Two months ago to the day, we received an email best described as giddy and fraught with possibilities. It was from Emily Day and asked what we thought of the idea of a free craft beer magazine for Melbourne* (while lavishing the title "Father of Craft Beer in Melbourne" upon The Crafty Pint, later revised down to "Funky Uncle").
Today, the magazine is out, with copies of Froth found in bars and pubs across Melbourne (at least as many as Emily has made it to outside her day job editing historical books). It's a quite remarkable turnaround, with Emily sourcing writers, artists and designers, compiling much of the content herself, running a successful Pozible campaign, filling a bath with fake beer and climbing into it, dragging her unwilling, beer-hating mother to a beer festival so she could become a guest columnist, and being drawn inside a glass of beer for the image that appears on the cover of edition one.
Knowing how long it seems to take us to get anything new off the ground, we figured Froth must have been in planning long before that first contact. But no, that email was Emily's "Eureka!" moment.
"That night I emailed you I was just enjoying the reviewing a bit too much," she says. "I work near the Gertrude and I'm a bit lazy [when it comes] to organising people so I go to the pub myself to review beer.
"I was enjoying something 10.5 percent and thought, 'Why isn't there a cheeky little mag I can flick through? Right. I'm going to do it.'
"At first, I thought I'd make it really cool and Broadsheet-y and hipster but realised that wasn't me at all so went with silly and fun and irreverent. I didn't want it to disappear up its arse like the coffee scene."
So inspired, she embarked on the mission that led to a launch at Moon Dog's brewery last night. The name Froth was chosen for its lightheartedness and twin meanings, while offers of help flooded in. More traditional articles on beer styles, interviews with brewers (commercial and home), suburb guides and reviews (by past Crafty Pint Beer Nut Dan McEvilly) were laid out alongside more off kilter material such as her mum's less-than-pleased reviews (Two Birds' Sunset is "The most yukky for non-beer tasters").
It was made possible by the $5,000 raised via Pozible, a single paid for ad (Josh Uljans at Moon Dog took pity when she was drinking in the brewery one evening), voluntary contributions by friends from the photography and journalism worlds, a lack of sleep and a threat to sell her beloved dog if people didn't support her.
She was successful to the point that 5,000 copies of the 32-page first edition have been printed and are available free. She plans to keep the magazine free too, hopefully by attracting more paid ads, and intends to have a new mag out every month.
Future editions will see more beer and food features and excursions into tangential areas, such as the science of hangovers. And, despite her reticence at being dragged along to the Northern Craft Beer Festival at Pentridge and being forced to sample beers, mum Silvia has already filed her second column, this time from New York City where she's currently on holiday.
"She hates beer but is an English teacher so is a really good writer," says Emily, explaining that the idea of such features is to puncture the seriousness of much craft beer discussion "to make sure no one's ego is getting too big". After all, she figures: "No one normal reads Beer & Brewer."
Emily cut her teeth writing about beer with a blog filled with witty, idiosyncratic and irreverent beer reviews. The first one was abandoned after a boyfriend told her: "That's not how you review beer." Thankfully, she realised he was wrong and resurrected it as iheartbier, containing reviews such as:
Tastes like that moment when you realise God didn’t exist. Scary and a little bit exciting.
Tastes like going down a water slide at midnight but instead of water it’s BOURBON.
Dark, deep and mysterious. Like being locked in the best cupboard in the world.
"I've always wanted to start a mag," says Emily. "I just needed a topic I was excited about."
She was excited enough to originally want the cover to feature her in a bath filled with beer, the idea being to put herself front and centre of the first edition so readers knew it was a personal love project and not a PR-driven venture.
Then she realised that would involve wasting a lot of beer so tried to mock the shot up with a mixture of cordial, ginger ale, bubble bath and more only to discover when her photographer friend came around that she was blowing bubbles up her nose and "drowning in this horrible, sticky liquid and spraying it over her camera." Thus, while the photo remains alongside Emily's introduction on page three, an alternative had to be sought for the cover.
"It was late in the day and I didn't have a cover so I contacted this guy – a friend of a friend on Facebook who I'd never met. I said, 'If I name my firstborn after you will you do the cover?' He said yes."
Here's hoping her firstborn is a boy.
You should be able to find Froth in good beer venues around Melbourne in the coming days. If you'd like to stock copies, volunteer your services or find out more about sponsoring the magazine, you can reach Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* We'd love to say we played an integral role in the development of Froth but, as tends to happen, after initial emails back and forth we failed to meet Emily as promised, then freaked out when we saw a promotion for a craft beer launch on Facebook and felt we should warn her someone had beaten her to the punch. The launch was, of course, for Froth.