columbia river brewing company

Enemies of the State

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Sometimes I lose faith in beer geeks and people in the beer community. There is a pretty well known saying about the beer community, that it is 99% free of douchebags. Well, I think I found that 1% and that is why I created the “Enemies of the New School” from day one. It has always been a bit tongue in cheek, and to call them “enemies” is a bit strong, but I thought it would be cool to have an opposing list to the “Friends of the New School”. Since starting the site the Enemies List has become stale, boring even, so no one talks about it anymore and I have been thinking it needs some refreshing when all of a sudden a few contenders come along…

Today I thought I would highlight 3 different individuals/establishments who are showing us how not to do it. One is an aspiring beer media outlet/person, another is a PR person for a new local brewery, and the 3rd an owner and Brewer himself.



#1
First I wish to address the role of a beer journalist, writer or blogger or whatever one may be. Recently I have heard numerous criticisms that reviewers should not be accepting free samples from breweries and that they have become too cozy with the subjects they are covering. I agree that accepting freebies is a gray area, but as simply a web beer scribe who does not get paid for this, I am happy to get these samples as it gives me more of a chance to try different beers and more beers than I might be able to afford to buy otherwise. These defensive arguments admittedly do little to dissuade readers that I might still be biased in my reviews. That is why I created the New School style of review, with a panel of 3-5 reviewers all rating the beer separately, and most of the time purchasing their own samples or sharing mine. These people have nothing to lose in giving a beer a bad review. I also can say we have trashed more than a few freebies.

Serendipitously, while considering my rebuttal to these journalistic gray areas I saw a Facebook and Twitter post from the Portland Beer Club, an entity that I have been following for a while since they claimed to be starting a beer podcast and/or blog. Here is the posting in question:

Portland Beer Club

Portland Beer Club You can now contact me directly if you would like to provide a tour and/or tasting of your brewery, pub, beer shop, etc. Write me at [email protected]

5 hours ago

It is not uncommon for writers to receive free tastings and things of that nature, but I have never seen someone blatantly solicit kickbacks in exchange for coverage, and it should never be expected. If you go into beer writing expecting these things, I can guarantee your content will be lifeless and you will do nothing but burn bridges. To make matters even worse, Portland Beer Club does not have a website, a blogspot address or anything, just accounter on Twitter and Facebook. I found this gem in the info section for the page:
“I have all sorts of plans coming… Podcasts, Merch, and a possible beer blog???? Be patient as money doesn’t flow like beer in my world.”
According to their Facebook page, they were founded in 2008 and yet they have produced nothing and have just 77 friends on Facebook. I am all for patience, but this is just ridiculous, even humorous, to see someone expect breweries to give them free shit to mention them on Facebook to their 77 fans, more like close friends. Then I saw the really reprehensible part – check out this paragraph from the info section of their page, I have highlighted the worst bit:

“If you own and operate a Brewery, Pub, Beer Shop, or want to promote your home brew I am always happy to come by, have a tasting, meet you and hear your story, and I will put out a review. I don’t criticize. I try to avoid competition. One of the things I love about Portland is the comradery of the brewers and beer culture. I’m here to support you. Drop me a line at [email protected] .

So now, in addition to soliciting freebies, they have even gone so far as to basically guarantee a positive review. This sort of thing just makes us all look bad, and I almost feel sorry for some of the PR and Marketing people that have to deal with us.
And Next up #2 the other side of that same coin…
This may be the perfect example of shady and bad marketing practices by an individual/organization. Many of you may recall my posts on Columbia River Brewing Company, the brewery that took over the old Laurelwood Pizza Co. space. These posts, especially the last one, were inundated by a spammer who clearly appeared to be a shill for the brewery, leaving absurdly positive comments. I don’t mean to be a skeptic, but I have never seen so many orgasmically positive comments in such a short period of time and in such great quantity. All are anonymous and seem to mention owner/brewer Rick Burkhardt by name as well. That fact that a number of these comments came in before the place even opened make them suspicious, to say the least.
In fact, the comments were so over the top that I think most if not all of the people reading it probably assumed it was someone from Columbia River and lost a bit of respect for them. I know I did, but I had no proof so I have tried to give them the benefit of the doubt and a chance to redeem themselves. Now this…

