The juxtaposition of the faux-sommelier and the faux-wine connoisseur without all the trappings of a “fancy” wine bar is just how they see beer; we’re wannabes, playing with sophistication that we haven’t earned, or couldn’t possibly attain given how unkempt and socially dirty we are. By putting it on the cover, they’re making a statement that they acknowledge the beer crowd, but don’t think much of them.
It plays to stereotypes. Are we guilty, as a community, of perpetuating those? We sure are. So many beards. So much plaid. Does that make this a clever cover, or anything accurate? Nope. More fuel for the fire of calling anyone who likes beer a snob without getting to know them or their motivations.
There’s the remote possibility that this is actually flattering, and we should appreciate that The New Yorker for being kind to our subculture by comparing it to wine. But I don’t think that’s the case. I think the art style—the smug look on the toweled waiter, the silly swirling face of the beer drinker, the overwhelming aura of “hipster” in the background—are meant to be mocking, not flattering.
I’ve also gone and looked up more of de Sève’s work and now realize that this highly stylized satirical style is sort of his thing. I admittedly did not know that before seeing the cover (how uncultured of me), but I also assume that means most beer people who see it won’t be familiar with his other work, either. That’s where I think the message will change from “excellent time to drink beer in the country!” to “people think beer snobs are pretentious hipsters.” There are two messages here, pretty well (and deservedly) mixed together.