Jason and Todd Alstrom beseach users of their exhaustive online beer rating site to “Respect Beer.” The inaugural issue of BeerAdvocate print magazine does an admirable job of treating beer as if it deserves it.
The magazine’s elegant design sets the tone several notches above the “college frat party” ghetto in which beer often resides. The photos and illustrations are appealing, though for some reason they seem distancing and impersonal despite the fact that many of their subjects are real people in the beer scene. Strangely, the layout reminds me a bit of Adbusters, with its imposing images and minimalist text.
The columns cover the range of the expected: beer and food, beer travel, an “ask the beer geek” Q & A section, listings of beer events, and a handful of features on things such as the history of the beer can and a guide to beer cocktails.
I give the new BeerAdvocate Magazine high marks for the beauty of its design (even the ads are all professional – something that can’t be said of most beer publications). The eye-catching interior pages are designed to invite easy browsing (though the cover photo is a bit musty and unoriginal). But the writing lacks depth. None of the features are long enough to require a mid-article pee-break.
On the other hand, a full ten pages are devoted to lengthy beer reviews – so long that page 51 consists of just two verbose evaluations. This is too much even for me, an avowed beer geek who judges at contests and hosts innumerable beer tastings. Ten pages of self-indulgent reviews is boring. The emphasis on wordy beer analyses makes perfect sense considering the magazine was born from an online beer rating community, but there is a limit to the number of times I can read “. . . opaque, dark brown, nearly black. Bit of a frothy lace . . . ” before I turn the page.
Reviews like this are undoubtedly valuable feedback for the brewers who labor to craft them, but these psuedo-scientific examinations of what’s in the bottle fail to capture the more profound, subjective and spiritual experiences of drinking good beer with friends. The predominance of limited-release, $20 bottles containing the supposed “. . . Holy Grail for many beer geeks . . .” is further off-putting to someone looking for practical ways of finding and enjoying good beer.
I’m thirlled that BeerAdvocate Magazine is now a reality – America’s first monthly print publication dedicated to elevating beer from the denizens of beer-pong and sportstalk beer belly-ists. The publication’s stylish design bespeaks a mature perspective on the culture of beer. In future issues I’ll be looking for more in-depth articles dealing with a wider range of beer-friendly lifestyle topics and less self-important wine-snob-wannabe navel-gazing. There is an elusive balance spot that exists somewhere between chugging contests and arrogance. BeerAdvocate gets close to hitting that spot. Cheers to the Alstroms for creating a promising new forum for the study and celebration of beer. With publications like this educating and entertaining beer drinkers, beer is more liable to earn its respect rather than demand it.