While scanning through the aforementioned Portland Beer Club’s Facebook wall in preparation for this article, I noticed this post on their wall from a Heather Burkhardt:

Heather Burkhardt

Heather Burkhardt Columbia River Brewing Company 1728 NE 40th 97212 Hollywood District.
Beer is getting awesome reviews.

October 19 at 12:33pm

Whoa, Heather Burkhardt? That name sounds familiar, and where has this Columbia River Brewing been getting awesome reviews other than those spam commenters on this blog? Oh wait, the Head Brewer and owner of Columbia River’s name is Rick BURKHARDT! Clicking through to Heather’s profile page and into her info the truth is sitting there in plain sight under the listing of her Employer:

So, she is in charge of their marketing and is in fact Rick’s daughter. Hmm, do you think I have found the culprit of all those anonymous comments?! I am going to go out on a limb and say yes. Columbia River, and specifically Heather Burkhardt, you should be ashamed of yourself.
And finally #3
Last but certainly not least we come to Ken Johnson, owner and brewer of Fearless Brewing in Estacada, OR. If you’re at all in the industry you probably already have heard the stories of Ken calling up and emailing people who give his beers bad reviews. One such famous incident took place on the BeerAdvocate online community. A reviewer and contributor who goes by the handle RedDiamond posted some negative reviews of Fearless beer, and set Ken on a warpath against him, supposedly threatening physical harm.
There are also numerous friends of mine who have worked and brewed at Fearless, and man do they have stories, but most of them are keeping those on the DL. Recently, though, Ken has seen it fit to make a few threats against friends of mine that have been forwarded on to me. Enough is enough, Ken.
Allow me to share the first story, forwarded to a friend who Ken apparently has mistaken for RedDiamond. He got this message:

*Name Redacted*,

You’ve told several people you are reddiamond. The evidence was substantial before that. If you are not willing to name who you think it is, then you will have to explain to an entire industry why several people (well known in our industry) will state that you have told them you are reddiamond. I am not playing this game anymore. You have insulted me and many of my brethren. You will step up. Make amends by removing the filth you have put up on the web. Then, apologize to the human beings you have injured.

By the way, your reddiamond link doesn’t work.

KJ

OK, look, KJ, I cannot show the photo of who you sent this, but I have a photo of Red Diamond right here and it is quite clearly not the same person!
Photo of Red Diamond from his own Facebook page

And account #2, another friend of the New School recently opened his own establishment. Here is what he had to say:

“So about a year or year and a half or so, I blogged about Fearless in Estacada. Long story short, I did not like their beer. I really did not like it. So, about three months later, he started emailing me, telling me how good his beer was, how I was wrong, and so on and so on to the point he was getting pretty nasty.
Fast forward to a few days ago. I get a mystery call sitting at Beer Mongers, some guy congratulating me on getting my liquor license. I said thanks, and asked who it was, and it was Ken Johnson from Fearless. He got my number from my liquor application, which is public info. He said he was “going to be keeping an eye on me” and was anxious to come see how my *redacted* was. He told me how my heart was going to be in the *redacted* and basically still hurt over my comments.

Creepy? Wondering if you or anyone you know has ever had a brewer actually call them on a post?”

Really Ken? You’re going to send threatening and creepy letters to everyone who does not like your beer, and you expect this to better your reputation how? If you’re putting out a product to mass audiences – even if it is damn good – some people are not going to like it. You can’t lose your marbles everytime you don’t like something someone says. My favorite part of this is when Ken says “you have insulted me and many of my brethren” hilarious! His “brethren” have so many “Crazy Ken Johnson” stories they tell I could fill a book, but instead I am just using what I have in print.
If you don’t hear from me for a while after this post, you will know it is because Ken Johnson and his “brethren” got me.

