Everyone has a laundry list of resolutions, I’m sure. Lose weight, finish the novel, donate more to charity…
I made up a short list of my own as far as my own beer drinking was concerned, and one stuck out to me – “support local beer.” In the days of this economy, where each little business is hanging on the hopes of their customers, it seems more important than ever to me to take a step back and look back into our own neighborhoods. Let’s face it – national craft beer distibution is a wonderful thing, and there are some fabulous beers from “away” that I enjoy very often. But I started to wonder if this national distribution was keeping me from truly enjoying the local flavors around me.
I patted myself on the back and thought it was very noble of me to try and “go local” and then didn’t think about it again for a few days. While driving in the car, I began to wonder about the actual work involved in supporting my newly local Portland, ME beer scene. What does that resolution actually mean, and what’s the best way to accomplish it?
After musing (over a beer, of course) I came up a much more specific ideas as to how I could support my local breweries, brewpubs and bars. I thought I would share them with you just in case you had them on your list as well.
1. Get to know your beer store (beverage center, package store, etc.). I don’t care if you get your beer at a supermarket, corner store, specialty store or in the back of a little gas station. These places are owned and managed by people. If you find one that is on its way into carrying craft beer, talk to the managers and tell them how much you appreciate their carrying of local brews. Often, getting them to stock a local beer is only a matter of asking – and having a good relationship with your “beer guy/gal” can only lead to good things.
2. Go visit a brewery near you, and take a tour. Don’t know where the breweries near you are? In addition to Ratebeer’s own brewery locator, The Beer Mapping Project is also a great resource. They’ve got all the brewpubs & breweries you’ve ever heard of – searchable by location, type & name, and displayed on a map (oh, and yes, there’s an iPhone app, too.). Peruse the country and you’ll realize that the statistics are true – there really is a brewery close to everyone (at least in the US). Visiting the brewery itself also often has unexpected benefits – by offering special beers that they don’t distribute, getting to meet or talk to a brewer, and meeting like minded beer-folk.
3. Find that great beer bar near you. Seek it out, and use your beer-buying power to vote with your tongues. You know the type of place that I’m talking about. Maybe they don’t have 50 taps or exquisite selections of foreign beer, but they have 4-5 taps of steadily good local beer from local brewpubs. Search for and cherish bars like this, and more bars might consider adding the local taps to their lineups.
4. Tell people about good local beers you’ve had. Don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth. Spring Peeper Ale, the debut beer from Maine Brewing Company has spread like wildfire in popularity, yet it is only because people are “talking it up.” If you like a beer, declare it! In my case, I am specifically going to write about at least one additional beer monthly that’s local.
5. Encourage restaurants who support “local food” to also support “local beer.” I have been to a lot of places that really emphasize local ingredients, and some have embraced local wineries – but how great would it be for them to strike up partnerships with local breweries? Again, using the power of your wallets and voices, speak up! Ask for local breweries, and they’ll start to consider it the more they hear about it.
6. Resolve to pick local beers when beer shopping. This sounds really simple, but isn’t. Who hasn’t been tempted by the newest far away breweries, and pass by their local beers, even if they have a new beer? Local breweries might not have fancy packaging or even fancy websites, but deserve our attention just the same. For me, that actually means keeping track of where my beers come from, and trying to remember to give some session beers a chance.
I’m sure there are more strategies, and I may share them as I go. But for now, I’m going to be taking a second look when I’m out. A second look at what’s on tap, a second look at the beer list, and a second look at my local beer aisle. How have your efforts been to support your local brewery? Do you have any other additional hints to share? Leave a comment!