Magazine Review: Belgian Beer & Food

Cantillon Bio Gueuze, 2007.
One of our Bel­gian beer pho­tos – the pho­tog­ra­phy in Bel­gian Beer & Food is much nicer.

Paul Walsh is the editor and publisher of a new magazine, Belgian Beer & Food, and kindly sent us an electronic copy of the first issue, out now.

Belgian Beer & Food Issue 1Every now and then, some­one asks, ‘Why isn’t there a decent beer mag­a­zine?’

Though BB&F has a very spe­cif­ic remit, could it be the pub­li­ca­tion every­one has been hop­ing for?

First impres­sions: it looks like one of those Borset­shire Life type soci­ety mag­a­zines aimed at peo­ple with ‘lifestyles’ – the kind you find in hotel rooms and in first class lounges. The typog­ra­phy and lay­out is taste­ful, while the pho­tog­ra­phy is down­right gor­geous, but there is lit­tle imme­di­ate evi­dence of the cob­webs and char­ac­ter we asso­ciate with Bel­gian beer. It’s not very brown, in short.

The arti­cles, how­ev­er, are more imag­i­na­tive­ly con­ceived than the rather glossy look of the mag­a­zine led us to expect, and we took the inclu­sion of Joe ‘Thirsty Pil­grim’ Stange’s name on the cred­its page as a sign of good things to come. His con­tri­bu­tion is a sol­id, very read­able guide to drink­ing in Brus­sels – one to cut out and keep.

There are also good pieces by writ­ers we don’t know. We par­tic­u­lar­ly enjoyed Emma Beddington’s con­sid­er­a­tion of women in the world of Bel­gian beer. She is not a beer drinker – her boyfriend smug­gles gin into beer fes­ti­vals on her behalf – which gives her tast­ing notes a cer­tain refresh­ing orig­i­nal­i­ty.

Anoth­er high­light is the open­ing piece by Alan Hope, ‘Beer With­out Bor­ders’, which is an illu­mi­nat­ing inves­ti­ga­tion of what beer cul­ture means in Bel­gium, and the sig­nif­i­cance of beer as a kind of glue which binds an oth­er­wise frag­ment­ed, frag­ile nation.

Less excit­ing, though read­able enough after the man­ner of in-flight mag­a­zine copy, are uncrit­i­cal pieces on var­i­ous brew­eries and bars. We asked Mr Walsh if any of the arti­cles were spon­sored and he con­firmed that three pieces (on Mort Subite, Bosteels and a restau­rant called Bed Van Napoleon) were writ­ten as part of a pack­age with paid adver­tis­ing in the mag­a­zine. In future edi­tions, arrange­ments like this real­ly ought to be flagged.

Indi­vid­ual issues cost €6 while a year’s sub­scrip­tion (four issues) costs €14 (includ­ing UK deliv­ery). We have decid­ed to sub­scribe – there’s enough meat here to jus­ti­fy £3 a copy, and the glo­ri­ous pho­tog­ra­phy offers a cheap­er alter­na­tive to a trip on Eurostar – but this is not the One Beer Mag­a­zine to Rule Them All.

10 thoughts on “Magazine Review: Belgian Beer & Food”

  1. Sounds like a good – if slight­ly niche – mag. I heard Beers of the World was com­ing back, but haven’t seen a copy yet. I know pub­lish­ing is a tough mar­ket, but I would have thought now would be as good a time as any for a UK beer mag.

  2. Sounds like a very read­able mag­a­zine. I agree adver­to­ri­als should be labeled as such, but when done right can actu­al­ly add to the mag­a­zine in a pos­i­tive way.

    Short­list and styl­ist mag­a­zines do this very well, with adver­tis­ing fea­tures gen­er­al­ly offer­ing some­thing inter­est­ing to the read­er rather than just a sales mes­sage. This mix­ing of adver­tis­ing and edi­to­r­i­al con­tent can work amaz­ing­ly well if done cor­rect­ly, but it is all about trans­paren­cy whilst ensur­ing brands gen­uine­ly strive to write edi­to­r­i­al con­tent of val­ue to the read­er.

    Just look at the mete­oric rise of buz­zfeed, which earn mon­ey through the mix­ing of adver­tis­ing con­tent and orig­i­nal edi­to­r­i­al. The lines are clear but because the paid-for (by the brand) and none paid-for con­tent are often equal­ly good, to a read­er it makes lit­tle dif­fer­ence.

      1. I used to work for a mag­a­zine that was dis­trib­uted free. The edi­to­r­i­al was basi­cal­ly there to fill the gaps between the ads, and as a result editorial/advertising pack­ages were absolute­ly stan­dard prac­tice – although we did try not to make the edi­to­r­i­al too uncrit­i­cal of the adver­tis­er, for our own self-respect if noth­ing else. But that was a free­bie – it wasn’t even con­trolled cir­cu­la­tion, we just bunged it out to a mail­ing list (which may or may not have been accu­rate – we had no real incen­tive to find out). Charg­ing the punter to read copy that’s already been paid for does strike me as a bit naughty.

  3. It’s an excel­lent mag­a­zine, very pro­fes­sion­al­ly done. A friend I’ve known from school is the chief pho­to­graph­ic edi­tor and took most of the superb pic­tures there­in. I was for­tu­nate enough to be con­sult­ed on the for­mat from the begin­ning and even though I don’t think it is quite right just yet they have lis­tened to the feed­back and I expect the next one to be even bet­ter.
    Whilst we’re on the sub­ject I’d also high­ly rec­om­mend the Bel­gian Beer Dis­cov­er­ies web­site adver­tised on the back cov­er too.

  4. Guys I’m embar­rassed. I start­ed out last year with pure motives, but end­ed up promis­ing edi­to­r­i­al to pay­ing adver­tis­ers, as a way to get it off the ground.
    I fig­ured a slight­ly com­pro­mised mag­a­zine was bet­ter than no mag­a­zine. I also hoped (and still hope) that as it became bet­ter-known, I’d be able to say no to these types of demands.
    So, yes, you are pay­ing for edi­to­r­i­al that’s already been paid for (three arti­cles). On the oth­er hand at 14 Euro for four issues you’re real­ly just cov­er­ing postage, and for that you get some nice untaint­ed arti­cles too. And the paid-for arti­cles are decent, but I don’t writ­ing qual­i­ty is the issue, more cred­i­bil­i­ty.
    As you men­tion, paid for arti­cles should be flagged, and maybe I’ll do that in future edi­tions, but I’m not promis­ing any­thing.
    In the mean­time, thanks for your com­ments
    Paul

    1. It’s a dif­fi­cult one – the sad fact is that adver­tis­ers will ask for this kind of treat­ment! For the time being per­haps you could put in a dis­claimer some­where – “we acknowl­edge the assis­tance of” type of thing?

      at 14 Euro for four issues you’re real­ly just cov­er­ing postage

      True!

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