The Hoosier Beer Geek is hosting the March edition of the session. The topic I’ve been thinking about is local beer. The term is being used by just about every craft brewer in the country. What does it really mean though? Is it more of a marketing term or is there substance behind the moniker? This month I want to think about what makes local beer better? I’m not just talking about the beer itself, although it’s the focal point, but what makes local beer better? My connection to local beer is far from thinking that my beer is actually “local.” Maybe you don’t agree with me, and you can write about that. Bonus points for writing about your favorite local beer and the settings around it being local to you.
We now enter the wonderful word of semantics which as Wikipedia puts it, is “a problem of understanding that comes down to word selection or connotation.” First, I do not think there is a universal idea in the craft beer world when the word “local” is uttered. I frequent a fabulous beer bar in Burbank (shameless plug for Tony’s Darts Away) that only serves California brewed beer. Is it all local? To some yes and to others no. Personally, I only care that they serve a varied list of great beer and the carbon footprint of delivery is of lesser though still significant importance.
To others local denotes freshness. That is very important in an IPA but if I am partaking of a barrel aged sour at (shameless plug # 2) Eagle Rock Brewery then it doesn’t really matter. And local can mean the watering hole closest to you that you frequent the most. The Cheers to your Norm as it were. And it could be a brewery, bar or bottle shop. Then you have the whole issue of locally sourced ingredients to ponder.
If you have gotten this far, you may probably be saying, “Well, what is your definition of local?” And the answer is all of the above. Even I don’t have one overarching idea. There is my idea of “locally brewed”, my idea of “locally distributed” and my idea of “local destinations” but to me they are all minor considerations to me when I make a beer purchase.
I guess that it is because I firmly believe in widening ones horizons. Travel far and wide. Sample the craft beer bounty that others before us were not so lucky to have.
It might seem anti-eco to say this but as laudable as the whole “local” movement is, and as much as I admire the Sierra Nevada’s and Rogue’s that grow their own hops and barley’s, I find it more important to focus on being creative and exposing the world to the tremendous bounty that we should all responsibly enjoy.
Bring on your organic, bring on the discussion of terroir, grow it all within yards of the brewhouse but also keep brewing. Be it a simple German pilsner of some exotic beer with kaffir limes and sake yeast. I will drink local, close to local and international as long as it is craft beer.