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What do we mean when we say we “drink local”?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Some-Prefer-Hops, Oct 10, 2017.

  1. Some-Prefer-Hops

    Some-Prefer-Hops Initiate (116) Sep 3, 2014 British Columbia (Canada)

    From just about everything I’ve read about craft beer, a sense of place or origin seems to have defined it from the beginning. Recent articles have touted the small, local establishment as the antidote to the buyouts and mergers that have “upscaled” some segments of the (craft) beer industry.

    This article in a blog I read occasionally takes a step back and asks us to think about what the very concept of “local” might mean. Is it the ingredients? The brewery itself? What do fellow BAers think? Is the “buy local” movement all just so much hype, or does it really connect us with the place where we live? Other thoughts?

  2. AZBeerDude72

    AZBeerDude72 Meyvn (1,060) Jun 10, 2016 Arizona
    Supporter Subscriber Beer Trader

    Drink local to me and my friends means to patronize the breweries in our home town. Regarding local ingredients etc that does not hold the same for me. I like the fact some of my favorites do use all local items because its cool they make that effort but it does not sway my decision to drink their beer. I still drink loads of Non-Local beer but I always have a soft spot for the home state guys since I live here, etc.
  3. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Devotee (470) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    Here goes:

    1. Do we feel more connected to locally-brewed beer than we do to beers brewed elsewhere?

    I know that I don't, but many others certainly could be described as "homers". Me? I'm all about quality, locally made or otherwise.

    2. What do we mean when we say “authentically local”? Who and what do we exclude in this place-marking gesture?

    "Authentic", in my mind, is nothing more than marketing. Either you're from that area or not. No authentication needed.

    3. What does it mean to be “local”? Is it the brewery itself, rooted in its particular place, or is it the ingredients? Does the brewery down the street brew with “locally-sourced” ingredients, or does it brew with malt from Germany, the United Kingdom, or Belgium?

    Made locally. Ingredients can come from other places, as every place cannot produce every ingredient.

    4. Does the use of internationally-sourced ingredients at the brewery on the corner render its beer less “local”?


    5. What are the spatial constraints of the term local? Does it refer to ingredients produced within a hundred kilometers of the brewery, or –– if the brewery is, say, Belgian –– can the term also refer to hops produced in Bavaria’s Hallertau region but used in Brussels?

    Local is, very basically, within a metropolitan area, in my mind.

    6. What if your “local” beer is brewed under contract in a different region or state? Who decides, in the end, what constitutes a locally-brewed beer?

    If the contract brewer is within the same city as the brewery in question, then sure. If not, then it's not a locally produced product.

    7. What about the brewer who simply can’t brew a beer with “local” ingredients? Is the beer produced at a brewery amid the warehouses of a light industrial district any less “authentically local” than the beer that contains maple syrup tapped from trees on the brewer’s land?


    8. In recent years some commentators have suggested that brewers and their innovations are a more decisive component of “terroir” than the soil in which the hops or grain are grown. Does this sentiment stretch the notion of terroir to its breaking point? Or is there something to it?

    This notion of terroir is FAR more accurate than the old yarn regarding "sense of place". Technique of using ingredients has much more affect on the end product than does where the ingredients come from.

    9. Beer was once stamped with a sense of place due to a number of factors beyond the control of local brewers. Nowadays, brewers in Austin can create helles Bier that tastes like those brewed in München. What happens to the uniqueness of terroir when skilled brewers separated by an ocean can make beer that tastes virtually identical?

    This puts terroir in the perspective that it belongs. A romantic, but antiquated, notion.

