Media Draft – Beer Magazine

Posted on Posted in Beer Magazine, Media Draft

Wow, there sure is a lot to loathe about Beer Magazine. Published by Think Omnimedia LLC, creator of such illustrious titles as Xtreme RC Cars and RC Heli Magazines, this full-gloss, bi-monthly mag is the newest addition to the increasingly crowded beer magazine niche. The editorial trick with Beer Magazine appears to be a marriage of beer and Maxim Magazine, just without the latter’s occasional revelations of smart writing and quick quips.

Led by executive editor Derek Buono, the premiere issue (Nov/Dec 2007) reads a bit like a primer on how to disrespect beer. The best I can say about Beer Magazine is that there is no false advertising here. If you buy this magazine and expect even remotely serious or respectful treatment of beer, it’d be like wandering into a frat house and expecting white linen table service.

beermag.jpgLet’s start with the cover, which featured a bleach blond bimbette (nice eyebrows) in a low cut top attempting to bite the top of a Pyramid hefeweizen. While I’m sure that beer loving dentists everywhere are excited about the prospect of the cover model’s ensuing bridge work, it’s a pretty ridiculous teaser for a lame feature topic, namely ‘7 Ways to Open a Beer.’ For those bookstore browsers considering whether to buy the magazine, you may be enticed by the cover’s offer of a “Great American Beer Challenge,? where you can learn whether the editors preferred Budweiser, Coors, or Schlitz. That doesn’t do it for you? Well, the editors all promise ratings for a whopping ’12 Beers.’ The last cover tag makes me want to track down the editors, the publisher, and their respective influences and drown them all in a bottomless vat of Aspen Edge. The coup de grace, “Toilet Paper Wipeout – Which Paper Treats You Best?? You really can’t make this stuff up.

Beyond the crude cover, the table of contents lets you know the company you’re about to keep for $4.99 an issue. In two spread pages, we get to see 1) close-ups of cans of Budweiser, Coors, PBR, Olympia, Miller High Life and Genuine Draft, Schlitz, Milwaukee’s Best, and Hamms, 2) three bikinied broads playing beer pong, and 3) someone opening a beer with their sandal. If you love good beer and still bought it, smack yourself for the considerable lapse in judgment.

In the heart of the magazine, I’m a little disturbed to see the number of craft brewers who have ponied up precious funds to support this troubling publication (please tell me the first issue was comped). The magazine is such an affront to what most craft brewers are trying to accomplish that I feel compelled to list the names of full page advertisers (Shiner, Bridgeport, Widmer, Dogfish Head, Buffalo Bill’s Brewery, Brewery Ommegang, Flying Dog, Alaskan, the Brewers Association, Redhook, and Trumer). If any of these breweries have ads running in the next issue, I’m personally going to take a break from their beers for a while in silent protest.

The letter from executive editor Buono promises that the magazine will be “putting the fu back into beer.? From the accompanying photo, I’m not sure if Buono is the guy dressed as the keg, the gay pirate giving me the finger, or the guy with the AC/DC T-shirt, mullet, plaid vest, showing his derivative of the ‘hang loose’ and ‘shocker’ hand gestures. Buono tells his readers that when he reviewed the existing publications on the subject, he felt something was missing and he wanted to create a magazine that really connected with how he “genuinely felt about beer.? Beer Magazine is his well-considered magnus opus. It’s a college aged guy’s guide to beer and one he advises readers to “put in the bathroom.?

The hodge-podge nature of the design can make your head spin after a few pages. One of my personal favorite parts of the magazine, which screams, ‘Shit, dude, we totally need to run two extra pages of shit here, what are we going to do?,? is the bi-monthly calendar. A measly dozen or so beer-related events over two months are listed in nearly unreadable 6 point, while full color photos inform readers about the coming of National Cake Day, National Ring Noodle Day, Walt Disney’s Birthday, Tanzania Independence Day, along with the birthdays of a half-dozen, half-clad female celebrities. Keep up the good work, boys.