So, with that I have added Portland Beer Club, Columbia River Brewing, and Fearless Brewing’s Ken Johnson to the Enemies of the New School list. And just to make it fair, I am now offering anyone on the enemies list a chance to be taken off.


Just complete these 2 simple steps:

1. Agree to an uncensored interview with moi to make your case.

2. New School readers will then Vote in a poll on weather you shall remain or be removed from the Enemies list. Any vote rigging will result in you staying on the list.

Twitter Button from twitbuttons.com

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: [email protected]

36 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    October 27, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Oh no you didn’t!

  2. Anonymous

    October 27, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Go CRB! Go Rick! Go Heather! The beers their are FREAKING AWESOME, the burgers are too die for, the staff is sooo friendly and awesome! Congrats, CRB

  3. Andy

    October 27, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Way to drum up some pointless, phony controversy to drive traffic on your site…

  4. Anonymous

    October 27, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    The CRB thing is pretty funny. The same comments are on a lot of places that let you rate restaurants and bars online. All anonymous, or in the case of websites that require you to log in before you review, are made by people who created an account just to review the one place extremely favorably. Suspect to say the least.

    Where are the beers getting great ratings? beeradvocate doesn’t even have a single one of their beers uploaded to review, and ratebeer has them listed, but I’ve only seen one that was ever reviewed by anyone, and it didn’t sound too favorable.

    Also, can someone explain to me why a brewery would list their double IPA on their website as slightly weaker in strength than their own regular IPA?

    It’s a shame their early push at internet guerrilla marketing came off the way it did. Marketing is expensive, and it sounds like a good idea to throw out some favorable reviews for yourself, since it’s free and could create interest, but when it’s so indiscreet, it obviously has a reverse effect.

    A few bad reviews of a place wont keep me from trying it at least once for myself, but all the obviously fake reviews might.

  5. dr wort

    October 27, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    I love it!

  6. Jeff Alworth

    October 27, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    I think the concept of “enemies” is pretty amusing, and I endorse it. The Merc’s enemies include Men Who Look Like Kenny Rogers and their Seattle sister paper, The Stranger. Funny! I always sort of hoped you’d make me an enemy–sort of like how you talk smack on Twitter. (The Doc and I both as enemies–that’s also amusing.)

    So I say knock yourself out.

    As for these specific cases, well, they’re fine but not egregious offenders. Promoting your brewery isn’t the worst thing in the world, even if you’re not transparent. I’ve watched Ken’s emails on the Brew Crew listserve over the years and know that he’s a bit of an angerhead. I think the real question is: are his beers good?

    Portland Beer Club, though? Yeah, that seems lame.

  7. DA Beers

    October 27, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Doesn’t he know that Red Diamonds name is Red Diamond? Maybe he has some Momento complex where he’s trying the next John G.

  8. DOSiR

    October 27, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    I’m willing to meet up and buy you a beer! I think you took my poking a bit too far! No hard feelings on my end. I just think your attitude went over the deep end… and to put the whole city of Gresham on the list as a result of me is pretty poor.

  9. ElGordo

    October 27, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    I’m pretty sure Ken Johnson own’s KJ’s bar on Division, which is close enough to the BeerMongers that maybe he considers it to be competition. I don’t know, every interaction I’ve had with the guy has been unimpressive. To this day I’ve still never purchased anything from Fearless.

  10. Jeff Alworth

    October 27, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    Another submission for your conideration. “Anonymous negative commenter”–bane of all that is wholesome and true on comments threads. If you want to criticize someone, have the balls to use your name.

