I picked up issue #7 of Beers of the World magazine the other day. It is a UK journal pretty much geared for the English market. This places the North American reader at a disadvantage from the get-go with the subject matter centered elsehere. The magazine has a website which has yet to update to issue #7 but which should still help give you an clear idea of what you might expect.
My first and maybe only real criticism is that the editorial tone is purely positivist. Pretty much everything is described in the "goods", "betters" or "bests" of plummy commerical writing that is maybe fine as an introduction for the newbie and will likely help the magazine with its long-term relationships in the PR and marketing world but it does leaves you wondering about what is really going on. The worst example of this is perhaps the article "Raising Cains" by Andrew Catchpole in which the revival of this Liverpudlian brewery by brothers Ajmail and Sudarghara Dusanj provided semi-oblique references to local distrust of these enterpreneurs as long-term partners in that City. That they are identified upfront as "Asian" in that UK way and how we learn about their rejection for membership in the Independent Family Brewers of Britian may be some sort of code used by a sympathetic author. It may be he wants to let us know that the business has faced a certain level of racism but it is couched in such polite tones, matching the rest of the magazine's tenor, that you feel there is an actual story here needing digging out but that perhaps the necessary call of advertising revenue to a year-old publication may bar that sort of degree of journalistic rigour. This is not to say the negative is the essence of criticism (there is, for example, a reason some brewers do call it "HateBeer") but too much "hooray for everything!" starts to smack of something.
Yet even with that, this magazine is a good old read. Veteran beer writer Roger Protz has submitted a good survey of the remaining producers of mild in England's West Midlands. There is a short biography of Pierre Celis, serial savior of Belgian white beer and also a short introduction to the recently vandalized Ring O' Bell's Brewery from very south-western England. Unfortunately, there are also a number of short pieces which are little more than rewritten brewery PR pieces - some with alarmingly tiny grey on white font - but the longer bits carry the day. Plus, near the end, there is a handy and honest set of thirty reviews of beers available in England ranging in ranking from 6.25 out of ten to 9 out of ten. While this is a fairly tight range and some of the Baltic lagers rated here might be more honestly in the sub-50% failing zone on a review site like Beer Advocate or RateBeer, the one thing I really like is that one reviewer - by the name Jeff Evans - has done all the work, giving you a sense of personal perspective in the ratings that all the guruiffic allegedly VIP raters you might read elsewhere might never give you. And, finally, there are the ads. This may sound odd but one thing a publication like this gives you is its local local colour and as I am so far away from the target audience of this magazine, checking out the sort of firm that places a classified is as interesting as reading the longer articles as a means of measuring the thing as a whole, not to mention they are simply informative in the way ads would be if you were reading a newspaper written for the bus and coach manufacturing industry of New Zealand or Iowa.
I would recommend this magazine to anyone interested in beer. Lots of good ale-y pr0n photographs and more than enough new information to make it worth your while. I picked up this one, the October 2006 issue, for $6.95 CND at Indigo last week.