Last November, I noticed this ad near the back of an issue of Restaurant Startup & Growth magazine:
When I followed web address, I was shocked at what I saw:
-No mention of boiling the wort.
-No mention of tank cleaning.
-No mention of oxygenation.
-No mention of how to deal with the CO2 produced during fermentation.
-No mention of how to troubleshoot problems without a qualified brewer.
-A requirement for a hot water source, but no warning that the water can't be softened.
-A 7-day fermentation cycle that includes two days of cooling. No maturation.
-A claim that three tanks equals five beers on tap at all times ("ask about mixing beers to produce additional flavors").
-A claim that ingredients alone cost $0.26 per pint, which makes a total cost of $0.30 per pint highly suspect.
-A claim that SPI's beer won a bunch of awards from a competition that I can't find any record of.
-A claim that a book written by Leigh Beadle, the company founder, started the US homebrewing revolution.
That's the short list. It's possible that Specialty Products International conducts itself with the utmost integrity and addresses all of these issues in their dealings with individual customers. I doubt it, though. If their system was really a convenient solution to a whole host of brewing problems, I'd expect to find at least find one mention of it in a search of brewing industry publications. One thing is certain: SPI isn't marketing its products to people who know how to make beer.
That bothered me quite a bit, but what bothered me more was RS&G's response when I wrote to one of their publishers to point out that the ad was likely exploiting their subscribers' ignorance: no acknowledgment of any sort. A "thanks for the info, but we need to honor our current agreement with SPI" or "you're biased and have insufficient credentials for us to take action on" or "we care more about ad revenue than actually helping restaurateurs" would have been fine. Pulling the ad would've sufficed as well, but it's appeared in every single issue since. I'm sure it brings in more money than my subscription, which will hopefully expire soon.
Does anyone who reads this weblog have firsthand experience with a Beadle Brewing System? I'd call SPI and ask a bunch of questions myself, but doing so with no intention of becoming a customer would make me feel dirty. That's why reporters are paid the big bucks.