    10. Beers may be a reflection of place, but can we “taste place” in beer?

  4. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,257) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Beer Trader

    For me local doesn't have to be locally sourced ingredients, although breweries that connect with local farmers for some/most/all of their ingredients certainly can lay more claim to the local moniker. I consider a brewery local if it is under an hour from where I live. Glad to say a large number of world class breweries choose to make the Mid Hudson Valley region home. I find fewer of my dollars, by far, going to out of state brewers, and the majority of my drinking is local/fresher/better beer.
    jzeilinger, JimKal, Chipotle and 11 others like this.
  5. Urk1127

    Urk1127 Meyvn (1,320) Jul 2, 2014 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    Local to me is in state brewing. I live in a desolate part of the state where i need to travel for everything. Im not going to drive hours to wait in line. I rely on distribution. Which is kind of ok but i travel 30 miles south to go around Atlantic City to find good stuff. I live on the shore year round, theres only shore type things heres. Not much else. Long beach island is a ghost town from Oct. to May, the average age is in the 60s and in the summer its all tourism, landshark and shock top. So traveling for good distro is what i do. I buy anything and everything brewing in my state.
    #5 Urk1127, Oct 10, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2017
  6. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,065) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I think exactly like Dave (@cavedave): "I consider a brewery local if it is under an hour from where I live."

    One aspect of the drink local movement is that in my area the local beers are very fresh and I appreciate that.

  7. AZBeerDude72

    AZBeerDude72 Meyvn (1,060) Jun 10, 2016 Arizona
    Supporter Subscriber Beer Trader

    I agree with you guys on that. All my local guys are literally 20-45 min away, with some a few hours but still not bad. Plus when I go the beer is literally made days earlier or same day and you just cannot beat that. I won't get into the fresh argument here but to me its key to a great beer.
    cavedave and JackHorzempa like this.
  8. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,225) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    For me, as with @cavedave and @JackHorzempa, local is relative convenience of access.

    That said, local doesn't trump quality when deciding which beer to buy.
    JimKal, IBUBrew, LuskusDelph and 6 others like this.
  9. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,036) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Supporter Beer Trader

    Pretty much with you guys. Local is about freshness, access, and hopefully price. It may be the first place I look but not the only. If the local brews don't cut it, I'll go for the better beer damn near all of the time.

    For me in the NYC suburbs of northern NJ, I consider local to include the Hudson Valley, South NJ and eastern PA as well. Thankfully, there are tons of choices within that radius.
    jzeilinger, JimKal, jgido759 and 4 others like this.
  10. scottakelly

    scottakelly Devotee (483) May 9, 2007 Ohio

    I dislike the "drink local" questions as most BAs assume their "local" situation is identical to everyone else's.

    I live in a fairly rural area where the two closest brewers are 45 minutes away. There are about 10 more brewers an additional 50 to 75 minutes away. How can I compare myself to someone in an urban area with 20+ brewers within 30 minutes? Or someone in a more rural area with no brewers within hours?

    To me the "drink local" movement when it comes to beer is also a little misguided when compared to other consumables, like wine. Wine, for example, is highly dependent on the region in which the underlying raw ingredients are grown. Beer, on the other hand, from coast to coast, highly comes from the exact same ingredients grown in a few areas, just brewed in a multitude of locations. The difference with beer, then, is usually the skill of the brewer, and the freshness of the beer, and not the origin of the ingredients. If skill levels are equal, and with the assumed ease of modern transport, drinking "local" should really not be a factor.

    However, I will add that somehow I can get beers in Ohio from North Carolina (Sierra Nevada) within 30 days, and Germany within 60. Yet somehow it can take longer than that to get releases from Michigan, Pennsylvania, or even sometimes Ohio. The problem has to be more with the distributors, than the real logistical issues of transportation.
  11. honkey

    honkey Aspirant (290) Aug 28, 2010 Arizona

    I consider a brewery local within 100 miles of my house. However, I live in a large county land wise and we only have two breweries, one of which I work for. I do not buy into locally sourced ingredients. I want the best quality and don’t care where it comes from. Most breweries have access to high quality fruits, but only a few regions have high quality hops and grains.
  12. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,257) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Beer Trader

    I bet when it comes to beer not reaching shelf as soon as optimal all three levels of the three tier system can share the blame.

