Friday, July 13, 2007

SOME NOTES ON BEER ADVOCATE MAGAZINE

I think that the five-issues-old BEER ADVOCATE is the best beer publication out there – they have exactly the right level of knowledge, appreciation and snarkiness to be both super-informative and highly readable about one of the world’s great topics. Great columnists, great perspective, and a treasure trove of useful information about the one thing that’s really the key for most of us – what to try next. I’ve got a few concerns, though, more related to ensuring they stay relevant and in business for awhile, as theirs is a voice that needs to be heard:

1. They don’t seem to be selling any ads. The advertisers in the new issue are essentially the same ones as in the first, and they are exceptionally few & far between to begin with. Multiple full pages in what is already a very thin magazine are ads for Beer Advocate itself – the web site, subscriptions, and pleas for advertisers. An incredible amount of real estate appears to be available, and it’s not getting filled. This seems strange to me, as there are hundreds of breweries with decent distribution and product to push beyond their borders, and the magazine is even free in most places – so.....why is no one buying?

2. I can read every word in about twenty minutes. Granted, those words are very helpful and well-formed, but not only are there few ads, there’s really not that much content issue-to-issue when you get right down to it. So they make up with it by pushing huge margins on all sides (top, bottom, left, right), by making many photos full-page (which obviously is appropriate depending on the subject), running their own full-page ads (see #1), and by leaving as much white space as they can get away with. When I get a new issue in the mail I am over & done with it over my lunch break, before the burrito has even had a chance to be finished.

3. They make up ridiculous food pairings for beer. Color me not yet 100% sold on how amazingly or naturally beer pairs with cuisine of all types, but these guys have been sold on the concept and then some. Here are some totally out-of-left-field, obviously forced pairings they recommend in the course of reviewing certain beers this past month: “Use it to breathe some life into a plate of weiner schnitzel mit spatzel” (what the hell is that?); “pair it with egg salad sandwich on rye bread with kosher dill pickles” (A beer? Seriously? Do they have to be kosher?); “pair it with a three-egg omelet with goat cheese and fresh basil” (damn it! I only have two eggs and some Kraft singles); “pair it with Columbian-style steak soft tacos with rice and beans” etc etc. I half suspect there’s some half-drunk clownin’ going on as these reviews are being written.

Of course I’ve got more important things going on in life than to worry about a mag put out by people I don’t know, but I had hoped by now that the magazine would be filling out a bit in terms of monthly page & advertiser volume - yet it hasn’t. All my half-kiddin’ aside, does anyone share these rogue concerns or care to dispute them?

4 comments:

Beer Retard said...

Hadn't picked up on the lack of new ads, but definitely noticed the slim content. Also, it may not be a legit criticism, but another thing that's puzzled me is the really high marks they've given to beers that aren't that great. I realize that reviews are subjective and peoples tastes are different. My palate may not be world-class, but I can tell if a beer doesn't have much going on. Guess I figured if I could tell, surely the BA dudes would be on top of it. There have been some real head-scratchers in the review section.

Rick Sellers said...

I'll say it was the most disappointing new magazine out there - maybe because of the major build up to the release. Who knows? The white space on each page is pretty spectacular and hope they can do better, really - they have a good opportunity to reach a lot of people that AAB and other beer mags don't appeal to. I DO like the articles and all beer review sections in every beer magazine make me scratch my head.

Dale said...

Spatzel! Ya don't know what spatzel is? I got a recipe that the Fabulous Andy G sent me for it...It's pretty damn good (provided ya can cook that is). If I can dig it up ya want me to send it to ya?

KevBrews said...

Funny--I had the same thoughts exactly--needs more content and the pairings are silly (although I did appreciate the recipes in this month's issue--we made the beer bread last night with a Unibroue 16 and it was amazing!).

I'd also add that they need a good copyeditor or proofreader--there were several beer reviews this month in which the last line or so was dropped off the page.