After Craig Heap and I contributed a few feature pieces for the Homebrew Handbook earlier this year, we were asked by Future Publishing if we were interested in writing a magazine covering the best beers in the world. Of course, we jumped at the chance, and spent an intense month drinking and writing about 365 of the very best beers we could find. We split the writing of the reviews, features and other bits and pieces right down the middle. It’s a real joint effort, one we are both proud of.
The question many will ask – and it’s the same question that Craig and I asked ourselves – is: ‘Does there need to be another Best Beers in the World book? Surely all the ground has been covered, hasn’t it?’ No. Of course it hasn’t. This beer we’re talking about here. We must of course concede that a lot of similar things have written. So what’s different about this so-called ‘bookazine’ of ours?
For one, it’s fairly easy to get hold of. Once I knew it was out, my girlfriend quickly found a copy in the W H Smiths in Kings Cross. I like to imagine people not too different from myself looking for a magazine to read on a long train journey and finding something nice and beery for a change. Here’s to you, train riding beer lovers.
Secondly, it’s set out a little bit differently than many other beer magazines or books. We decided to set it out by season. The beers seemed to fit into four large, sensible, evenly-sized categories, and it helped us to match the beers to seasonal foods, another key consideration. IPAs and pale ales are in spring; lagers, wheats and sours in summer; reds, milds, brown ales, dubbels and tripels in autumn; and porters, stouts and other dark stuff in winter. The seasonal approach makes for an interesting and natural progression, we hope. It also made food pairings more straightforward, and they appear throughout.
We see the magazine as a broad, accessible introduction to the world of craft beer, as well as helping those with an existing interest explore the world of beer further, and understand the beers they like even better. We were encouraged to highlight beers that provide a great introduction to that particular style, but we were never asked to use words like ‘MUST TRY BEFORE YOU DIE’, which is language I find unpalatably unpleasant to use when referring to beer. Why is there this obsession with death and lists of beer? Surely playing right into the hands of health lobbyists, you would think.
Perhaps the most important difference is the beers themselves. We set out to list not just the best beers in the world, but ones that you can actually buy. Reading about beers made in Korea or deepest Chile is fun, and fascinating, but the beer itself may as well be mithril or unobtainium. All the beers in our magazine (with perhaps a handful of exceptions) should be available to buy right now. They made it into the magazine on those two criteria: quality and availability.
Sure, there are some fairly whacky and oddball choices, but for every Shnoodlepip and Guava Grove there’s a Chiswick Bitter or a Pilsner Urquell. As we state in the introduction, we see the magazine as a lovingly-crafted mix-tape of the craft beer scene right now.
It’s for that reason alone that I would defend writing ‘another’ best beers in the world magazine to my dying breath. I’d like to think that the magazine has value not just as consumer-oriented, user-friendly guide, but also as a snapshot of the beers that we all enjoy at this moment in time. Whether you choose to call it the craft beer revolution or not is relative, really. There’s no doubting though this it is certainly an important time for beer, and I think our magazine captures that.
This is especially true if it means you can walk into a W H Smiths in a train station and pick up a decent magazine about craft beer. I’m proud to have contributed to this situation, and extremely grateful to Future for giving a couple of beer bloggers a chance to get words in print. Hopefully, if this magazine sells well, there will be more to come in the future, and more chances for more bloggers to get involved. Cheers to that.
Craft Beer: 365 Best Beers in The World is available in W H Smiths, large supermarkets and shops with a large selection of magazines, and online, priced £9.99. An iOS/Android version for tablets and phones is coming soon.