Lynn Davis says he’s ready to try again.
He launched his magazine, The Beer Connoisseur, in December 2009. It was a large, glossy magazine, similar in looks to the Wine Spectator or the Cigar Aficionado, but for beer drinkers.
Davis says he had been working on publishing the Sandy Springs-based magazine for years at that point. And his publication found fans. He claims it has 50,000 subscribers in print and online.
But the Great Recession brought hard times for magazines and newspapers. It proved difficult to keep publishing, Davis said one recent afternoon over iced teas at the bar at Taco Mac in Sandy Springs.
In fact, his magazine hasn’t put out a paper issue since the spring of 2013, and some customers have posted complaints online saying they did not receive magazines they believed they had paid for. Subsequent issues – the latest came out last fall – have been published online, and Davis says 90 percent of his subscribers bought subscriptions online.
“We’re not a big publishing company,” he said. “We’ve always been the little guys making it happen. It’s what folks get behind. That’s why folks get behind these craft brewers. They’re not corporate.”
Now he wants once again to give subscribers magazines they can display on their coffee tables. He has announced plans on The Beer Connoisseur website to relaunch The Beer Connoisseur in June. This time, the quarterly publication will be smaller – about the size of a National Geographic – but it still will be glossy.
“Our publication has been the largest in our group. Now we’re going to go to the smallest in the group,” he said. “It’s a cool size. … It’ll be a lot easier to read at the bar.”
David Larkworthy, founder and owner of 5 Seasons Brewing Co. in Sandy Springs, said Davis’ magazine may have been poorly timed. “As far as the beer culture in Atlanta, it was well timed for that,” Larkworthy said. “I think trying to start a super-glossy magazine in a recession was a bad time for him. It’s been a difficult period for all of us.”
The magazine has been “good custodians” of the local beer scene, Larkworthy said, and “there are three times as many breweries [locally] as when they started.”
Davis, who lives in Sandy Springs, pulled together the magazine because he believed he saw an opening in the market. “It seemed like there was a magazine for every topic out there,” he said. “Then I notice there was this void in the beer space. That seemed like an opportunity.”
The goal: “We wanted to take a sophisticated, higher-end approach to beer,” he said.
He’d worked for specialty printers and done advertising work through his own marketing and design company. And he liked beer. He combined his interest with his background in printing and came up with his magazine. “I would do it all myself, except for the articles,” he said. “I’m a terrible writer.”
He had stopped drinking, he said. “I haven’t had a drink in seven years,” he said.
Finding financing had proved difficult from the beginning, he said. “I tried to raise money and I couldn’t do it,” he said. “I couldn’t raise a dime. … This kind of thing requires you to have relationships with folks. It was just little, old me.”
The late 2000s became one of the worst times in memory for print media. “It was one of the worst atmospheres ever,” he said. “The Internet was changing everything. It was the perfect storm for the print media.”
But it turned out the Internet cut both ways. Davis found followers on the web. When he offered special subscription deals through Groupon and other websites, people found him. A Father’s Day offering produced $30,000 in subscriptions in a week, enough revenue to keep publishing. Subsequent online subscription offers kept subscribers coming in.
“There are so many consumers for beer. There’s seemingly an unlimited supply of interest. You have a husband, son or brother that Beer Connoisseur is the perfect present for,” he said.
And interest continues to grow in locally-produced beers made by small craft brewers.
“Wine, spirits, cigars – those publications – their audience is more a luxury audience,” Davis said. “Beer is anti-elitist. It is not elitist. But craft beer is really gourmet and it’s hip and it’s cool. We kind of straddle that fence. It’s high end. It’s fun and it’s cool.”
Now he says he’s planning to put together another edition of the magazine on paper.
“We’ve been very good about making things work out,” he said. “We’ve been going issue to issue for four years and we keep finding a way.”