    I also think that unless "they" get it figured out they will continue to not be able to compete with breweries that are local. Putting a beer that is 30 days old on a shelf is plenty fresh, as you say. That is until it competes with a beer made locally that is over three weeks fresher. A two month old beer is still pretty fresh, but if your choice is one at least as good, but 7 weeks fresher, well...

    And you point out (unquoted) that many areas of the country aren't equal when it comes to local beer, and of course this is true. But I can remember when folks looking to try beers made in all 50 states had trouble even finding ANY beer at all made in a couple of states, and it wasn't all that long ago. Little by little (actually pretty darn rapidly) the better/fresher/local movement is coming to us all, North Dakota included. Well, most of us. :wink:
  13. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,225) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Well, since "local" is a relative term and not a fixed distance, 45-75 min. would appear to me to be "local" in your case.

    As for ingredient's being homogenized, that depends. We have a couple of breweries in this area who are deliberately making at least a few beers using locally sourced ingredients. Eg., Troeg's Mad Elf uses PA grown cherries and recently they've been establising ties with a PA based hop grower and with a PA based malting facility, trying out their local sources.
    #13 drtth, Oct 10, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2017
    scottakelly and LeRose like this.
  14. CB_Michigan

    CB_Michigan Aspirant (207) Sep 4, 2014 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    My definition of "local" has ebbed and flowed over time depending on my proximity to breweries. When I lived in small-town Michigan, local meant statewide. Living just outside Chicago, the term "local" has become much more restricted. I don't buy exclusively local beers, but if a brewery makes an effort to be be part of a community, that goes a long way in my book.

    Plus, I've had the chance to talk to a lot of the people involved in making/selling/serving beer, and that kind of personal connection definitely makes a difference to me. I'm much more inclined to support a place when a brewer or whomever is willing to take time to answer some random customer's weird beer questions.

    As for terroir, I don't buy it in beer. Heck, I'm not even sure I want it in beer. I want my beer to taste consistent from can to can and batch to batch. @EvenMoreJesus is spot on regarding the role/influence of the producer in the final product. I'll submit that wine is a different story, but even there I feel like the producer's role is overly diminished.
  15. Fitzy01

    Fitzy01 Disciple (307) Sep 6, 2014 Maine

    Local to me would be drinking beer made by brewers in-state. I also can see drinking local being malt, some hops and other ingrediants coming from the state in which you live, but ultamately the beer itself being made within your state.
    ICTguy21 and Harrison8 like this.
  16. Harrison8

    Harrison8 Poo-Bah (1,713) Dec 6, 2015 Missouri
    Beer Trader

    I think saying a beer isn't local because the ingredients aren't local is just getting nit picky. By the same token, a "local" restaurant wouldn't be local unless the cows were raised and slaughtered, and the ingredients grown and harvested in town. It'd be pretty tough for some areas to claim "local" beers with the usual crops they produce.

    When I "drink local", I consider it buying any beer made within our metro area. After all, the employees that make, bottle, and serve that beer could live anywhere within the metro area. My take away from drinking locally is that it's all about supporting local business. If that involves locally grown ingredients, or a local trucking company to acquired ingredients - great. Otherwise, I look for beers brewed within the metro area around me.

    When I'm traveling, I look for qualities breweries that are geographically close to where I'm staying. Sometimes that means a 5 minute walk, and sometimes that means a 45 minute drive. As long as they are some of the closest options, I'd call it local.
  17. sharpski

    sharpski Champion (850) Oct 11, 2010 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    I consider my situation to have different layers of "local." There is a brewery making quality beer within 2 blocks of where I live, and 20+ within 30 mins drive. Then there are hundreds of breweries within my state I still consider local. I spent most of my life in WA state, and developed relationships with breweries there, so I'd still consider them close enough to my residence and to my heart to call them local, too. This kind of locality is more about a shared community and culture.

