The world of beer is an ever changing and evolving place and it can be daunting to stay current with the latest seasonals or new brewery openings, or what the other coast is drinking without losing valuable beer drinking time. What we need are trusted filters that guide us down the path to the good stuff.
Luckily for beer geeks, four great magazines help lead the way to the interesting beers of the world: Imbibe, Beer Advocate, The Celebrator and All About Beer. Without these resources, I would not know half of what I do about beer.
All About Beer is an excellent starting point for furthering your beer knowledge. It covers what beers will be hitting your store shelves soon, they talk to brewers about their careers and what they are currently working on, they have excellent beer travel articles to help you plan your next vacation and they do not hesitate to tackle the business side of beer. For example, in the September issue, they bluntly cover the world of beer distribution. But when a new issue hits the newsstand, I first turn to the beer reviews. Stars of the beer universe give capsule reviews of beers from around the world, including Charlie Papazian, Steve Beaumont, Lisa Morrison, Roger Protz and Garrett Oliver. These are the people who have great taste. I won’t agree with them all the time but they always educate and entertain me.
The Celebrator is the first beer periodical that I encountered in my beer travels and it is like a road map to me. They go region by region, with writers talking about what their area has been up to. It is how you hear about events and new breweries in far away places. They have a comprehensive list of breweries and bars for each city which is a great help. When I drove from Los Angeles to Portland a few months back, I used the Celebrator to plan where I would stop for lunch and where I would stop for the night. What I truly admire is that they list bottle shops as well, not just the breweries.
Beer Advocate is tilted towards the brewer and hard core beer geek as opposed to the more casual beer fan. It is also the most opinionated of the four magazines that I read. Their columnists are not shy about expressing what they believe is the truth. Don’t get anyone there started on how to preserve a beer once opened. This passionate discourse is an offshoot of the very popular sibling website. Again, I flip the pages to the reviews that Jason and Todd Alstrom write each issue. They tell you right upfront how they pour and what they look for in color, aroma and taste. They augment their reviews with what the website members have graded the beer as well. So you can gauge which beers really made a mark.
Finally, there is Imbibe. Technically, it’s not a beer magazine. It is a coffee, wine, beer, tea, soda and cocktail magazine. The layout of their magazine is great. It’s easy to read, especially if your having a drink while perusing the pages. The photography is very creative considering that it could be limited to glasses filled with great drinks. Their coverage of beer is great. The current issue focuses on the Top 99 Beers + one. They break up the top beers into fun and informative categories like beers to drink with dessert, beers to cellar and beers to serve to your friend who claims to be a beer snob. And in the past they have covered the best places to drink beer in America.
Once you have read these publications you will become the beer genius in your group of friends.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.