Monday, August 21, 2006

The Brew Lounge 'Topic of the Week': Local Beer

Do we really want to have access at our local watering holes to all the great beers of this country and beyond? I'm not so sure that I do. Don't get me wrong, I'll get in for the next great beer that I've never had, but...... A couple of factors have given cause for covering this topic. Perhaps most recently has been all of the buzz here in the Delaware Valley surrounding the Russian River Pliny beers, the Elder and especially the Younger. Apparently eight 1/2 kegs of Pliny the Younger (the more elusive of the two) have made their way to the Keystone State. While this is certainly great news (and I look forward to tracking some of it down at either The Grey Lodge, The Drafting Room, or Flanigan's Boathouse), at the same time I feel a bit deflated. This means that over the course of the next week, I can find this much-sought after double/triple IPA in three different counties around Philadelphia. It takes a bit of thrill out of the chase, if you ask me. (kinda like when the pretty girl finally agreed to dance with you in high school...oops, sorry for the personal sidebar; did I say that out loud?! ;-) So, what point am I trying to get to, you may ask? I think my point is that I like the idea of having the hard-to-find local beers out there. It adds a little something extra to traveling. Whether you travel for pleasure, business, or any other reason you know that you have a chance of getting some beer that you do not have access to at home. And, by and large, that's the way it's been with Russian River. Now that Pliny the Younger will, at least for a short time, saturate our taste buds here in Pennsylvania, some of the mystique will be gone. With the "walmart-ization" of this country (oh, and I suppose the world too, eh?), so much regionalism has been lost. Trying to bring home a unique gift or souvenir from some faraway state or land is becoming more difficult. With beer, it's kind of nice to know that I can typically only get New Belgium Fat Tire west of the Mississippi. Or Shiner Bock in Texas and nearby. Or Port Brewing ales in southern California. Or little-known Belgians in Belgium. And, when you do get a beer from one of these breweries, you know that it's been brewed the way the brewer intended it...with local indigenous ingredients like water that can contribute to the beer's unique flavor. And, that it hasn't been shipped through various channels and touchpoints that could have affected their quality. Ok, Ok...I may be overblowing this topic here. I should stop and think of the various great local Philly beer (Sly Fox, Iron Hill, Dogfish Head, Victory, General Lafayette, Yards, etc etc) that beer lovers in other parts of the countries don't have the benefit of trying unless they come to our region. So, maybe things are all equal, yes? And, if you really want to have a great beer that isn't distributed to your area, it opens up the possibility for meeting new beer friends through trading! Or, maybe just maybe, this is starting to sound a bit like Jack Curtin's recent "rant", which has similar strains (see 10 August 2006). What can I say, but "I agree." What are your thoughts?


Anonymous said...

This is a good post and a worthy topic. Although I'm quite happy to enjoy tasty, interesting beers of the world and other regions for the past few years I've felt a twinge of pain doing so.

This is due to the fact that beer is virtually the only commodity I regularly purchase which is not produced within 200 miles of my home. I have consciously decided to restrict myself to that which can be produced and procured locally (relatively). The benefits of this decision are legion, both economically and mentally but I won't bother everyone by going into how. David Orr's The Nature of Design is an excellent intro to some reasons for looking local.

Beer, however, is the exception. I regularly and continuously will grab a new beer no matter whence it came. A new Flemmish? Gimme! What's this Finnish beer? I'll take it! A brewery in Virginia? Save one for me!

Maybe your post has given me the impetus to narrow my beer geography. Why can't I restrict myself to locally produced brews? No reason I can't stop by a brewery for a growler fill as often as I stop at the markets for my produce, right?

As a local (albeit large) brewery's stickers proclaim: "Think globally--Drink locally!" Time I took it to heart.

Adam said...

Ok so I took too long to type the first comment and lost it!!!! Grrrr...

Ok...I'm composed now, but, I don't have the patience to ramble again so here's the abridged version.

I like local beer here in Southeastern PA.

I drink local beer (30-50% of my intake.

I like other regional beers too. its exciting to find something wonderful and new like Selin's Grove.

I do sometimes take the local beer scene for granted.

So, what am I gonna do about it!? I'm gonna get a growler full of Sly Fox right no...

Ok, seriously..I promise. I'm going to get to know the local brewing scene even better. After all, the Pliny sisters from the West Coast may not always be in town, but, that local Fox is right next door.

(What? I never said I was a writer :-)

Knut Albert said...

Well, it's a quest for new beers alle the time, right? And if you have the time and money to travel, you can enjoy the most elusive and experimental beers at the brewery tap where they belong.
I am privileged to be able to travel across Europe and sample the best beers I can find (and quite a few awful lagers, too!). And it is obvious that only a few of those beers will be available internationally, so there is alway the thrill of what you find around the next corner. There are lots of surprises - who would think that the Irish market would be so dominated by one beer giant that there is hardly no room for any alternatives? Better then the hard-to-find Italian micros who experiment and make beers that defy traditional classifications.

But then. I have not been to North America for decades, and I have no plans for going, either. But I am salivating at the thought of sampling some of the big brews up there among the top 50 at ratebeer. And if Bxxxxxxxx, Heineken, Calsberg and all other crap lager is avaialble everywhere, why should not the top craft beers be found at selected outlets?
But there are ways around this: Guest brewers may make beers for other micros which can continue to be brewed after they have gone home. I had a splendid IPA at the 1516 Brewing Company in Vienna, a beer created by one of the American brew masters a year or two ago, and still very much in production.

Eli said...

ha, adam's comment had me cheering along by the end. what an orator!