Thursday, July 13, 2006


In Northern California there exists a free monthly magazine devoted exclusively to craft beer called THE CELEBRATOR. If you live in the United States, you doubtless have one of these papers in your neck of the woods as well – ALE STREET NEWS on the East Coast, NORTHWEST BREWING NEWS in the Pacific Northwest, etc. These papers are generally supported by ad revenue from microbreweries and pubs, as well as from what I assume is some meager subscription revenue. That said, they are a labor of love that have probably done more to push and increase the consumption and appreciation of speciality beer than every friggin’ beer blog combined. I first started picking up The Celebrator in the early 1990s, when the triumph and growth of microbrewed beer with anything but assured – at that time it focused primarily on the west coast. You know why? That’s where all the good beer in America was coming from. Back then I remember it was a minor miracle if you could find a bottle of Anchor Steam or Sierra Nevada on visits to Southern California, yet The Celebrator was flying the flag for nascent breweries like Devil Mountain and Anderson Valley who were just getting it together in those early years.

Their enthusiasm and out-and-out golly-shucks dorkiness for beer was, and remains, something to behold. I personally like to keep the broader “craft beer culture” at something of an arm’s length, since with every hobby there is a core of fanatics who personify the obsession, and take their passions to the extreme; well, The Celebrator appears to be run by said extremists, and its contributors write accordingly. This isn’t all bad by any means, but to an outsider or an on-the-fencer, their talk of new hop strains or obscure dopplebocks has the distinct, off-putting ring of the model railroader or the vintage hat collector. At the same time, transmitted with enthusiasm and knowledge, that’s how cults become a little less cultish, and The Celebrator has been a huge resource in turning me from a micro dabbler into a beer lunatic. Every issue there are regional columns highlighting what the local breweries in the Bay Area, San Diego or Alaska are up to (for instance); a middle section that takes a particular style of beer and rates dozens & dozens of representative examples; ads for beer festivals all over the area; and enough information on trends and developing styles in the beer world that a subscription to this is worth its $19.99 price at least threefold. And man, if you want a paper that has loads of pictures of “beer people” partying – not the least of which are the dreaded “brewery bands” – then this is your mag. I’m a subscriber, and yet I can pick this up free in a half-dozen locations within 10 miles of my house. So who’s the true dork, right?

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