Thursday, April 8, 2010

Your Thoughts on Beer Publications

Here you are reading a beer blog. It's unlikely that It's Pub Night is your only Internet source for beer information, so I assume you read other blogs, maybe online forums, or maybe you even subscribe to an antiquated email discussion group.

But what about printed media? Do you find any of these worth your time:
I'm sure I left off some important publications.  There, I've admitted my own ignorance, you don't have to bring it up again in the comments, but please do fill in the blanks if there's another magazine or tabloid out there that you enjoy reading.

What got me thinking about this question was a comment on my San Francisco vs. Portland post.  The Bay Area correspondent for the Northwest Brewing News recommended the February/March 2010 issue of the paper, which had a cover story called Bay Area Alehouses.  As it happens, I had indeed read that article before my trip to San Francisco, but had not found it useful or memorable.  Why not?  For starters, it only mentioned a handful of places in downtown San Francisco, and I had no plans for going further afield.  Moreover, as I read the article, I noticed that it didn't mention any specific beers served at any of the bars, but it did mention the name of the owner or manager of every single place.  That must be fascinating information for a local insider, but for a tourist or dabbler it was useless and actually quite annoying to read such a tour de force of name-dropping.  So annoying that I put down the article and never gave it another thought until Mario brought it up.

It put me in the mood to write a blog post lambasting the NWBN for being such a lame publication.  Scanning the Feb/Mar edition I found another annoyance:  an article on beer pricing with a section headed "Let there be Honest Pints!", which didn't mention Jeff Alworth's Honest Pint Project.  But even though I was in a nasty mood, I couldn't find much else to complain about in that issue or the subsequent April/May issue (well, the Beer Bitch column is a joke that stopped being funny a long time ago).  Instead, I'm going to make a point of picking up the NWBN whenever I see a new issue; there's plenty of good information in there, especially about other areas I'm less up-to-date on.

This train of though also got me thinking that I need to put my money where my mouth is and subscribe to Beer Advocate.  The magazine itself never knocks me off my feet, but the BA website is an invaluable part of the community and I want to pitch my dollar into their tip jar.

So I ask you, gentle readers.  What are your thoughts on dead-tree beer publications?


  1. Derek: Because they're dull? Or is it the inky fingers and paper cuts?

  2. Because I collect pretty much anything beer related, I grab all the free beer publications I see laying around in breweries and beer bars.

    I don't subscribe to the pay magazines for the same reason I no longer get the paper: all of the same information is available for free on the internet.

    The blogs that actually do reporting (unlike mine which basically documents the status of my garage and my problem with hoarding) usually have way more relevant and timely information about what I'm interested in and what's going on around me than the big publications do. In a world where numerous rare kegs will be tapped and blow, and where impromptu events will be planned, and thrown before next month's issue comes out, it's pretty hard for print to compete.

  3. Down here in Austin we have the Southwest Brewing News that I read because it's free and in my favorite brewpubs (and yours...the Draught House).

    Mainly I read it to see what's happening in the Austin brewing scene and to pass the time waiting for my late friends (they're not date just time challenged ;-).

  4. Scanning the Feb/Mar edition I found another annoyance: an article on beer pricing with a section headed "Let there be Honest Pints!", which didn't mention Jeff Alworth's Honest Pint Project.

    That IS annoying. But you know, maybe they're unfamiliar with the Google.

    As for dead tree publications, Draft and BeerAdvocate are two I read. Since I have my head pretty deeply buried in the Oregon sand, I don't follow national news as much as I should, so I appreciate the dead tree media. Both of those mags do a great job. I'd read Beer NW a little closer, but except for features, I'm pretty familiar with the subject. (If I move away, I'll get a subscription.)

  5. Thanks, gents. Looks like free publications still have an audience; ones that cost money may be in trouble. Or maybe just the print audience is different than the blog audience.

    Jeff: what do you like about Draft Magazine? Is it worth subscribing to?

  6. I used to read a bunch of beer publications; Free, Beer Rag Mags, subscription mags and home brewing mags. Reading everything from Zymurgy & Brewing Techniques to 'All About Beer' and free issues of Celebrator. After awhile I stopped buying magazines and would only acquire a 'Celebrator' when free.

    I think Celebrator in the best informational, beer article and hype mags on the west coast. Haven't seen one for awhile.

    The ever present Northwest Beer News is a crude publication with some sad articles and often misinformed info. Few up coming events and mostly articles about events that have already past. Long past! Reminds me of Celebrator 20 years ago, but never grew up. That said, the master publishing has regional versions for all parts of the USA. Maybe other regions are better written?

    Most Beer publications I see today are dumbed-down pretty-picture magazines. The articles are brainlessly simple and not very informative.

