Media Draft – Beer Magazine

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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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