I got my July issue of BeerAdvocate magazine in the mail today. It marks the conclusion of my first year of subscription and serves as a good reminder to think about what the magazine has accomplished and what it represents from my wee northern perspective. And it gives me something to type about on a summer evening without baseball when I wrenched my back - meaning no beer as the little pills do their work. So, in no particular order:
- I like the tone the Alstroms take even though the index-pinkie salute stuff gets a bit silly. But they take both their beer and the writing quality seriously while being married to no brewer, style or region. The magazine celebrates the omnibibe - which is something we all should support.
- The selection of authors is good but, like other beer magazines, suffers from being a somewhat fixed list. This may just be a reality of how they have to contract with their authors to ensure they have enough quality print and, honestly, is no big whoop. I read Andy Crouch first, followed by Don Russell and then the beer reviews.
- And the Alstroms are polite even with the index-pinkie salute stuff. When a photo of mine ended up in the magazine, they were gracious in response. I was even a bit surprised by the email response to some helpful hints I offered which made the experience quite pleasant, far from what I first expected.
- I am not thrilled with the Canadian price, more than twice the US subscription even with the loonie at parity. Why must this be? Why must I spend two extra six packs of good ale per year compared to you just there over the border?
- Complaints? I find there's too much about beer and food. Not that I don't care but I really don't care that much. For me, beer and food pairing is a far smaller niche than, say, home brewing but gets much more of the coverage. Is it just the pr0n-ability of food photos? I would leave it at Sean Paxton's excellent monthly column. And the news section at the front is too often out of date, given the reality of blogs over-telling the same stories at least a month before.
- Perhaps an odd observation, their selection of advertisers is good, informative, seemingly loyal to the cause and also balanced between all sectors of the industry. Unlike other beer mags, there are not too many - something which may affect their bottom line but actually may be part of the overall plan. I find they add to the total mag experience.
- I wish there was a regular column featuring great pubs, focusing on just one bar a month. The city scene section is fine but its 25 words or less approach to describing a bar is a bit too haiku or classified ad.
- The beer reviews are great. I like how they are fair to a good imported lager and will share disappointment with the odd over-hyped special release. I like how they praise the beer that rates "B" rather than bemoan how it isn't an "A". Plus, I like the way reviews of two or three by a single brewer are often lumped together to give a sense of their range.
All in all, BeerAdvoca-zine is a strong addition to the global beery discourse. Best issue was the Scandinavian one. It goes some way to replace the lack of a CAMRA in North America. Is it too continental? Actually indicative of nowhere? Maybe the Alstroms needs to consider as it moves ahead somehow spinning off regional versions or local inserts to replicate those fabulous CAMRA branch quarterlies we all crave. I know I have not renewed, in case anyone brings that up, but I likely will soon - you should, too.
So, what is the emoticon for the index-pinkie salute? Maybe: ~!..!