The Beer Anatomy section details the history, ingredients, and brewing process behind the pilsener style. While the basic information is passable, the selected examples (Heineken and Labatt Blue among them) make you wonder whether anyone on the staff actually knows about the craft beer revolution. The tenor of the article is refreshingly respectful and even-handed. The article’s author, Mike Velez, who is also the magazine’s publisher, continues with a more light-hearted take on how to properly store beer. With this article, you can begin to see how the magazine could find a niche in the crowded beer magazine market place. The lead (which tries to relate beer storage to a character from Pulp Fiction) is clearly designed to appeal to the Maxim/frat crowd. The information is user-friendly and humorously presented for the targeted audience.

When we get to the first feature, I begin to sense that it may be Buono who is bringing down the ship. The editor and his staff inevitably had months if not a year or more to plan the big first feature. And what do they come up with? The “Great American Beer Shootout: Blue Collar Beer.? It’s a blind tasting of nine macro beers, how creative. Now for full disclosure, I don’t dislike this article simply because I’m pissed that MGD came in dead last in ninth place (why there weren’t ten brands, I have no idea). Let’s be clear on that. The seven-page spread feature, with close up photos of each entry’s can next to a full pint of the beer (with the uniform color of the background pint, I’m pretty sure they just used the same beer in each shot), is just so tired. But it pales in comparison to…

…the next feature, ‘7 Ways to Open a Beer Bottle.’ Wow, I can’t believe we made it 38 pages without bikinis and implants. Apparently, these ladies know some party tricks. You can too with this five-page spread. Buono does better with his article on beer glasses, which attempts to transition college kids from plastic cups to proper glassware. The article on homebrewing is expected and achieves its limited goals, while the features on the 10 funniest beer commercials on Youtube and How to Get a Free Beer seem well-suited and topical paeans to the magazine’s audience. As promised, the magazine contains 12 well-chosen reviews of better beers, including Firestone Double Barrel Ale, Sierra Nevada Porter, and Deschutes Pale Ale. The reviews use a 100-point scale, give a useful graphic map of where the beers are available in the United States, and suggest proper serving temperatures. The magazine, of course, wouldn’t be complete without an illustrated article on the rules and regulations of beer pong.

And finally, the toilet paper feature. Sigh. Derek Buono, did you wait until the very last minute to brainstorm the content of the magazine? Did half of your writers suddenly quit or call in to work hungover? With such choice sidebars as the “Softness to Dingle Ratio,? if this is ‘beer lifestyle,’ then count me out. I’ll save you the $5 cover charge, Angel Soft won the battle, besting Charmin. We do learn on the last page of the magazine, in its Tapped Out department, that the article was a last minute addition. And that dingleberry is actually one word, not two. Valuable insights, to be sure.

Beer Magazine is published every other month with an eye towards eventual monthly publishing. The editor is quick to note that entertainment is the publication’s first and main goal. I imagine that if Fred ‘The Ogre’ Palowakski from Revenge of the Nerds could read, he’d love the magazine. Reading Beer Magazine is kind of like watching a really awful David Hasselhoff movie or reading Jewel’s Poetry. It can be fun for a few minutes, but then you start to feel really sorry for the person behind it.

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12 thoughts on “Media Draft – Beer Magazine

  1. Also it’s always nice to see somebody working for another beer magazine to be so welcoming. Anyway, thanks for the mention. That’s the longest review of our magazine, which was well thought out, funny, and well written. If you were half as good, half as funny, and not well thought out I’d ask you if you wanted to write for us.

  2. Since I’m not finishing one of our other world peace, mind blowing magazines, I’ll now offer my counter part to you, and your reader.

    A. We are a publishing company, we have other titles that are not about beer. What we do publish are things we have an interest in, so our magazines are designed around the enthusiast (you’d be surprised in the similarities between “hobbies”) and are made first for a reader and then as a business. We are not some company with no publishing background. The owner started his company over 11 years ago, and we’re in most major bookstores around the world.

    B. While you may not see what we are doing, or maybe you do is bring in readers that are more casual about beer. We never intended our magazine to attract the beer geek who posts every minute of his life how he cannot find a good beer anymore. We are targeting a younger drinker that is just coming into the age of discovering the wide variety of quality beer around the country and isn’t going to read just about beer.

    My analogy for you is that Michael Schumacher doesn’t read F1 magazine to learn how to drive, and why would a brewer or a beer wizard level 12 look to read a magazine to learn more about what he already thinks he knows (everything)?

    But as a “beginner magazine” (which I’ll use loosely because we actually have a lot of good quality content for the beer enthusiast) we are looking to bring an awareness to beer, and not just craft. Those “people” who craft enthusiast seem to have who drink BMC (the majority of sales right) can actually like their beer and are happy with it. People can like things we don’t. But I think that if you immediate talk to them like craft beer is a different social class…well they won’t listen.

    So the feedback I’ve gotten from readers is been really positive, offering good feedback and seemingly the target we intended. They are beer drinkers that like a fun magazine to read and one that they will learn something from. Even if they walk away with just one piece of beer information, or the inclination to try a craft beer instead of what they normally drink my goal as a magazine is complete.

    I’ll leave arguing who is the best beer, best beer drinker, and the quest for the beer that doesn’t exist to the internet where its’ fun to pretend that one opinion is more valuable than another.

    I’ve even gotten some emails from other people in the industry that didn’t like Issue 1 (mainly because we had a few too many Boob pictures) have said they heard good things about #2 and are starting to “get” what we are doing. But I’m the one bringing down the entire craft movement, lol. We’ll I guess I’ll be famous for something other than my Toilet Paper Shootout.

  3. Depending on who you’re talking too, the craft beer industry pulls in about 5-7% of U.S. beer sales. Adding 15% or so for imports, that leaves a huge market of approximately 80% or so of what the most vocal and more obnoxious beer geeks like to refer to as BudCoorsMiller beer drinkers, while throwing in the obligitory dig to their favorite products as “swill” or “fizzy water.”

    I’m not here, however, to discuss the subjectiveness of the taste of beers, but rather to bring up the snobbiness that surrounds the craft beer industry, the pseudo-elitism that shouts “My beer is better than yours” whenever beers like Schlitz, Pabst and Hamms are mentioned, aside from the usual digs at current mainstream beers.

    Now Beer Magazine comes along, and because it doesn’t subscribe to the fawning notion that everything the craft beer industry pumps out is pure nectar, it’s immediately attacked.

    But wait; there’s more. From the derogatory reference to the model on the magazine’s cover as a “bleach blond ‘bimbette’,” to your mention of an inside story that features “three bikinied ‘broads’ playing beer pong,” I wonder what happened to political correctness and sexism in your neck of the woods?

    Most of the beer rags that are now on newstands are filled with monthly stories that follow the same old stories with a typical and uninspiring approach; new brewpub opens up, old pub closes, same beer reviewers demonstrate their tired uses of obscure beer industry terminology that does little to make me go out and try the beer, but does help me to decide to turn the page and let my subscription lapse. The monthly features wind up being little more than gossip and endorsement columns, probably stoked by free meals, beer and swag. Those breweries who advertise in these publications probably realize that they’re actually preaching to the choir—the 5%—since the remaining 80% market of beer drinkers who seldom pick up a craft beer, surely wouldn’t pick up one of these craft beer-oriented papers and magazines either.

    And now Derek Buono comes along and disregards a tired business model that targets that 5% market of craft beer drinkers and looks at that 80% who don’t live and breathe beer, who couldn’t give 2 shits about some sour farmhouse beer from Belgium, but might like a few light-hearted stories that have the slightest connection to beer. And at the same time, Buono somehow manged to entice Shiner, Bridgeport, Widmer, Dogfish Head, Buffalo Bill’s Brewery, Brewery Ommegang, Flying Dog, Alaskan, the Brewers Association, Redhook, and Trumer to advertise in his magazine.

