If you were among the thirsty throngs making the rounds during San Antonio Beer Week, you may have come across a copy of San Antonio Beer Zine #1. Unless you mistook it for an exceptionally elaborate coaster, you probably leafed through its 32 full-color pages, ogling pictures of pint porn and dog-earing cerveza science lessons from a Certified Cicerone®. This isn't a Miller-Coors production, clearly — but who did write the brash little publication? Turns out, it's the hopped-up dream of a squad of whale-gunning beer nuts dedicated to giving SA's brew lovers one rad mag.
Harrison Civick spearheads the SABZ, assisted by friends from both sides of the bartop. Big Hops Huebner bartender Nathan Martinez and Flood Distro rep Matt Bell both contribute copy, while dedicated amateurs Collette Orquiz and Jose Cruz oversee photography and editing, respectively. All are involved with the San Antonio Let's Talk Craft Beer Facebook group, whose volume of activity and intensity of interest prompted the quintet to launch the city's first beer-exclusive quarterly.
"We knew about things like the Austin Beer Guide and Denver Thirst and similar magazines," Civick said in an email to the Current, "and asked ourselves, 'Where is San Antonio's exclusive print?' The answer was simple: It didn't exist."
SABZ is distributed to the city's favorite beer haunts and a select number of breweries, including Busted Sandal, Ranger Creek and Branchline Brewing, the latter of which is profiled in Issue No. 1. Branchline's brewmaster, Paul Ford, also contributed a piece addressing spring beer styles. This synergistic editorial approach reflects SABZ's desire to examine local talent across an entire issue rather than a single article.
"It's one thing to write a two- or three-page article on someone and another to give them an even bigger outlet to really showcase their potential," Civick said. "Hopefully we can continue that because it makes those features more personal."
Good beer is a family tradition for Civick. His father, Bradley Civick, was present at the birth of the Texas microbrewery rebellion in the '90s; tap handles and old Texas Craft Beer Festival brochures scattered Civick's childhood home. When his son turned 22, Bradley gifted him with a bottle of Thomas Hardy Ale purchased the month Harrison was born. Mindful of maintaining that two-decade history, SABZ is meant to meet lovers of fine beer at every level of experience.
"We hope to have a little bit of something for everyone," Civick said. "From the newer craft beer drinker entering bars and bottle shops staring down a long list of intimidating beer styles, to a more seasoned drinker that might be looking for new spots to go in town or even wants to learn about off-flavor education or cellaring and aging techniques to expand their knowledge."
The capacity to describe what exactly you're drinking lifts all boats (and floats all kegs), according to Civick. "People who can describe why they like a certain style by specific descriptions and ingredients rather than just saying, 'because it taste good' are way more willing to branch out and try other things they know might be similar. There is too much good beer in this world to be devoted to one brand for life."
"Education isn't just beneficial to the person learning; it builds the entire
beer community," he continued. "The more informed, knowledgeable and intrigued consumers we have, the more the scene grows."
Don't confuse SABZ's focus on education with craft-snob condescension, though. Civick describes the zine's tenor as anything but didactic. "The magazine is definitely going to be more laid-back and approachable compared to what you might see elsewhere in other cities. San Antonio's attitude as a whole is kind of easygoing and friendly, so I want to have that attitude in the magazine. There is no need to be snooty or pretentious about this. We are all friends here."
Friends of SABZ can look forward to release parties for those issues that don't coincide with SABW. Civick anticipates future release parties featuring exclusive kegs, merch giveaways and ample socializing.
They will also provide occasion for a very special pastime. Several members of the SABZ masthead enjoy a certain reputation for their shotgunning skills, particularly to troll overly serious rare beer collectors. When asked to name his parking-lot chugger of choice, Civick has a ready answer.
"I like to slam [The Alchemist's] Heady Topper before a big bottle share," he joked. "It gets the blood flowing and makes you feel alive! But for those casual shotgun Fridays with some friends? Hans' Pils forever."