I started my beer journey using All About Beer magazine as my guide/beer porn facilitator. My collection starts with Issue 28 (May 1984). Mike Bosak, who founded the publication in 1979, was still on the masthead but had sold it to major magazine publishers over the years. He would get it back.
That first issue of mine had “A Chat With Jackson” (you know, the other MJ) that set a rather high bar for beer reportage and criticism. There were also stories about places (Hollingshead’s, Buffalo Bill’s, Anchor Brewery) that would be covered regularly in the nascent California Celebrator four years later.
The AAB color ads in 1984 were all about import beers with the exception of a full pager for McSorley’s Old Ale House. Most articles were attributed to “Staff Report” but some recognizable writers included Alan Dikty, Brad Gordon, homebrew maven John Daume and a young fellow named Dan Bradford. My thirst for beer knowledge was being whetted.
I started my beer journey using All About Beer magazine as my guide/beer porn facilitator
California Celebrator was launched in January 1988 thanks to an enterprising couple, Bret and Julie Nichols from Vancouver, B.C., who worked at a local Fog ‘n Sudds and wrote its newsletter. I joined the couple a years later doing primitive layout with my new-fangled Macintosh Plus with a Laser Printer. Hey, we were writing exclusively about “microbreweries!”
By 1993, Mike and his wife Bunny, who were once again publishers of AAB, decided to sell the publication and contacted me and my neighbor up the street in Hayward, California, who was making quite a name for himself with his Buffalo Bill’s Brewery, to see if we would be interested in buying the publication. We’d have to sign a NDA to see the stats, of course. I had my hands full with Celebrator and Bill said why buy a publication when you could just start your own. So he did.
Beer, the Magazine launched in 1993 from his brewpub in Hayward. The large-folio “art” mag was too big for newsstands but was a hit with the artsy-beer crowd. Bill’s art director Fred Dodsworth and a later employee Gerry DeBiasi would sue Bill two year’s later for compensation and got a nearly $1 million judgment. Publishing.
Meanwhile, Daniel Bradford, who had spent formative years helping Charlie Papazian start the American Homebrewers Association, the Institute for Brewing Studies (now Brewers Association) and headed up the Great American Beer Festival, had a falling out with Papazian over being vested and moved to Durham, N.C. with his new bride Julie Johnson who had just landed a job teaching at the University.
All About Beer was now publishing from Durham and the Bradford’s first issue dropped in June 1993. The change was immediate and impressive. A roster of famous beer writers now graced the masthead.
Bradford dearly wanted to stay in the beer business and saw the magazine as an established vehicle to do just that. With the help of friends and his connections with major industry people who might also want be potential advertisers, he worked a deal with the Bozaks. All About Beer was now publishing from Durham and the Bradford’s first issue dropped in June 1993.
The change was immediate and impressive. A roster of famous beer writers now graced the masthead. Julie was appointed Michael Jackson wrangler (he rarely made a deadline). The magazine flourished under the Bradfords and good beer became the focus. The cover was no longer ad space and Julie’s editing made Fred Eckhardt almost coherent. (If you knew Fred, you’d know he’d love that.)
Meanwhile, the roster of beer publications in the country was becoming, um, large. The October 1995 issue of Celebrator had its annual directory of domestic beer publications with 13 brewspapers, 15 magazines and a slug of homebrewing and trade publication listed. But, the golden age of beer pubs faced a shrinking pool of potential advertisers.
AAB proudly celebrated 30 years of publishing with a cover showing many (couldn’t fit all) of its covers from the past. Julie did a masterful job of creating a 30-year timeline documenting the magazine’s evolution. Gone were the stars featured in the early days like Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds and Willy Nelson… and the “beermate of the month.” No, really.
Never in the course of publishing history have so few done so much for the beery reading pleasure of so many
Most covers post Bozak were studio shots with models. My favorite was September 1997 where they used a 1951 Vincent Black Shadow to illustrate a story on biker brewers. Eventually they got beer industry peeps on the cover with the flag redesign in 2007 and a great shot of Dave Alexander from the Brickskeller. For some inexplicable reason, I was even featured on a cover about west coast beers (September 2003).
But after 39 years, it’s -30- for All About Beer. Celebrator pulled the plug on print with the February 2018 issue. I’m sure Chris Rice, publisher of record at AAB’s close, is also hearing from beer fans and subscribers who relished each new issue and enjoyed the tactile physicality of print publications. I’m also sure the pulp trees of Canada are breathing easier with this loss of demand for paper.
I will miss the arrival of AAB in my PO Box. I don’t miss the deadlines, the diminishing ad sales and the accounts payable that publishing inevitably entails. That printer bill was a killer. Covering the world of beer has been an honor and I’m sure my fellow publishers agree. Congratulations to Bill Metzger and all those still toiling in the fields of beer publishing.
Never in the course of publishing history have so few done so much for the beery reading pleasure of so many. Cheers!