  11. Ritch

    October 27, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    #1 PBC-Sure,seems like an obvious attempt at free beer, really can’t blame them for trying (but they really could try harder)
    #2 CRBC-Also can’t blame them (if it was someone from there)for trying, but you have to be more subtle than that.
    #3 KJ-I talked to him once at an event, and he was very nice and pleasant, however, I’ve heard some of the stories from people in the business, and that email is way over the top.
    I have a question for SA, does writing this post make you part of the 1% douche-bags?

  12. Anonymous

    October 27, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    About anonymous posts…

    I think many people post anonymously because they are unsure how to post otherwise. Given the options on your “Comment as” drop down menu I do not have any of the accounts listed (except for my work gmail account), and it is unclear whether if I post using my name/URL if my URL will end up being published (I really don’t need e-mail from all of your millions of readers, especially Ken Johnson because I was going to agree that his beers suck).

  13. Adam

    October 27, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    When posting by name/URL, the URL is optional – like I’m doing now

  14. Anonymous

    October 27, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    a) you have some balls going at things like this
    b) i really can’t get into your negativity
    c) i hope you guys stick with the beer journalism and back off the personal attacks.

    I don’t know any of these people and have not had any of their beers, but I just don’t see how this kind of post contributes anything to the beer community here.

  15. dr wort

    October 27, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    Damn you Alworth! Are we like Batman vs the Riddler? Maybe just Superman vs. Spiderman? Both Comics run by a different franchise? ;-}

    Keep working on it Jeff! Someday, you to can be privileged to make on the Enemy list too. ;-}

    Readers! Shhh… Don’t tell anybody… Jeff and Doc Wort are not enemies! We passed Middle School and such juvenile concepts years ago.

    I’m with Jeff… Knock yourself out! I find amusement in your whining banter and badgering of those you don’t see things your way. Embrace yur inner Doc Wort. 😮

  16. Anonymous Juvenile Brewer

    October 27, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    I think this link would be much more appropriate for Ken Johnson: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/__nAd50xTIYs/SbrO6TnyNVI/AAAAAAAAAvA/f4g8kehcZH8/s400/elmer-fudd.gif

  17. Jeff Alworth

    October 27, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    “Anonymous negative commenter,” not “anonymous commenter.”

  18. Samurai Artist

    October 27, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    Jeff,
    But you are Dr. Wort right? So you have made the list! But if you want your Alworth alias included then lets follow the same rules as I do for getting yourself removed from the Enemies List. You must do an interview with me on why you are my enemy and then we will put it to a vote.

    Dosir,
    I am pretty sure I have seen you say things like ‘Liberals are ruining the world’ and made even statements of violence to people. You sir most definitely will remain on the list.

    Anonymous, who refers to this post as personal attacks. These are not personal attacks, I do not know these people personally and they are probably decent enough people in personal life. This is anything is a profession attack or more accurately just harsh criticism, having to do with how they conduct themselves in the craft beer scene in public and I think if your doing this in public than you have the right to be criticized.

  19. Samurai Artist

    October 27, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    Oh yeah and forgot to mention, I agree with Jeff on anonymous negative commenter. I actually had the same idea to add them to the list awhile back but slipped my mind. Good call.

  20. Jason

    October 28, 2010 at 2:31 am

    It’s funny. Really though, you’re a child. I like reading your blog because there’s always some good information, but a lot of the time, when your opinions stray from talking about BEER, you come off as a petulant, childish dick. Do yourself a favor and go against your nature, please. That is, if you don’t want to be laughed at by the majority of people who aren’t yr personal friends. Maybe write yr stinging criticisms across the board about the beer, and leave any personal horseshit out of it. Or don’t. It makes for a good laugh.

    Thanks!

  21. dr wort

    October 28, 2010 at 2:44 am

    Doc Alworth!?

    Well… Take off the “AL” and the “H” and you get WORT. You may be onto something there! I bet you know where they’re hiding the Holy Grail too!? Who was the guy in the grassy knoll?

    So… who do you really want to interview? Doc Wort, Jeff Alworth or Indiana Jones?

