I have written about beer magazines before but a recent stop at a book store made me realize that there are more magazines out there than ever and that it was maybe time to do some comparing. And, along with that, some consideration of what the deal is as I've always wondered who buys these publications. Maybe even though there is way more information about beer on the internet that is more up to date, we all know that you look like a dork taking your lap top when you go for a hair cut.
- All About Beer: This is the elder statesman of these five magazines, well into its 28th year of publication if the volume numbering is anything to go by. I have the November 2007 issue which sports the natty and welcome new layout and design. It has articles, flashy ads, columns by a number of the usual suspects, reviews by a number of the usual suspects as well as the fantastically useful "Buyers Guide For Beer Lovers" or BGFBL. The BGFBL in each issue takes a large number of known examples of a style, ranks them and give notes for each. A very useful information packed magazine that has taken a good look in the mirror and freshened its look. A small amount of gratuitous cheesecake in the vital 34 word article on America's sexiest bartender. Audience: the US beer geek over 30 who maybe once was a frat boy.
- Beer: This issue is the first and will be the last I buy. It really isn't aimed at the craft beer buyer - though it may be aimed at the young krappht beer fan. This issue has plenty of short articles that include trade PR cuttings from two months ago, a piece on how to tell one macro industrial brew from another and interesting bit about how to get a bartender to give you free beer. Oddly, there is plenty of cheesecake but much of it, even on different articles, seems strangely to be from the same photo shoot. Audience: the US frat boy with aspirations of one day being a beer geek over 30.
- Beers of the World: this UK beer mag now in its second year contains ads, now old trade PR cuttings, a lot of articles of three to five pages with a UK and European focus. My October 2007 issue has a good regional focus on Wales, notes from a visit to Bamburg, as well as a history of hops in under around 700 words and one by a usual suspect describing all of pale ale that might hit 1200 words...OK, I didn't count. My only complaint is that articles of this length rarely get too deep or provide information that you have not seem the same author repeat elsewhere. But the review section at the end is the best in all five magazines as it is written by the same one guy issue after issue creating a consistent body of work. Plenty of bright photos and really no skin. Audience: the people who read Stonch's blog yet who want to also learn more from a source that does not include his pal's body functions as recurring characters.
- Beer Advocate: I am happy with my subscription to the Beer Advocate magazine. It is likely the most focused of the group and the least cluttered with ads. This is a mag for the 5% of the beer market into craft beer in the USA. There is no cheesecake - unless a very bald Alstrom head counts...which it might. There are stale trade PR cuttings, which is a bit of a disappointment, but there are good long articles following the given theme of any issue. The reviews are very well done, logical and comparatively lengthy. It sort of has a new cast of usual suspects which is good if you are reading more than one magazine. It tends to present itself as relating to rocking out. Audience: former frat boys in their 20s and 30s who still wear black t-shirts and want to go one a beer tour with Stonch and his pals.
- Draft: Thank God for a magazine that doesn't have "beer" in the title. Except it seems to have a sub-title and even a sup-title as the full name is "The Beer Enthusiast's DRAFT: Life on Tap". Things are a bit cluttered up there on the cover. This one has been publishing for a year as of the September/October 2007 issue and also has beer page after page of huge ads, articles, some trade PR clippings and a well laid out beer view section. The articles are fairly long for a beer mag - not National Geographic but sometimes you have to turn more than two pages. There is a good focus on beer and food over a number of items as well as an odd cover interview of Randy Quaid in which I learn he likes golf. No cheesecake. Audience: people in their 30s and 40s who can name three Randy Quaid movies, who really don't think about the frat that much and like to drink craft beer and other stuff.
So do you buy beer mags? Which and why. Confess.