When I stuck my head into the Green Dragon last week, I copped a free copy of the new high-end magazine Beer Northwest. (How's that for cheap--I don't stay for a pint, but I make off with print matter. I'll make it up to the Green Dragon, though--promise.) I finally had a chance to read it and was both surprised and intrigued.
Print publications are, as you probably know, dying off. People read less hard-copy content as we move online, and magazines are expensive to produce and deliver. The recent postal increase on small mags will only worsen the problem. So into this environment comes Beer Northwest, a magazine targeted at a fairly small niche audience (beer geeks) made smaller still by regional focus. When I met the two principles at this summer's OBF, I wasn't really sure what they'd come up with. Generally, to save money, beer publications have had to go for lots of ads and cheap newsprint or a black-and-white format (or both). In terms of content, they've had to go general, trying to reach a broader readership but inadvertently alienating their core, geeky base.
Beer Northwest has taken the opposite approach. From the design side, it's beautiful--full-color, clean, inviting. The content is even better. There is useful info on events and new openings (relevant, because the mag is local). But it's the features that are the big winner. Two in particular, on Higgins' beer steward Warren Steenson and native African beer, are wonderful for both newbies and serious geeks. It may not be possible for the mag to keep this level of content up, but they're clearly headed in the right direction.
(The website, alas, needs some attention. It has little info, even about the contents of the debut issue, and the "blogs" are actually posts by one of the contributors and a promise that Megan Flynn, the editor, will start one soon.)
Are there enough readers to keep the mag afloat? Time will tell. It's worth tracking down a copy of the first edition (it's free, but subsequent issues won't be). I'll be watching, and I wish them well. It's a fine debut.