  22. Mike

    October 28, 2010 at 4:35 am

    I think the Samurai Artist performs a great service for the Portland beer community at large. I never sense any variety of personal vendetta in his “negative” (i.e. “critical”) posts but rather a very frank assessment of a community that may not do much to police itself were there not some true critics amongst all of the Neapolitans and apologists. PTown is ground zero for some very cool stuff in the craft beer scene but it needs someone that keeps it real(TM) and tells it like it is(TM).

    This perspective can be evidenced by the articles concerning the Organic Brew Fest this summer and the follow up interview with Craig Nichols. Journalism was performed, Craig recognized the need to be authentic and give his side to Ezra. We got a pretty exhaustive account of the drama, politics and dedication surrounding this event. As a reader, I was muy satisfied by the experience from start to finish.

    You want to stay out of the sights of the new school, honor the process, perfection, honesty and an openness to the critical element and reacting to such in a professional manner. An artist with a thin skin is set up for failure.

  23. DOSiR

    October 29, 2010 at 12:22 am

    I haven’t advocated violence on anybody, I haven’t said anything of the sort.

    I am always open to political debate, and I have never made such a blanket statement as that.

    You don’t agree with my political views, so you add me to the list… which I find very childish.

    I offered to buy you a beer, and you come back with untruthful accusations. Oh well. Carry on… and you know you are on many peoples enemies lists. Sorry to say, but I hear many more negative things about you when brought up in the beer circles.

    Peace love and hippies!

  24. Mr. Murphy

    October 29, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    @DOSiR re: “beer circles”

    Dude, where are the “beer circles”? I so totally want to go. Can you post the location and hours? Is that like an alien crop circle thing? Do they have Gruit?

    This is an insane development. The Portland beer scene is getting totally off the hook!

  25. J D

    October 30, 2010 at 5:11 am

    Man, that is one in-your-face blog. If you weren’t so good at supporting your decision to relegate these parties to your Enemies list, it would just be vindictive. But I have to say you’ve made strong arguments on every point, and I am with you.

    I suppose you and all bloggers have to understand that in some cases it is a matter of financial life and death, and that underlies why people might get so exorcised over negative comments. That being said, the job is simple: you either produce a product (beer) that draws people in, or you don’t. If your beer is good, or is enjoyed by a large enough clientele, you can simply thumb your nose at anybody who puts you down . . . “more room at the bar, ” you say. I think when it gets ugly and the threats begin is when the product itself is not that attractive or excellent, and there are financial fissures developing.

    thus, not that surprising that someone might get ugly.

    As for the pandering for beer in exchange for positive reviews, let me just throw up on that guy’s computer now, short-circuit his microprocessor, and save us all from a gigantic pile of worthless verbiage that is no more or less than a steaming pile of bribed advertising. An Enemy indeed!

  26. Aaron

    October 30, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    I’ll take that free beer if Ezra doesn’t want it. Oh wait, is that pandering for free beer? Ah screw it, someone buy me a beer.

  27. Cooking Asshole

    October 31, 2010 at 7:08 am

    On that chick’s facebook page she “liked” Dane Cook. Clearly evil.

  28. Kevin

    November 1, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    “Dosir,
    I am pretty sure I have seen you say things like ‘Liberals are ruining the world’ and made even statements of violence to people. You sir most definitely will remain on the list.”

    So Liberals aren’t ruining the world? I’m going to have to reread my Republican handbook; I’m almost certain I saw mention of it in there…and I’m pretty sure my wife is up to something nefarious.

    Cheers!
    Kevin
    http://www.beerandcoding.com

  29. Anonymous

    December 27, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    CRB’s clumsy self-promotion would be forgivable if the experience was ok. It’s like the difference between being tricked by your friends for your surprise party vs being tricked by Nigerian scammers. With the former, the experience is so good, you forgive the subterfuge, with the latter, your being robbed blind.

