, sir.  And we will indeed to agree to disagree that Saranac is awful, because it is (my blog, I win!).  And I kind of take exception to sending out beers with a “B” average when there’s plenty of “A” listers out there (see Bell’s Two Hearted Ale on BeerAdvocate, for instance).  

Anyway, I’ll certainly have to check in on the first of the month to see if I want to skip that month’s batch, which is a terrific option for spoiled beer lovers like me.

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16 Comments on “The Beer of the Month Club Strikes Back!”

  1. January 21, 2010 at 2:17 am #

    I give credit to Brett to replying to your whining. 😉 Seriously, that’s how companies should respond to valid criticism and it shows respect for the customer and a willingness to listen. Still, taste is subjective so you may never be satisfied!

    • Jim
      January 21, 2010 at 2:25 am #

      I’m not whining, I was just so disappointed to see Saranac in the box. It was such a letdown. Wait, am I whining again right now?

      I appreciated the response enough to give it it’s own post, but I think he hangs himself with his justification of choosing Saranac by saying it has a “B” average on beer advocate. He’s basically saying the club is okay with providing members with a second-grade beer. Why not one of the many beers with an “A” grade? Or how about just NOT Saranac?

  2. January 21, 2010 at 2:32 am #

    Even BA’s ratings are subjective.

    I suppose over many hundreds of BA reviews, the better beers float to the top of the charts, but if you think of all the beers available that are on average less than a BA “B” rating, Saranac is closer to the top than the bottom.

    Be happy you don’t have Celiac disease where all you can drink is sorghum beer!

    • Jim
      January 21, 2010 at 10:18 am #

      I agree about the subjectiveness, but my point is there are plenty of A rated beers to put in the BOTM Club box before reaching for the Saranac.

      And sorghum beer sounds nasty!

  3. Todd
    January 21, 2010 at 4:38 am #

    Beer Advocate is nice to look at with all their numbers and statistics but the fact that anyone with the internets can contribute makes all those numbers and statistics fairly worthless.

    • Jim
      January 21, 2010 at 10:15 am #

      I agree. Sometimes the ratings baffle me. I like what I like, regardless of how others rate it.

      But my point is that if you’re going to point to the BA ratings to justify the quality of a beer, a B average isn’t exactly impressive, even if it isn’t the best source of data.

  4. mikemoriendi
    January 21, 2010 at 2:40 pm #

    While I too have not had a Saranac brew I have really liked yet I can understand that they want to put them in the pack. But my only grief would be why did they put two different Saranac brews in on the same month. That just seems odd to me. I would want to put completely different breweries in those packs to give the customer a completely ranging perspective.

    • Jim
      January 21, 2010 at 3:46 pm #

      I didn’t think of that Mike, and it’s a great thought which leads me to another thought.

      I can see why they’d give a couple of beers by the same brewery to show range (I’m not complaining about the Choc for instance) but why three of each? They send 12 at a time, and I’d much rather get 2 bottles of 6 different beers instead of 3 bottles of 4 different beers.

      This way you get to try two more selections, and you can still share the second beer or just try it again later.

      After trying each Croc twice, I can say I get what each beer is about. Three is a little overkill. I’d rather have another Brewery represented in each box.

      It’s probably a function of splitting up six packs on their end. Three might be easier beer math when dividing up the beers and packing the boxes.

  5. Don
    January 21, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

    OK, I think that what noone is hitting on here is it is unlikely that the median on BA is a C. I’m thinking the median is more like a B. Thus if the put a beer in the pack that has a B- rating that means that over 50% of the people that reviewed it gave it a less than stellar review. The world of Sports can give us a glimpse of what is really happening with the ratings on BA. Take for example diving competitions where “judges” give a score for a dive. There is a possible 10 points that can be given for a dive, but have you ever seen any diver get less than an 8? I’m thinking you get an 8 for landing on your back! Thus a B on BA isn’t much to be proud of.

    • January 21, 2010 at 3:52 pm #

      Interesting theory Don, but the median may actually be lower than B. Who knows? It would be interesting to find out. I agree with Todd though. You know what they say about opinions, right?

      I think if Jim doesn’t like it he should move to N. Korea where the Government picks the beer and tells you it is good. All the beers there are rated AAA++++, and if you complain you get sent off to “beer education camp” where you develop your palate to acceptable standards.

      • Don
        January 21, 2010 at 4:12 pm #

        I’ve heard about that, but I don’d see how breaking big rocks into small rocks informs your palate? But maybe I’m just missing something!

        • Jim
          January 21, 2010 at 4:41 pm #

          Just look at Stone Brewing, Don, or Rock Art. There are many ties between rocks and beer.

  6. January 21, 2010 at 5:37 pm #

    Exactly. There is a direct correlation between rocks and your beer palate, and the North Koreans know this.

  7. January 21, 2010 at 6:04 pm #


    It’s good that guy responded. I happen to share your opinion about Saranac. Can’t stand it. I ran into a similar issue with Saint Aronld’s PR guy. Not that I hate all their stuff (some is good, in fact). At least you are are good enough to post it up. Also, the beer advocate appeal is always a little tenuous, in my opinion.

    • Jim
      January 21, 2010 at 6:49 pm #

      I appreciate people who “get it” and can stick up for themselves in a professional and well reasoned manner. Plus, it’s obvious that these guys love beer (even if they sent me Saranac!). I thought they deserved their day in court.


  1. Beer of the Month Club: Choose Wisely « Beer & Whiskey Brothers Blog - January 31, 2011

    […] underwhelmed with what arrived each month.  After sharing my disappointment here on the blog, Brett Olsen from BOTMC responded, saying perhaps my lovely wife had chosen the wrong option for a geek such as myself.  It turns […]

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