    Within an hour's drive, I can include small local hop farms and a local grain farm/malthouse. Within the state are larger-scale hop farms, abundant fruit/nut farms and multiple yeast banks. In my town and in other parts of the state, breweries are using open fermentation to capture microflora specific to their location (this is what comes to mind when I think of "terroir" in beer). Oregon can produce a wide variety of styles with 100% local ingredients.

    For all that, I don't think much about choosing to drink local. Prioritizing quality beer doesn't mean looking further afield because I'm lucky to live in an area saturated with great breweries. There aren't many beers for which my local breweries lack a decent analogue, but if there's something interesting on draft or on the shelves, I try it regardless of where it originated.
    LuskusDelph and drtth like this.
  18. reefer_bob

    reefer_bob Disciple (336) May 13, 2014 California
    Beer Trader

    Local to me, is if I can drive there, pick up some brew, have a beverage and lunch, and drive back home in an easy day. Sure, could I drive to San Diego and back in a day? Yes, but that's an 18+ hour round and NOT local. Firestone Walker round trip is 8 hours, NOT local. Russian River round trip is 2.5 hours, LOCAL!

    Obviously since hops can only be grown in certain areas, then the ingredients don't need to be local. Sure it helps, but its not critical.
    LeRose likes this.
  19. marquis

    marquis Crusader (741) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    We have a "Locale" accreditation system here.If a pub is within a certain distance from a brewery the pump carries a Locale badge.
    In urban areas the distance is 20 delivery miles and in sparsely populated rural areas the distance is up to 30 miles.
    Jacobob10, Hanglow, FonyBones and 3 others like this.
  20. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (5,239) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
    Supporter Beer Trader

    Living in Wyoming, Casper specifically, any Wyoming brewery that distributes to Casper, I consider local.
    cjgiant and reefer_bob like this.
  21. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Crusader (772) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    When I use the term local I mean a beer brewed in North NJ. (except Budweiser)
    LuskusDelph likes this.
  22. bubseymour

    bubseymour Poo-Bah (2,046) Oct 30, 2010 Maryland
    Beer Trader

    I think drink local really intends to mean "drink Nano".
  23. Scott17Taylor

    Scott17Taylor Meyvn (1,225) Oct 28, 2013 Iowa
    Beer Trader

    I live close to a reasonable sized city, so for me local is anything in Des Moines and the suburbs. I only make the effort because they're local once, and then I only support them if the beer is better than what I can get on the shelves. A lot of the time it is, but some breweries just aren't worth visiting.
    Squire123, drtth and sharpski like this.
  24. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,036) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Supporter Beer Trader

    If breweries like Neshaminy Creek can get beer on our shelves a week old, then they are 'local' enough for me. :grin: That's really what it comes down to, no?
  25. Immortale25

    Immortale25 Poo-Bah (3,020) May 13, 2011 North Carolina
    Beer Trader

    One word: economy. It's about supporting businesses that are local to you so that money stays within your local economy. That is all
    surfcaster, Leebo and Samlover55 like this.
  26. zid

    zid Champion (848) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Beer Trader

    I'll quote @jesskidden from a different thread to save him the trouble :wink: :

  27. alexanderplatz

    alexanderplatz Aspirant (280) Jul 5, 2015 Kentucky
    Beer Trader

    I drink beer from all over. If a local or regional brewery has a great beer, then yeah, it makes it a little more interesting or exciting or cool that it's local or regional. But it's not like I take a vow of drinking local beer and stress over the minutiae of locality.
    rronin and LuskusDelph like this.
  28. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (1,531) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Supporter Subscriber

    To me "local" doesn't have anything to do with where I live. If I am out of state, and I hit a brewery taproom, I call that local. Also, I don't require the ingredients to be locally sourced in order to consider it local.
    dennis3951 and schteve like this.
  29. rgordon

    rgordon Crusader (733) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    Damn. The last 24 beers that I have bought are from Gibb's 100 Brewing just downtown. They have started canning and self-distribute to some key local retailers. Having these great beers in my fridge is something like I have never had before: World class beers, fresh as hell, relatively cheap, and selling and tasting like hotcakes. And I just mention Gibbs! Around here we are very fortunate indeed.
  30. JrGtr

