Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Lakeland Brewers lose their minds over one bad review

I've been reviewing beer in one form or another for about eight years. I've given breweries both large and small negative reviews, and it's been extremely rare that I ever heard back from any of them. So I thought I had seen it all. That was, until today, when two of the brewers at Lakeland Brewing Company, started a Twitter feud with me over my negative review of their beer and brewery.

In the original review I mentioned that one of the brewers - Rob - responded to some of my tweets about the beers. They were pretty unprofessional as a whole, though I pretty much shrugged them off. This afternoon, Rob flipped out when he saw that HypeOrlando.com had tweeted a link to my review. He seemed to think I had somehow betrayed him because he wanted me to come back to the brewery and have a chat with him about beer. I politely declined and said I know plenty about beer. I'm by no means a Grand Master BJCP or Master Cicerone, but I'm. I know what good beer should taste like and most of what I had at LBC on Friday was not it.

So Rob and Joe - the head brewer - decided to attack me all afternoon on Twitter. I'm not sure why they thought this was a smart idea, since they were going the petulant juvenile route and resorted to name-calling and passive-aggressive threats. I'm going to let their own Tweets do all the talking. This is an exact account of what happened; this is not my opinion or my side of the story. Please judge for yourself if you think this is the best way to respond to a negative review:

Warning: NSFW (also, quite lengthy).
Capture1Capture2To be clear: I wasn't saying I AM a BJCP/Cicerone; I was wondering if I was if that would change Rob's reaction to my review of his beer? He didn't answer, so I have a feeling it wouldn't have mattered. Also, Rob doesn't know how to read the date a blog was posted? Lastly, I never asked for his number, he just gave it to me and no, I never texted or called him.
Capture3If I couldn't identify between an ale and a lager (that beer, in particular), it's because the menu didn't describe the style or what it was supposed to be. Untappd had it down as a pale lager. Seemed like one to me, but okay fine, you got me there, I didn't know it was a lousy ale and thought it was just a mediocre lager instead. My bad.
Joe is clearly trying to argue a technicality. It's not like you can taste that exact IBUs when you drink it. But again, if it's supposed to be a pale ale and it's completely lacking in hops, it shouldn't be surprising if the drinker thinks it's a blonde ale.
Capture4I've said absolutely no such thing. Where on my blog did I write that? I may have said I'm not a professional brewer and that I don't claim to be a connoisseur of the highest levels. He keeps referring to me as a hack when it's not an applicable insult at all. Who exactly am I ripping off?
Capture5A friend of mine read that and said: "I didn't get his retort either. "We're not trying to brew world class beer, we have to understand our market". Uh.... which market is it that doesn't want world-class or the best beer? Easy way of saying that they don't give a shit about their quality."
Capture6Capture7He's really grasping at straws now.
Capture8It's true, I gave Orlando Brewing a pretty bad review too, but shortly thereafter (or it might have been before), they hired a friend of mine - who is a professional brewer for a major brewery - to give them consultation. It was a total coincidence to be sure, but the point is Orlando Brewing recognized they had a problem and decided to do something to fix it. Lakeland Brewing, on the other hand, apparently believes everything they make is perfection (yet not world class) and I'm the only customer they've ever had that didn't like it AND it's because I don't know anything about beer. That makes sense, right?
P.S. This whole thing does seem timely considering my recent op-ed Why Do Some Beer Enthusiasts Have No Chill?
Capture9Up until this point, I considered this Twitter feud as relatively harmless and thought it was kind of funny. Once I saw this; it was on. No, no, no, no, Rob. You do not have my permission to use my picture or likeness in any way. You can try to claim I'm a celebrity or in the public eye or whatever, but I don't think that's gonna fly. And also that's not even the issue - what you put on the bar is essentially a WANTED SIGN. Any idiot can tell this is a threat, not a joke (especially considering the context). I'm not sure if this is even legal! Are there any lawyers or police reading this that can weigh in?
Capture10I find it really creepy and disturbing that after all this time Rob still wants me to come to his brewery so he can school me on beer. At this point, I take that more as a threat than an invitation. If you were me would you go to a place that has been trashing you relentlessly?
I've never claimed that anyone has ever "rolled over" for me. I don't know what he's talking about.
From here on out, Rob just goes completely insane:
Capture11I love Fight Club, but even I know it's lame to use a clip from a movie to make a threat. He's trying to be corny so that it doesn't seem like a legitimate threat, but it gets worse:
Capture12Well at least he admits he's a troll. And he also apologizes for the lousy beer (which is an admission of guilt on his part, IMO).
Capture13Wow, just wow. Yet another threat of violence. The ad-hominem attacks are lame and childish, they don't bother me. Can't you come up with anything original, dude?

No, I'm not gonna call you and no I'm not going to let you give me a lesson on whatever it is you think you want me to know about your beer. I stand behind my original review: YOUR BEER SUCKS!!

Does anyone think I should consider pressing charges against these guys for menacing or harassment or whatever? Anyone think I should actually go there? Would you if you were me?


  1. I've been watching/reading your stuff for over 5 years. I've seen you get a lot of hate for being a bit of a sarcastic prick at times. That said, these guys are crazy. They literally threatened to punch a customer for not giving a glowing review. I get that they are defensive about their "craft," but that response if over the top.

    On a related note, I've really enjoyed your restaurant/brew pub reviews. Keep if up. I am not a lawyer or in law enforcement, but for the selfish reasons of wanting to see the drama unfold, I would love for you to forward a couple of those tweets to the PD.

    1. I doubt I'll make it a police matter. If they start showing up at my job or my apartment or something like that, THEN it will be. I think the bad publicity they're gonna face from this will be enough karma for now. Thanks for your support!

  2. I'm not a lawyer, and I don't play one on TV either, but, I doubt the twitter bullshit really adds up to harassment from a legal standpoint. The sign with your face on it probably isn't legal though. The comment about the punch in the face is completely unwarranted. I would absolutely NEVER go back there again.

    The stupid thing, to me, is that it wasn't even like your review was malicious to them. You mentioned the buttery tasting stout and when Rob denied it, you asked about the yeast it was brewed with, so you gave him the benefit of the doubt.

  3. Perhaps they missed reading your hundreds (thousands?) of well written reviews and that book thing you wrote... But I guess you don't know anything about beer and if you went there they could teach you in 20 minutes.