Screwed Up Beer Week (vol 17) - "Drink Local" - Is It More Marketing Than Meaning?
Written By: Kevin Patterson on 05/23/2014
A local yokal walks into a bar. And after her first three beers ordered were all made inside of our city limits, I commended her on her support of our homegrown breweries. "Yea, that's all I drink, ya know."
"Oh, why is that?"
She goes on to explain how the breweries give a lot of money away to charities and that they keep our dollars in the community. She goes on lamenting on how they make some of their beers with spices from their own backyard, and how they give her personal tours of their brewery and allow her to become part of the brewing process, among other glowing praises
It was obvious that she had a serious barley crush on each and every one of them. But lets get past all the unicorns and rainbows and probe a bit deeper in to the politics of it all. I mean- our local brewers talk a good game, asking everyone to "Support local and drink local".
God knows that I do my part churning over may hard-earned gibblets to keep their doors open and their lights on. But it got me thinking about how actually "local" are my breweries. Are they measuring up to their own lofty expectations that they ask from their customers? Are they making concerted efforts to do the same or is it just advertisement as usual? How sincere are their own practices as to how they pertain to "local"?
So I ask: are they seeking out locally or regionally sourced grains and hops; or are they purchasing their main ingredients from a value-pointed perspective- to get the right balance of quality and price, regardless of these whereabouts? Are they passing up on the nearest farms to get cheaper materials from the opposite coast? Are they not choosing the highest quality ingredients on the planet rather than buying from the guy right down the road?
Do they take advantage of the water profile that's unique to our region, or are they stripping down simple tap water and building their profiles from scratch?
Are our brewers purchasing glassware, cleaning supplies, building materials and brewery supplies from nearby manufacturers and vendors, or do they pick what's on sale at that nearest big box?
Is your local brewery making every effort to deliver their highly coveted beer to customers close to home before sending them to outer-lying territories in order to gain a more national or worldly reputation?
Are they even going so far as to ask us to consider their own house-made beer over maybe a better quality beer simply because of your emotional connection to the brewers behind the scenes? And then are you more likely to run across their paths at big-box retailers and fast-food joints than you are at the corner store and the farmer's market?
Perhaps the answer to many of the questions are that our brewers aren't that detailed into their support of "local" because there may not be many viable options in order to do so. But are they making strides to reach out to local farmers, manufacturers and vendors; providing such leadership to this degree in hopes of supporting local in the future?
And maybe the day will come when we do have local options from which to choose. When we see the same mystique about "terroir" in our indigenous beer as is so special in wine culture. If we grow our own barley, harvest our own hops and use the raw materials that the bluegrass already has to offer... only then will we know what "local" truly tastes like.
Don't get me wrong- I'm certainly not saying that you shouldn't enjoy our great local brew (we are fortunate to have breweries here who do indeed make beer of excellent quality). Like I said, I do so myself- (and at an embarrassing rate... *hiccup*). But if our breweries are going to tug at our heartstrings with the "drink local" campaign, I think its ok to put the same pressure on their dedication to "local" that they put on us.