Pints West: a mine of information

We’ve found ourselves getting a bit excited when we find a new edition of the local CAMRA magazine, Pints West, in the display holder at The Drapers Arms, because we always learn so damned much.

The latest issue, for autumn 2019, is just out and is a good example of why we like it so much.

First, with #EveryPubInBristol in mind, there’s a comprehensive update on what’s going on with local pubs based on extensive fieldwork from the Bristol Pubs Group. It tells us which pubs have closed, reopened and changed hands, usually before we hear via social media.

We’re fascinated by the fate of The Merchant’s Arms in Stapleton which just sits there with its big, blank, boarded-up facade; Pints West always gives us an update – stalemate, apparently, with the owner determined not to re-open it as a pub despite its ACV status.

But there’s more: we don’t drive (and wouldn’t drive to the pub if we did, obviously) so the pub crawls focused on walking and public transport are always inspiring. This quarter, Vince Murray suggests a couple of trips in South Gloucestershire by bus while Duncan Shine gives a run down of all the pubs along the Bristol-Bath Railway Path. We’re already working out ways to tackle some or all of those on the list.

We were also struck by a piece in the last edition by Robin E Wild on the best value pubs in the area – a positive way to address the fraught issue of the sometimes exclusive price of beer.

In general, there’s an openness about it that shows CAMRA at its best. All breweries are covered with enthusiasm and honesty, regardless of their particular cask-ale credentials. Licensed premises of all kinds get a look in and there are heartening tales of local activism to save apparently doomed pubs.

Now, disclosure, before someone brings it up: in the past, before we moved to Bristol, we publicly rolled our eyes at one of the cartoons in the magazine. It irritated us then and looking back, it’s still irritating. But we haven’t noticed anything like that since.

Anyway, our piece said, we’re off to explore a couple of the pubs mentioned in the most recent edition – and isn’t that what a local CAMRA magazine ought to inspire?

Some Beer-Related Projects of Note

BEER! (Type illustration.)

Apparently, some people aren’t satisfied with the endless ramblings of beer bloggers.

They want to hear voices, see moving images, and feel paper between their grubby fingers.

Well, they’re in luck, as there are a few new projects in the pipeline which we think are worth highlighting.

In print

Hop & Barley magazine (@hopandbarley) looks as if it’s going to the equivalent of a beer blog in print. Funded through a Kickstarter campaign, it promises ‘a fresh look through the UK’s vibrant brewing scene’.

The first issue of Original Gravity magazine (@OGBeerMag) is due on 1 September and will be given away free in pubs, bars and at beer festivals. The website doesn’t have much information at the moment and we don’t know who’s behind it.

Podcasts

We don’t really listen to podcasts — they seem a painfully slow way to absorb information compared to reading — but Beerlinescurrently being put together by veteran writer and ‘craft beer’ industry figure Jeff Pickthall (@BeerlinesEd) might be interesting. Its format is inspired by the BBC radio programme From Our Own Correspondent, and the first programme will feature a contribution from The Beer Nut.

On Telly

And, finally, one from the rumour mill: we were told recently that we might be approached by a TV company making a series about the resurgence of British beer. Now wouldn’t that be interesting?

Considering a Good Beer Magazine

Dave Bailey, prompted by something Roger Protz said at the Beer Writers’ Guild meeting in London, Tweeted this:

First, the gender question: there might be something in that, but then there are ultra-specialist magazines which aren’t especially ‘gendered’, and there’s no reason why a beer magazine, if a decent one existed, couldn’t sit with the food mags. We know loads of blokes who buy and read cookery magazines. Everyone eats, after all, and, as it’s not the nineteen-fifties, quite a few blokes know their way around a kitchen these days.

Secondly, though, the content: what the hell do you put in a magazine about beer? Generalist food magazines fill their pages with recipes (‘Fifteen ten minute summer suppers’) and consumer reviews, but that wouldn’t work so well for beer, because it’s a finished product, not an ingredient. ‘One hundred great lagers’ might work, but, really, just reading a list of beers you probably won’t be able to find in your local shop, with some tasting notes, is not likely to be that inspiring or exciting to most people.

Really specialist magazines such as, say, Retro Gamer, do fill their pages every month, and sell well enough to keep going, but they do so by appealing to a minority audience of hardcore geeks, and, frankly, by repeating themselves. We bought it for a couple of years and stopped when we’d read the story of the founding of Atari for the third time. Another example, Computer Music magazine, relies on multipage ‘ultimate’ and ‘beginners’ guides to production techniques and product reviews and, again, repeats itself on a fairly regular cycle. It does not, apparently, have loyal readers.

A quarterly or yearly product might stand more chance of commercial succcess. We’d buy, say, Good Food Magazine’s Ultimate Guide to Beer 2013, in the ‘bookazine’ format, for a long train journey. Alternatively, there is the bleeding-edge-cool, beautifully designed subscription journal model. Gin & It, about booze, is already with us, and Mark from Real Ale Reviews has previously suggested that this football publication might be a good model for beer writing.

Realistically, beer is one facet of ‘drink’, which is one facet of ‘food and drink’, and it is probably too ambitious to expect consumers to support a publication with such a narrow focus. A decent couple of pages on beer in existing food magazines, and good quality regular columns in the lifestyle sections of newspapers and current affairs magazines, would do us.

UPDATE 12:33 12/6/2013

After we posted it came to light through Twitter that there are some plans afoot at Future Publishing.