Your very first lessons on what to drink and how to drink it probably came from your parents. The dining table from my childhood still bears the marks of my parents’ very particular way of throwing back tequila shots, and to this day I still respect the importance of keeping a chilled bottle of champagne hidden away for an unexpected special occasion. When I headed to college, there were the usual “what goes in jungle juice?” lessons as well as a long and arduous experiment in which I tried to find palatable supermarket wines priced under $10.
Times and palates change, and we need a dependable source for liquorious learning. Where to turn? Magazines, of course. This isn’t a plug for Drink Me magazine, although I sincerely hope you learn something new and worthwhile with every issue. The alcohol industry, often in close partnership with the food industry, has a community of truly exceptional print magazines whose popularity is rather staggering given the rise of digital media. Just a quick search of wine or beer blogs will show you that the beverage media community is actually among the fiercest proponents of digital media, but tradition is not something taken lightly in the world of wine, beer, and spirits. Perhaps it’s even the physicality of drinking that lends itself so well to the tactile printed-on-paper word.
The following publications are our personal favorites for keeping you informed, entertained, and delightfully buzzed.
A publication ubiquitous with both wine journalism and wine gadgets alike (and enthusiasm!), Wine Enthusiast was started as a wine products catalog
by Chairman Adam J. Strum with his wife, in 1979, in their home basement. It wasn’t until 1988 that the Strums launched the magazine. They pride
themselves on adhering to one mission, according to Strum: “Our goal is to share the positive experience that enjoying wine brings to people every day.” No small task, Wine Enthusiast tries to demystify wine by publishing over twenty thousand reviews every year with the help of tasters stationed in five countries worldwide.
Mr. Strum is also incredibly proud of the Wine Enthusiast staff. Numbering over two hundred, he says that every single one of them is passionate about both the product and lifestyle of wine. I’ve long been a reader of their West Coast Editor Steve Heimoff and his eponymous blog, a prime example of the unique passion and encyclopedic knowledge possessed by many of the Wine Enthusiast writers.
This dependable whiskey tome got its start twenty-one years ago as — get this — a beer club newsletter. Whiskey technically starts as beer, so I guess the progression makes sense? In all seriousness, the publication started humbly as eight stapled pages, grew, and then evolved to cover whiskey as advertising in the craft beer space started to dry up. Now a full color magazine with a staff of six, Whisky Advocate’s Managing Editor Lew Bryson says that mission has always been to “find interesting stories about whisky — all whiskies, all over the world — and the people who make it, the people who serve it, the people who drink it. Tell those stories in a way that makes them appealing and accessible to a broad audience without geeking out or dumbing down.” Whisky Advocate also throws WhiskyFest in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago each year to give consumers and producers a venue in which to interact.
While the magazine was acquired by M. Shanken Communications two years ago, Bryson asserts that they’ve kept their same editorial staff of six, and with the acquisition they’re able to spend more time focused on great editorial content (and less time tracking down those pesky advertising dollars).
Beer West launched under the name Beer Northwest in 2007 as a means of keeping a pulse on the craft beer lifestyle flourishing in and around Portland at the time. Founder Megan Flynn couldn’t find a regional beer publication to really identify with, so she started her own.
Recognizing that the Oregon craft beer craze had officially gone viral and that her neighboring state to the south was also a hotbed for small brews, in 2011 the magazine was renamed to Beer West and started to also incorporate coverage of the beer scene in California. The goal of the magazine is to inform readers about regional craft beer in a way that stays fun while also being educational. Quite by accident, the staff for this magazine with a seventy percent male readership is entirely female. To this point, Megan adds, “We stretch ourselves in understanding and conceptualizing articles and information that appeal to males, but ultimately, we would love a readership that includes as many women as men.” Consider this an ink-based fist bump to all my craft beer drinking ladies out there.
Founder and Editor−In−Chief Alan Kropf stands behind Mutineer’s mission statement: “It is the mission of Mutineer to share the modern fine beverage experience with the millennial generation while supporting and celebrating fine beverage culture in an artistically inspired way.” As a sommelier, cicerone, and all around scholar of fine beverages, Alan started the magazine as a means to create a wine commentary that comes from a more inspired and culturally relevant place. Mutineer delves into basically any drinkable liquids, and it has found its home in the hands of millennial readers looking for something a little less traditional.
Parts of the Mutineer programming include annual parties, a comedy festival, and water relief work in Nepal. And in their effort to stay welcoming to all interested in beverage culture, Alan says that Mutineer is currently working to launch a second edition meant for the beverage trade.
Wine & Spirits
“We are geeks — fun−loving, hungry, thirsty geeks — and proud of it.” That’s how Wine & Spirits’ Publisher and Editor, Joshua Green, describes the staff behind this monthly magazine. Started in 1982 by an Aussie named Peter Simic, Green took over and subsequently purchased the magazine in 1989. The magazine aims to give readers the tools to find wines they like, and to cultivate a community of people who see wine as an essential part of the dining experience. The focus on food and pairing is something that’s evident in the magazine, and it’s often a topic of the annual single-theme Fall Issue (the graphic cover of their ‘Wine and Pork’ Fall issue is featured in the movie The Devil Wears Prada).
Green is also quick to point out that the strength of their wine recommendations lies in the fact that Wine and Spirits has a team of sommeliers and wine store owners who taste in upwards of one thousand wines per month — all blind (they don’t know what they’re tasting). He says this unbiased tasting approach is how they can spot up-and-coming winemaking talent. How does he get the tasting panel to agree to being assaulted by one thousand wines per month starting at ten in the morning? “They might point to the music — Led Zeppelin to Nina Simone to Devendra Banhardt and way, way beyond — the enthusiastic staff, and the Korean fried chicken,” Green says. That sounds like a group of geeks I could get along with.
Where To Find Them
With the exception of Beer West, all of these magazines are national magazines and available at major bookstores. If you want to subscribe, head on over to their websites for more information: