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Complaining about defective beer has its faults

Sometimes the best way to sum up a week like the WA brewing industry had is that s#!& happens.

When you deal with a product made from a variety of ingredients using industrial methods there is always the risk of something going wrong.

Indeed, the record for our beer producers is very good. More often than not, because of a concentration on quality control, the brews go to market in good shape.

But then as we discovered this week there are occasions when they don’t. Rocky Ridge’s carbonation problems with the latest instalment of Rock Juice and Beer Farm’s issues with re-fermentation in its Pineapple were the talk of the WA craft beer community.

Both breweries immediately issued product recalls.

And that is the key in what has become a feverish debate on the regular social media channels that concentrate on WA brewing matters.

Something went wrong. Both Rocky Ridge and Beerfarm admitted to the problems and wasted little time in alerting the customer. We see similar almost every day from food items sold at Coles and Woolworths. It is the professional response.

Hopefully, it is just a one-off for the South West breweries. After all, they have produced a wide range of beers with success. Each can stand on its record of producing quality products.

However, it is a shame the same view wasn’t employed when Mash Brewing had problems with its Little NEIPA late last year.

There is no doubt Mash had a canning headache with the mid-strength brew. And they quickly pulled stock from shelves and offered replacements to consumers who had bought the affected packaging. Mash worked diligently to solve the problem.

On a side note Feral had a sealing issue around the same time and some products coming from the Bassendean brewery were impacted. Likewise, Feral addressed the matter and some good old fashioned one-on-one salesmanship with affected customers helped ease some of the negativity.

Mash was unmercifully bagged on social media over Little NEIPA. There weren’t many defenders. Certainly not anywhere near the level that has been quick to come to the aid of Rocky Ridge and Beerfarm.

But then Mash, which has been operating for 13 years, doesn’t have the hype bubble around them that some other WA breweries have recently enjoyed on Facebook and Instagram. There isn’t a legion of acolytes, some who operate as loud voices in social media and on news websites, rushing to back them against the criticisms of the affected beers. If only Mash had the business and social relationships with that band of industry spruikers.

It wasn’t that long ago Mash had the (2014) Australian International Beer Awards champion with Copy Cat. Some quickly forgot that achievement.

As WA beer found this week chat forums can be a double-edged sword. While some breweries are quick to rush to them to announce a new beer, adding to the hype, when things go wrong the forums are the vessel for criticism. There is bad that comes with the good when you operate in the public sphere. That’s life.

However, one hiccup shouldn’t detract from a strong and healthy background in producing beer - even if drinkers do have a right to point out a problem when they encounter it. That is consumerism 101.

For Beerfarm and Rocky Ridge the ticks far outweigh the crosses. And in the cases of this week there was no attempt to hide the problem. Each stepped forward as quickly as possible to deal appropriately with the situation. And there is no denying there were issues.

As a result the benefit of the doubt has to be applied when the next beers from Beerfarm and Rocky Ridge are released. They must be approached with an open mind.

It is just a pity the same courtesy isn’t employed for all breweries.


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