"What all of this shows you is that beer distributors, beer shops and suppliers all depend on us the consumer to show out beer preferences. Knowing how we feel about certain beer brands can help all of these groups to produce a beer that we will enjoy drinking."
And yes, that is correct that the consumer's purchasing decisions drive shelf space for the different craft beers. If the beer gets on a shelf and it's not purchased, well then it is gone quickly. If it sells slowly, then it hangs around a little longer. So what drives the sales of craft beers and helps the craft beer drinker make his decision on sampling new brands in the marketplace?
As we know, there is a craft beer boom and brewers are increasing their capacity to brew and increasing their distribution reach so there is a good chance that a new beer will appear on store shelves in everybody's area. Do people just purchase a 6 pack without knowing if it's any good or not? Not always, they rely on draft beer and local bars or they rely on websites where there are members that rate beers. These rate beer websites have a huge membership and actually weld some power. I have discussed their impact with a successful brewer and he says that he is concerned when he rolls out a new beer that some member of one of those sites will give the beer a bad and inaccurate review about the beer's flavor and thus hurting sales because people will not purchase it and sample it for themselves.
Now, I'm not saying people do not have the right to rate beer and tell others how they feel about it but the way that this is done is sometimes causing the sales of good beers to be lower than possible and thus losing shelf space and distribution. For instance, on Beer Advocate you can easily see that most of the beer raters enjoy certain styles of beer and the styles that they don't enjoy get a poor rating even though that beer could be perfect to style. This type of biased feedback is destructive to increasing craft beer sales in the marketplace. And what will those members of those sites do when thay can't get certain beers in their area, complain that there isn't a good enough selection on their local store shelves which they assisted in happening because of poor, inaccurate ratings.
Is there an answer? I know that the sites have ratings for their best raters however you can sort the ratings at these sites in a manner and not see just the best raters; the other inexperienced raters are mixed in. I would prefer that they separate them and the raters have to prove their ability over time and then be moved from the dugout and on to the playing field or go from the minor leagues to the major leagues. We need people that rate beer that are aware of what is a good beer in any style...even if they dislike the style and give it an accurate rating. The idea is to increase the number of craft beers on the shelf not give inaccurate feedback that works against that success.