Are "What's Brewing" and "BEER" aimed at different drinkers?

There was a bit of a Twitter debate going on last week between Gavin Frost and Tom Stainer (Editor of Camra's BEER magazine) which myself, Steve Lamond, and Mike Hills jumped in on. There were a lot of Tweets flying around and quite frankly it's a pain to reproduce them all, but the gist was that What's Brewing can come across a bit militant/political and old fashioned when compared with the relatively modern, forward thinking BEER magazine.

It's a stylistic void I've noticed myself, and I must admit I've got to the point where I have a quick flick through What's Brewing before devouring BEER magazine. It also seems like BEER magazine has a slightly more tolerant view of beers which aren't Cask conditioned, with a feature by the ever reliable Mr Avery on the Italian Beer scene being a piece that sticks in my memory as an example of modernity in the mag, and a light hand when it comes to dispense (Cask beer was the focus but some keg did feature). It was an example of everything that's great about BEER magazine.

And it is a great mag. Reliably interesting, far reaching, well written and with plenty of different voices, it's a great read and to be honest, one of the main reasons I'm still a CAMRA member.

I wanted to blog about whether there is a conscious editorial effort to appeal to different people, but it felt a bit unfair not to get Camra's side of the story. So here it is.

I emailed Tom Stainer and asked him a few questions on the above, and he kindly got back to me pretty much immediately and has agreed to his comments being reproduced.

Q & A with Tom Stainer, Editor, BEER

Q. Does "BEER" mag have a different target audience to "What's Brewing"?

Yes and no. I'd be surprised and a little disappointed if someone found nothing of interest for them in both publications.

However, with so many members we clearly have some people who joined for slightly different reasons and have different levels of activity within the Campaign.

There are two sides to CAMRA - the campaigning side and the enjoyment and social side of beer and pubs. WB and BEER quite nicely mirror that divide. If you want news about what CAMRA is doing at a national and branch level plus a digest of what's going on in the pub and brewery industry, WB is the place to turn. If you're interested in a more relaxed read about the people who make real ale, the places that serve it and the people who drink it, without perhaps too much "in your face" campaigning BEER is the publication to pick up.

I'd hope members use both WB and BEER in different ways depending on their need at the time, rather than seeing one title as "for them" and viewing the other as being of no interest.

Q. How does "BEER" Magazine fit within CAMRA's overall strategy as an organisation?

As I said above, while much of CAMRA's activity is about hard campaigning, a lot of what we do is also about promoting the social aspect of pubs and the enjoyment of beer generally. BEER can present that aspect of what we do in a softer and more accessible way than What's Brewing - and with the space to give our writers the room to do what they do best.

Q. What are the key selling points for "BEER"?

Most importantly, some of the best beer writers and best upcoming beer writers in the country (plus the space for them to get into subject)! Also, great design, great photography, interesting and varied content.

Q. "Could you see "BEER" magazine featuring non cask beer, or 'Craft keg' in the future?"

Much as I hate quoting policy, the two bits below probably explains where there is a little flexibility in what we do and allows us - within reason - to have features on the beer scene in Ireland or Italy for example, or for Des to mention particular bottled beers.

3.4 CAMRA supports the production of real ale in a bottle. CAMRA, however, acknowledges
the need to protect certain bottled beers which are not bottle conditioned but are the last
survivors of certain beer styles or have sufficient merit in their own right.

7.1 CAMRA supports good, traditional beers from other countries, even if they do not comply with
CAMRA's definition of real ale.

In terms of the question, what we do is bound by CAMRA policy as proposed and voted on by the membership, if CAMRA policy changes, we'd obviously reflect that.

Q. What do you see in the future for "BEER"?

In an ideal world, we'd like to make BEER more frequent and bigger. Sadly the current harsh reality is advertising revenue continues to be hard to come by at the same time that printing and postage costs continually soar upwards. With the new website, we're hopeful we can expand both WB and BEER content online - running extra articles and expanded versions of printed articles.

In the last year we've also developed the e-versions of both WB and BEER - launching "flippable" versions which you can access online and on portable devices such as iPads and Android tablets.




p.s. Nick wrote about the mag here too.

4 comments:

  1. I would expect you (and a lot of others) will find much to agree with in the article by Rhys Jones of Page 11 of February's What's Brewing.

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  2. I usually read Beer and stick WB in the recycling unread or just skipped through.

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  3. Yes. Completely different, which I think Tom gives a good account of. For me, WB just gets flicked through and then recycled. I think that the problem with the news sections of it are that by the time it comes out, the news is 'old'; that's the problem with the Internet age. however, WB is voraciously loved by it's fans, and I think it will be a long, long time until it disappears entirely. After all, where else would people argue about sparklers in the letters pages?
    BEER (and yes, I'm biased) is a great magazine, albeit the only one in circulation that responds to the need for quality, printed BEER journalism. I'd buy it each month, tbh. Quarterly is a little too long.

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