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Monday musing: What makes a beer local?

Since we are two months into our trip in which drinking local has become a matter of habit I’m particularly delighted when chatter about AB-InBev includes discussion about what this means for local (two examples are Jay Brooks here and Maureen Ogle here).

These discussions are likely to be all over the place because definitions of local are as well.

One for instance: The people who would boycott Bud because the brand is no longer American owned. Isn’t it still a local beer in St. Louis (and Newark and L.A., etc.)? Isn’t it made with local water by people who live in the community? Granted, for residents of St. Louis the matter of foreign versus local ownership adds a whole ‘nother set of questions which aren’t really related to the pluses of drinking local.

I’m still in information collecting mode on the matter of local. Heck, I’ve got another year to try to figure out the role local plays in the soul of a beer.

I will say what you probably already know: Beer is almost always better when it is enjoyed locally, but that doesn’t mean the best beer on the table will be the localest one.

(When I have more time online that will be a New Beer Rule.)

Stuff to read

– Before we get back to beer, a couple of links from a proud husband and father. First, Daria provides an FAQ about appearing on Jeopardy. Second, Sierra turns our visits the National Brewing Museum and the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum into a battle of the museums.

– Analysis, Part I. Maureen Ogle is working on a series titled “A-B InBev, History, and American Brewing” and here’s a link to Part 4. Read them all. I don’t agree with everything she has written, but it’s all worth thinking about.

– Analysis, Part II. Don’t expect the Miller-sponsored “Brew Blog” to be unbiased, but the Will A-B Look Like Labatt? post is definitely worth your time.

– Poppycock. Does Salon’s perspective on American Beer have anything to do with our drinking habits? Good insight into the way most of America looks at beer, but not a clue about why people drink craft beer — or this line would not have appeared: “In 1980, America had eight craft breweries.” Huh?

7 Responses to Monday musing: What makes a beer local?

  1. SteveH July 21, 2008 at 5:55 am #

    Daria was on Jeopardy? I missed a post — congrats! Pretty cool.

    “In 1980, America had eight craft breweries.” Uh, yeah… and almost 30 years later and into a new century?

    Yike — sudden epiphany with that one — I wasn’t old enough to drink in my state in 1980!

  2. Stan Hieronymus July 21, 2008 at 5:58 am #

    The point would be: Can you name eight? Can anybody?

  3. SteveH July 21, 2008 at 6:11 am #

    The 8 from 1980? I can probably name one, Anchor. Quite a few of those 8 are gone now, aren’t they? Unfortunately.

    But to the author’s credit, because I read the article through (well, mostly), he follows up with, “A quarter-century later, there are over 1,300. In some cases, they’ve recaptured regional loyalties. “

    OTOH, his big finish falls pretty flat, “Now that I was done writing about beer, I went around the corner to the Lighthouse, to watch the All-Star Game and drink … an Old Style.

    Hey, some towns have held on to their swill.”

    Someone needs to tell him that Old Style isn’t even brewed in LaCrosse anymore.

  4. jesskidden July 22, 2008 at 6:16 am #

    re: Eight craft breweries in 1980.

    Boulder, DeBakker, New Albion, River City and Sierra-Nevada are the most obvious ones- listed in 1981 Brewers Digest Annual, published in Jan. 1981, so they were all around if not fully opened in 1980.

    Tho’, for me, it’s pre-Prohibition roots puts Anchor in it’s own catagory but, OK, that’d make 6. I think that Alaskan brewery owned by Germans, Prinz Brau, *might* still have been open in ’80 but it, too, wasn’t quite “craft” (and was too big even then for the “microbrewery” designation).

  5. Stan Hieronymus July 22, 2008 at 7:06 pm #

    jess – exactly. I don’t think there were eight.

  6. jesskidden July 23, 2008 at 2:42 am #

    OTOH (after putting some more thought to how the Salon author came up with that number), I’ve noticed that several breweries that date from the pre-craft era have recently been “awarded” the ‘craft’ designation by the Brewers Association. So if one were to look at a list of breweries from 1980 and compare it to a list of craft breweries from the BA today, there’s also Matt (then “West End”) and Spoetzl (#6 and #4 respectively on the BA’s “Top 50 craft breweries of 2007).

    Not saying I agree with that or some other definitions of the Brewers Association but part of being a beer fan seems to be everyone gets their own definitions of beer styles and brewery size/type designations (or, at least, a good portion of us reject the “guidelines” of the BA, BJCP and the various beer websites.

    Me, I still bristle at someone writing something like “…the US was covered with microbreweries in the 19th century…”, since I say that term can’t really be anachronistically used for “pre-New Albion” breweries. But, it’s good to have something to argue about at the bar if one’s not into sports…

  7. Stan Hieronymus July 23, 2008 at 5:50 am #

    jess – For obvious reasons I’m kinda focused on the idea of a local brewery right now, and Shiner and Matt get credit for that. And even in the ’70s they brewed some beers that were distinctive.

    But they weren’t part of the new wave inspired by Anchor, then New Albion.

    Look forward to having this discussion with you sometime at a bar. Not sure how much arguing there would be.

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