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Friday, October 5, 2012


Photo by Tim Stahl,, San Diego, CA

AFTER TWO YEARS--West Coaster, the newspaper and website voice of San Diego County’s burgeoning craft beer industry, is celebrating its two-year anniversary by revamping its format from newspaper to magazine with its October 2012 edition.   Led by three 25-year-olds editor Ryan Lamb, publisher/ad director Mike Shess and Art Director Brittany Everett, the new magazine format replaces the tabloid look that West Coaster has had since its founding, October 2010.

Because of its sincere coverage of San Diego County’s amazing growth in small, independent professional brewing operations, West Coaster has developed a loyal advertising readership base to match more than 100 different advertisers and estimated 25,000 plus readers.

“By the time anyone reads our words, there will be 60 independent brewing companies operating in San Diego County,” says Ryan Lamb, a recent UC Santa Barbara grad via St. Augustine High School (where he met publisher Mike Shess). “We have to hustle to keep up with the news all of these breweries are generating.  Plus, so many beer centric restaurants and taverns are also creating newsworthy events.”

With so much happening, West Coaster outgrew its printer’s ability to keep printing as a tabloid and the team had to switch over to magazine size. 

Mike Shess, who as a kid grew up folding newspapers at home (parents founded the now 20-year old North Park News and Dad, Tom Shess is a San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles magazine writer and media consultant) praises how Art Director Brittany Everett, a native San Diegan, reformatted West Coaster’s new look practically over night. “She’s remarkable and without missing a beat one month we’re a newspaper and next month we’re a magazine thanks to her.”

Advertisers praise West Coaster for being earnest in its coverage.  Right away, marketing pros noticed the West Coaster staff’s focus on treating craft beer as the professional industry that it is.  Many other beer oriented magazines in other parts of the country focus on drinking and party hearty.”

“We discovered how good craft beer was in college—let’s make no mistake there,” says editor Lamb, “but our generation also discovered how terrific craft beer makers had evolved.  This isn’t bathtub brewing.  Craft beer is world class now and the center of this growth is right here in San Diego County.”

Shess points out having few job prospects out of college, it was easy to focus on being entrepreneurs.  “We didn’t have a lot to lose.  We made some good marketing decisions early on and were able to convince some important advertisers that we were for real.  We’ve been working hard living up to their trust ever since,” he says.

Also, top beverage and food writers like Jeff Hammett and Brian Hernandez came on board very early as did Sam Tierney, a college roommate of Ryan Lamb.  Because Sam is a college trained brewer (now at Firestone Walker Brewing) he has given West Coaster its industry voice.  “Brewers have faith in our journalism because Sam is our conscience and go to guy to make sure what we print is real,” says Shess.

West Coaster’s team has grown up with social media.  They understand that print media has its limitations.  Wisely, they have created a monthly print magazine because advertisers still prefer to see their ads in hand held newspapers and magazines.  “We treat our webpage as our “weekly news venue and our facebook and twitter acts as our daily voice that offers fast breaking news.   Put it all together and West Coaster delivers the news in multiple platforms to a readership thirsty for craft beer news. 

What’s ahead for West Coaster?   A new logo, perhaps?

“No way, that logo is family to us,” says Shess, “Ryan and I were roommates in Spain while I was in a study abroad program with San Jose State.  We arrived in Madrid from California with all its wonderful craft beer tradition and soon discovered how bland Euro beers were.  We decided that if we were ever to start a beer publication we’d call it West Coaster.  The logo came about on a train trip between Madrid and Valencia, where we drew up our logo on a bar napkin.  It has been our logo font ever since.”

The future is looking good for the team as it heads to the Great American Beer Festival (Oct. 11-13) next week in Denver.  The Denver convention is the biggest event for the craft beer industry.  It is there many of the 50,000 national craft beer brewers and aficionados will see West Coaster’s new magazine format for the first time.

 Website and archives for West Coaster:

Photography: Tim Stahl at

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