Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bring back the old Beer

And the old What’s Brewing for that matter. Some months ago CAMRA decided it was time to revamp their publications What’s Brewing and Beer. It was decided that Beer would become a quarterly publication of a stapled semi-magazine nature rather than the monthly paper it had been and that What’s Brewing would be redesigned to bring it up to date. What they didn’t tell us is that the amount of time and money that was to be invested in the reformatting and design would be taken away from the content.
Now if I am honest I was never that keen on the idea of going from monthly Beer issues to quarterly. I used to relish the arrival of the two papers in the post each month and the thought of receiving only What’s Brewing didn’t actually make me want to jump for joy. However I hoped that as promised the new Beer would be so much better that it would make up for the loss. Unfortunately the exact opposite has happened, someone has obviously decided that Beer should be used to reach out to potential young members rather than aimed at existing members, and as such the content has been dummed down. It’s a real shame because many of the people involved in producing Beer are bloggers and writers who I really rate, and some of the concepts for content sound really good. For example the head-to-head where two writers are meant to debate an issue. So far we have had Jeff Bell and Melissa Cole tackle Gastro pubs and Jeff Evens and Zak Avery debate bottle conditioning. In both cases sadly all we have been treated to is the opening statements with the bemused and bewildered reader left to imagine how the actual argument might have gone in their heads!
It was however the Last Orders from the current edition of Beer that really left me scratching my head. Here we are treated to a piece from Dylan Jones an editor of trendy magazines recounting his recent conversion to cider, to introduce and get the CAMRA audience on side he makes clear that he has no truck with real ale

“its warm and appeared to taste of red wine mixed with marmite"

wow that does the campaign a world of good. Perhaps Decanter should feature some geezer who thinks all wine tastes of vinegar! Not only do I think this doesn’t befit CAMRA I’m also not sure it will win new members. Do we have to be dumb to connect with the average punter?

I realise I may be out on a limb with my opinion of the new Beer and What’s Brewing, the letters pages are flowing in praise from other members , selectively chosen mail or am I the only one to see that the emperor has no clothes? Well not quite


Greig McGill said...

You're a grumpy old sod! ;)

Seriously though... I quite like the new layout. It's certainly a lot easier to read in bed in the new format! I agree with you about much of the content, but am prepared to give it 4 issues to see how it settles in before damning it.

Oh, and to answer your question in typically cynical Greig-style: Yes. We DO have to be dumb to connect with the average punter. The average gets lower every year. Yay for humanity!

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

I think if you keep talking dumb people just get dummer. I have been reading a lot of Bryson recently and he writes of the "London, England" effect where American media feel they need to constantly tell the American public what country major cities in the world are in. He believes that if you construct your media around the idea you are broadcasting to idiots then you end up broadcasting to idiots. I agree.

Yep, grumpy old man at 29, that's me.

Artist formerly known as Wurst but aka Whorst said...

It's a big country, Moore. We're not all retards.

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Worst, I didn't mean to insinuate that you all are. Bryson is of course himself an American .

Paul Bailey said...

Glad there are several people out there who feel the same as me about "What's Brewing" and "Beer". The latter should certainly be a lot more informaive than it is, evem though it is nicely laid out.
As for "What's Brewing" I've thought of writing to the editor about writing to to register my disquiet, but seeing as they've cut down the amount of letters they publish, the chances of getting my comments into print are negligible. (They didn't see fit to publish my last well-reasoned letter comparing beer prices in the UK with those in Germany - and this was before the recent changes!)
I've been a member of CAMRA since the mid 1970's - I was in my very early twenties when I joined. I didn't start complaining that the campaign wasn't doing enough to attract young people. Instead I considered myself mature enough to enjoy what was on ofer; infact I was proud to be a member of the Campaign.
Why then this overwhelming desire now to revamp CAMRA's flagship publications in the mis-guided principle of trying to make them appeal to a younger audience.
By all means improve the layout, but why cut down on the amount of copy in the mistaken view that people only have an attention span of around 30 seconds?

Paul Bailey

Sam Possenniskie said...

I'm with you Kieran. The new Beer looks flash, but the content seems to have shrivelled significantly. I think the new quarterly version takes me less time to read than the monthly one did.

My verification says it all - "shunbed"

Anonymous said...

i agree too. the content is a bit feeble.