    Why? Because these breweries are probably looking at courting the untapped 80% who might pick up one of their beers, without this ignored and abused market reading the typical drivel about how stupid and unsophisticated they are, and instead, reading about the joys of boiling a hot dog in a Coors Lite or the joy of pairing a MacDonalds burger with an ice cold glass of Pabst rather that one more story about hunting down an obscure Belgian Bomber that some “expert” insists can only be paired with a $45 per pound runny cheese made from the unpasteurized milk from cows from a small village in southern France.

    Even Buono points out in his posted reply that “We never intended our magazine to attract the beer geek who posts every minute of his life how he cannot find a good beer anymore.” But his business model, from a guy who has actually put his money where his mouth is, isn’t good enough for you? At least the guy is trying.

    You say that “The magazine is such an affront to what most craft brewers are trying to accomplish…” Clue me in here, but I think most craft brewers are trying to make a profit, maybe have some money left over for a marriage, a mortgage, groceries and maybe one day, enough money to expand their operations. You can only do this when you reach an audience big enough to keep you brewing at full-capacity.

    Your remark that one artcle “…seem[s] well-suited and topical paeans to the magazine’s audience” or that “its appeal is clearly designed to appeal to the Maxim/frat crowd” really smacks of elitism, no, let me correct that, pure snobism. It’s us vs. them; Intelligent craft beers drinkers vs. the unwashed masses who drink “swill.”

    Fortunately, the folks at Shiner, Bridgeport, Widmer, Dogfish Head, Buffalo Bill’s Brewery, Brewery Ommegang, Flying Dog, Alaskan, the Brewers Association, Redhook, and Trumer have decided to skip the pseudo-intellectual bullshit that permeates, not the craft brewing industry per se, but the small group of vocal geeks who’ve managed to turn off so many of the Joe-Sixpacks. These “Blue Collar” beer drinkers might want to pick up a six-pack of Three Floyds Alpha King, perhaps, except for the image in their head of the annoying skinny Mac jackass in the PC vs. Mac commercials. It’s that same snobby image that keeps the BudCoorsMiller crowd from trying craft beer. Ever notice though, that they seem to find no problem with ordering an import?

    Why are import sales growing every year? Why does the BudCoorsMiller beer drinker think nothing of ordering an import? Because importers aren’t positioning their beer drinkers as smarter than the BudCoorsMiller drinkers. And please don’t sneer that that’s not imported beer; that they’re drinking “Heineken and Labatt Blue.”

    So good luck to the people behind Beer Magazine and good luck too to the craft brewers who realize that it will take more than “training wheel” beers to attract that fat and lucrative 80% of the market that wants to try a craft beer or two. Treat them with respect, tone down the slurs about their [lack of] tastes in beer, don’t talk down to them and encourage craft brewers to expand their advertising in magazines with more generalized appeal—and watch craft beer sales grow.

    P.S. Andy, I noticed that you didn’t mention, in the spirit of full disclosure, your affilliation with BeerAdvocate Magazine, where you write a column, and your bi-monthly feature for Beverage Magazine.

    After hammering a competitive magazine like Beer, it would have been nice to mention this before you went after a brand new, first issue, of a competitor.

  4. Hi Bob and welcome back to BeerScribe.

    I had actually intended to let Derek’s recent comments remain the last word on the topic but I’ll comment briefly on some of the points you raise. I think that if you look back upon the hundreds of articles I’ve written over the last decade, you would be hard pressed to conclude that I’m a snob when it comes to the larger brewers. If that’s your thought, I’m going to hook you up with the vocal group of people who think I go too easy on the big guys and let me know what you all come up with. As to the PC issues, they were offered tongue-in-cheek in case you missed it…

    As stated in my first media draft, I couldn’t agree more on the state of present day American beer writing, especially when it comes to the bi-monthly ‘brewspapers.’ The problems are myriad, including poor writing and conflicts of interest stemming from, as you note, free schwag.