    CRB’s problem is not that they are deceptive, that’d be forgivable, if they had great food and beer. But the beer is bad and the food is even worse. Because of this the self-promotion is out and out lying. The place is a train-wreck and if beer Darwinian-ism is alive and well in Portland, CRB can not survive for long.

  30. Portland Beer Club

    January 4, 2011 at 4:21 am

    I started the Portland Beer Club around 2008 (who’s counting?) on Myspace. I then made the migration to Facebook, thus the wonderment of my claim to 2008 is solved. Yes, I have some ideas where I’d like to take it. I’m sorry that offends you. I’m not a professional journalist. I’m not a professional critic. I’m not a professional writer. I am a guy who likes beer, Portland, writing, sharing, and supporting. I know… so many evils to be had with all that. It’s a hobby of mine. It’s not my job. It’s for fun. I will continue to do it whether I have one Like or 1,000 Likes. It’s more for me than anything else. If it turns into something, great. I do know that I would rather climb my way up through kindness rather than bashing people I don’t really know. My dad built his business on extending a hand to everyone. It worked out very well for him, so I think I’ll stick with the plan.

    (more)

  31. Portland Beer Club

    January 4, 2011 at 4:22 am

    So one day I get a message from Heather Burkhardt, the daughter of the owner and helps with some of their promotion. It’s a family business. The same kind of thing I grew up with. She asks me if I’d be interested in checking out the new digs. I’ve never had an insider’s tour of a brewery so I jumped at it. I met Heather, her dad Rick, her mother, and their son in-law who operates the kitchen. They showed me around the brewery, Rick told me his story, and they set out a sampler tray for me and a friend I brought who conducts city and brewery tours. I then proceeded to pay for my own meal. I went home and wrote up a review of my experience. I then thought, “Well hot damn… maybe others would like to do the same.” So, I posted the notice inviting invites. I could give a rats ass about journalistic integrity. I want to meet the people in this community. If that’s one way to do it, so be it. And for the record, I have been back to CRB twice and paid for my beers and my food both times. I also will stand by my review and say that their beer is damn good, as is their food. I will also say the Paddler’s Porter is the best Porter I’ve had in years.
    (more)

  32. Portland Beer Club

    January 4, 2011 at 4:23 am

    What I love about the brewing community is the comradery between the brewers, breweries, pubs, etc. I embrace that kind of industry. And I have heard of a few who can’t get with it and throw out snarky comments and try to sabotage others. What a waste. It’s sort of like the old saying… “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” If I don’t like a place, and there’s a few, I won’t go back. But I won’t go online, hide behind a blog, and bash them. If they put out a crap product, provide bad service, or are just an overall bad experience the people will not go and they will close. It certainly won’t be because of my comments on my two bit blog.
    (more)

  33. Portland Beer Club

    January 4, 2011 at 5:38 am

    Apparently your blogsite isn’t letting me post my response correctly. Oh well…

  34. Anonymous

    July 12, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    In an area of the world that probably has the highest person/pub ratio I find it strange that a business would not at least try to rectify the most basic of customer complaints. I have looked through hundreds of reviews looking for new haunts and continually see the same thing listed under Ken Johnson’s Fearless Brewery. Good to great beers and crappy rude employees and food. I have been there many times (hey, it’s Estacada, I live here) and I believe the problem stems from the fact that the owner’s wife serves, cooks, and probably does food ordering. Crap in, crap out.She also does nothing to stem the flow of “rants” coming from her husband. They obviously get off on the “creepy”. People in town are scared of him and he claims to be friends with cops and politicians. Lots of bodies show up around here. If you are really thirsty take earplugs.

  35. ElGordo

    July 15, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    Dudes, I found Red Diamond. For real. Just hail a cab sometime, Ken.

    http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2011/07/portland_cabdrivers_push_ban_o.html

  36. Anonymous

    December 3, 2012 at 2:49 am

    ken is a evil man.have you seen the short, ugly fat, even more evil bitch of a wife? those people treat everyone like sh*t. they should just go way……

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