    JrGtr Devotee (400) Apr 13, 2006 Massachusetts

    I think generally that "local" is in the eye of the beholder. Is it in your town? county? State? Region? It can be any of the above and all of them partly depending on where you are. I'm in Massachusetts, which has over 100 breweries currently. Depending on the day, I may consider "local" to be in the eastern part of the state, where I am (say, east of Worcester, for those looking at a map) the full state, or even all of New England. I say that because it's quicker for me to get to Portland, ME, than it is to get to the breweries west of Springfield.
    Even considering if it's all of New England, that;s still a smaller area than some states out west. My uncle lives in northern California (not San Fran northern; like a mile from Oregon northern. Siskiyou County, where he is, has an area the size of Connecticut, but only 50,000 people.
    For him, it's 45 minutes to the center of "town" which has a post office, general store and a few houses. Another hour or so to the nearest supermarket and laundromat. What is "local" to that kind of area?
    I appreciate when a "local" brewer uses "local" ingredients, but of course that's not always possible. We have Valley Malting here in Mass, but I don't know where they get their barley and what percentage is from nearby. There aren't enough hop farms nearby to keep one brewery stocked, much less all the IPA-centric ones around here. Some styles demand ingredients from elsewhere, like noble hop varieties, or different malts not available here.
    JMFBOSTON likes this.
  31. Dravin

    Dravin Disciple (384) Apr 27, 2014 Indiana

    I'm not really into the whole admonition to drink local. My philosophy is to drink quality (of which freshness is a factor), and while it's true I mostly drink local when it comes to actually visiting a brewery that's because of pragmatic reasons; Mills River, NC is a lot longer drive than Speedway, IN. When it comes to buying bottles at a shop while local places have the potential to have fresher beer than the out of towners or out of staters depending on the shop and distribution that may or may not actually be true.
  32. nc41

    nc41 Meyvn (1,483) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Beer Trader

    Depends on where you live. Local to me is Asheville which is 3 1/2 hours away, and Raleigh about an hour. We get fresh deliveries every week , most weeks I can get 10 day old hoppy stuff from 2-3 different breweries, sometimes more.
  33. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,307) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    I agree with the points in your reply, except number 9. I have been to Munich and Austin in the last years time. I would rate Augustiner higher than the best from Austin, Live Oak and ABGB. The Munich breweries are known for the technical expertise, and it shows in their beers.
  34. jageraholic

    jageraholic Disciple (394) Sep 16, 2009 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    I gladly drink local if its the same or better quality as regional beers that I can easily find. Local to me I consider New England brews. I'm in Western Mass and the best hyper local beers are in 1.5 hour radius. Nothing much closer that is better quality.
  35. Hoppsbabo

    Hoppsbabo Champion (810) Jan 29, 2012 United Kingdom (England)

    20 mile radius.
  36. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Crusader (772) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    I agree with that.
    TongoRad likes this.
  37. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Crusader (772) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    I agree with that also. Terroir makes sense for wine but not for beer.
    LuskusDelph likes this.
  38. Hopsonhops

    Hopsonhops Initiate (116) Sep 13, 2017 New York

    Drinking local in ny cost too much money. at 20 bucks a four pack of 16 oz can compared to lagunitas that i can find for 9.99 a 6 pack or 15.99 a 12 pack... Drinking local is all hype buddies
    VABA likes this.
  39. Hopsonhops

    Hopsonhops Initiate (116) Sep 13, 2017 New York

    I can drink alpine, green flash, and lagunitas all day and they are reasonable priced and convenient to find while not being local
    VABA likes this.
  40. Leebo

    Leebo Initiate (148) Feb 7, 2013 Massachusetts

    For some beers yes. Look at Allagash and others that use coolships. Plus local water and local fruits. They make one that uses ingredients from all 16 counties in Maine.
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