    And let’s be clear about Beer Magazine, it’s intended audience, and its effect. I have no problem with a magazine that chooses to focus less on beer geek issues and more on mainstream beer-related content. I also have no problem, and see a market for, a publication with a sense of humor and style that caters to a younger, male demographic. Beer Magazine, as I pointed out in detail in the review, fails to achieve these goals. A review is inherently a subjective thing, as you note, and I personally found the writing and content to be stale and poorly executed. I think there is a market here for a smarter publication (a la Maxim). Beer Magazine is not it.

    You seem to harbor the opinion that I am anti-big brewer. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a single reference in any article I’ve ever written to swill or any other derogatory term about the products produced by the big breweries. As that seems to be the central theme underlying your screed (‘pseudo-intellectual bullshit,’ ‘pseudo elitism,’, ‘snobbiness,’ ‘stupid and unsophisticated,’ ‘blue collar,’ ‘Joe Sixpacks’), I suggest you rethink it. Or at least take your argument to the beer geeks who have so clearly struck a bad chord with you.

    The main point, on which I hope all beer writers and lovers can agree, is this: It’s about respecting beer, all beer. When a writer, brewer, or distributor disrespects beer, I have a problem with that. When Boston Beer disrespected beer by appearing on a sex game show on the Opie and Anthony Show, I took it to task. I take the big brewers to task for disrespecting beer in some of their advertisements, and praise other big breweries who treat beer with respect. I also take beer geeks to task (in my articles and in on-line forums) for criticizing big brewers in the thoughtless and simplistic terms that you mentioned in your comment. And when an editor and a new magazine disrespect beer, as I believe Beer Magazine has in its premiere issue, I will take it to task as well.

    You noted that “Beer Magazine comes along, and because it doesn’t subscribe to the fawning notion that everything the craft beer industry pumps out is pure nectar, it’s immediately attacked.”

    I think the situation is actually reversed. I’ve long promoted being honest and critical of the industry, and I’m among a small minority here and have taken a lot of flack for it (see comments on the recent Rapscallion thread or read my book). Beer Magazine doesn’t have a critical bone in its body and certainly should not be immune from criticism for its misdeeds.

    I think your larger, if misdirected, point is a good one. Craft brewers need to carefully balance themselves so as to promote a superior product (in terms of flavor, aroma, taste, ingredients, or whatever they choose to focus on) while not alienating the average beer drinker (who may or may not care about craft beers at any point in their lives). That doesn’t mean, however, that they should debase their product and its value or align themselves with those who do.

    And finally, about your comment on disclosure. I specifically ran a disclaimer at the beginning of this Media Draft series about my writing relationships (similar to your point, and in agreement with Derek, I would disagree that BeerAdvocate and Beer Magazine actually compete with one another; they target very different audiences that are not likely to overlap. Beverage Magazine is entirely a trade magazine with a closed audience of subscribers so little competition there either). As I’m sure you know (as you quoted from it), it appears on the same page as the Beer Magazine review. Now if you think it should run in every article I post (along with the other half-dozen magazines I occasionally contribute to), that’s something I’d consider. But the information is available on that page and dozens of others (including the ‘About’ page)…

    Best,

    Andy

    P.S. I’ve just received a copy of your recent Chicago brewing history book and I look forward to reviewing it in a future issue.

  5. I’ve read both issues, and while I agree that they’re not a suitable read for beer geeks or beer snobs (there is certainly a difference), I think Derek is right in that he is trying to open the world of beer up to others who only know BudMillerCoors. I respect that. Look, everyone has a gateway beer, and I think he’s trying to introduce those beers to people who are at the gate. I know that when I was 23, I would have been totally stoked about this magazine. I love boobs, and I love beer. Even when I only loved Miller Lite. So cut the guy some slack, man, because you may not see it now, but he’s doing all of us a favor by bringing new people over to good beer.