    Draft may be an exception, I've never seen one. Beer Advocate is pretty brain numbingly boring. I've read a few good articles in Imbibe.

    In general, I find all the beer info I need from beer friends and blogs around the world. Plus, I receive Beer News emailed to me from a plethora of sources.

    I really have no need for most publications.

    I do pick up the NW Beer News for a quick read of events that I've already missed and a good laugh. Anybody read the POORLY informative Sour Beer articles in the recent issue? I think we got more Sour Beer History depth from a single Jeff Alworth blog blurb. ;-}

  7. I dunno, Doc, I thought the sour beer article was OK as an intro. It was kind of dumb to follow that article with a Beer Bitch column about sour beers that didn't add any information, and stupidly confused the H1N1 virus with "bacteria and yeast".

    How would you have done a 2-page sour beer article differently?

    I forgot about Celebrator. The articles on their website are ludicrously out of date, but it looks like they are still publishing in print.

  8. Ok lets just get this out of the way. BEER NW is complete garbage. Just a bunch of recycled bullshit and photos and ads. Most of the articles are written by people that dont know shit about beer. The good writers quickly leave because the editor is crap and they dont pay people.
    In fact if I had to list off reasons that I write The New School, reason #2 would be to put crap like Beer NW out of business.

    Ok now that thats out of the way I have read some bad stuff in NWBN but overall it is pretty informative about new breweries and beers and techniques and all that. But yeah the Beer Bitch column is incredibly lame.

    The best info source I have is Twitter, and 2nd is Beer
    After that I just read local or relatively local. Have about 20 of them bookmarked.

  9. That took long enough, Ezra! I was so afraid this would just look like a softball lobbed at you that I didn't end up mentioning your feud with Beer NW. And I was hoping you'd throw out the P-word, though maybe you're saving that for a New School diatribe.

    What is reason #1 for writing The New School?

  10. As a writer for the NW Brewing News, I should probably just leave this one alone...but I think it's an interesting discussion.

    1) I think beer mags, including NWBN, serve a very different purpose than blogs and online news sites. Blogs have changed the game for sure, and most of us (I do have more timely info than a beer pub will ever be able to have because of editing/printing schedules. But, it's still nice to have a free, advertiser supported publication to pick up while having a beer. Mostly these are useful for their feature stories, rather than their timely, hard news stories, in my opinion. Profiles on breweries and brewers, tasting panels (which I run as well), and other non-time-sensitive features.

    I have to have my content in at least a month ahead of printing, and then it is on the shelves for two months. So, what you read could sometimes have been written about 3 months ago. I do my best to write about upcoming events, my Seattle column, and I'd say about 75% of what I write there is not a review of something which already happened in the past. But, there is usually a bit. Same with Celebrator, though. Example of how timing is an issue: Seattle Beer Week coming up in May is covered under the current issue on the stands. At the time of printing, the organizers had pretty much nothing to share other than what I included. Did the best we could, but it is going to be missing key events and info for sure. But, is it better to not mention it? I don't think so.

    2) If you ever have comments for writers, including myself, absolutely email us. That's why the email addresses are included in every article. NWBN ain't going anywhere, so try and help us make it better. I'm no expert when it comes to beer or writing, so I appreciate the little feedback I do receive.

    3) As for the POORLY informative sour beer feature that is in the latest issue (written by me), what would you suggest should have been done differently? I'd love some constructive criticism, rather than just hearing that it sucked. My intention wasn't to put together an informative article for uber beer geeks. It was to write something that might be interesting to a wide range of readers (your average NW pub drinker), in regards to their existing knowledge (or lack of) of sour beer.

    4) Yes, I agree that the Beer Bitch column is really, really, really awful.

    Geoff Kaiser

  11. Geoff: Mighty bold of you to jump in here. Thanks for commenting.

    I had the same question for Dr. Wort (the commenter who complained about your article): How would you have done it differently?

    I don't think I'll email anyone and tell them that the name-dropping in their article turned me off. But I will drop a line to the guy who neglected to mention the Honest Pint Project.

  12. Correction: email addresses are not included with every article in NWBN, actually very few of the articles have an accompanying email address (though many can be found in the masthead). But the two articles I was complaining about don't have them. C'est la vie.

  13. How about bad. I thought email addresses were always included. Maybe I've just paid attention that mine is always included. If you have a comment and there is no email address, then I'd sent it to the editor, Alan Moen at

  14. I take back my statement on the Sour Beer article being poorly written. It's fine for those who generally read NW News.


    Damn dude! Got a cross to burn with someone at NW News? :-o It is, what it is. Hey, how much you paying to to write columns for the 'New School?' Maybe we can get together and start a column and call it, 'grumpy old beer farts.'