  6. I am one of the people who wrote a letter to Derek about the first and second issues of Beer Magazine. (Was printed in Issue #3, actually.) I didn’t like the many bikini women in the first issue, and thought it has been nicely toned down since.

    But your review DID come off as elitist and snobby. Listen, not every beer is for every person, and I’ll say the same thing about magazines. But you talk about what craft brewers are “trying to do”, and I think you’re missing the point here. Craft brewers are trying to make 2 things: Money, and Good Beer. They’re not going to make the first if people don’t drink their beer, and they’re not going to make the second if they don’t get enough of the first, mate. The reason so many excellent brewers signed on as advertisers to support this mag is because they feel that the Beer Mag people are helping them accomplish their goals. It’s the only explanation that makes sense. They think enough people will be influenced by their ads in this magazine that it will positively impact sales, and I do believe they’re right.

    See, others have said this, but it bears repeating. You may not think you come off as snobby or elitist, but to the average yellow, fizzy beer drinker, you do. I am a homebrewer…I brew nothing lighter than an English Bitter (admittedly light). But I work with an office full of people who drink nothing but Coors Light…Bud Light. That’s it. When I first got to this office, I made fun of their beer. I told them it was pure crap. I didn’t say it in so many words, but I definitely said it. I realized something: These people were actually LESS receptive to trying beers I was drinking when I was saying things like that.

    The Beer Mag people realize that they have the unique opportunity to bridge the gap here. They can review the domestic “yuck” beers in the premiere issue, rope in those who drink such beers into buying a subscription (and getting their bud a free one into the bargain), and then show them a side of beer that they never knew existed. I just got done reading issue #3, and there’s a good article in there about homebrewing. What beers you think they’ll homebrew? Ales are easiest because of their warmer fermentation temperature, and when they go to buy their first kit, they Local Homebrew Store guy will tell them that. They’ll drink the ale…like it because they made it….and MAYBE develop a taste for better beers.

    This issue’s article on Stone Brewery was top-notch. They reviewed some more beers I’d never tried. They wrote an article on how to smell your beer. All of these articles and reviews are interesting to someone who loves GOOD beer, like myself, and yet accessible to those who don’t know what good beer is. It’s easy to see what they’re trying to do.

    Your review was very well-written, but I think misdirected. I enjoy the magazine (now that they’ve toned down the bikini chicks) and look forward to the rest of my subscription. I’m even going to be adding another year to it today.

  7. I recently finished the latest issue of this magazine (which, in fact includes a section devoted entirely to this review) and I must say that I was not impressed. I found the articles to be pretty basic (though with a decent amount of knowledge for someone who has never read about beer before) and some down right boring. Now, while this particular rag is not my style (I consider myself to be a little better educated, in terms of beer anyway, than “Joe Six-pack”) I have more than a few friends who would find this magazine helpful, entertaining and, dare I say it, well done. So, while I will not be filling out a subscription card anytime soon, or even purchase another issue off the news stand, I hope that Beer Magazine taps into that audience they are targeting. No pun intended.

    -Sean

    P.S. I have never read Beer Advocate, but I am a fan of Draft Magazine. It has interesting and well written features and still maintains and “everyman” style that won’t put off “Joe Six-pack”.

  8. It just gets deeper. Over at http://www.northernbrewer.com, a member discovered that Beer Magazine had taken someone’s photos from a website and published them without permission, only seeking to make things right once they got caught. Add copyright infringement to the list of tacky things about this magazine (still not as bad as that cover).

  9. Got to say that I am a fan of beer and boobs alike. This magazine is great. You should pick up Beer Advocate. I read it whenever I can.

    P.S. That cover was pretty bad, I have to admit.

    Avi Adelman
    Dallas, Texas

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