A Few Words on … staying local

local collage

I love beer, but I also love the cultural and historical aspects of the drink. The somewhat “new” movement to make and drink locally isn’t new at all. It’s actually infused in the history of beer, from the inns of Rome to the pubs of Great Britain to the taverns of colonial America. From the get-go, beer and other spirits were made locally and drank locally, even before all the crafty vs. craft silliness.

Local beer isn’t just a new fad, it’s a fundamental aspect of the history of the drink we love so much. It’s what makes the effort of Matt over at Review Brews to drink only local beer for a calendar year pretty damn cool.

So while drinkers around the country and world may clamor to local options now, the “drink local” movement is ingrained in the idea of sharing a pint in the first place. This makes our efforts today even more special, taking beer drinkers back to their roots of celebrating with neighbors and community members. These are reasons I’ve really enjoyed the exponential growth of breweries and brewpubs here in North Carolina, where it’s suddenly much easier to find that special, neighborhood pint. Recently, I’ve been able to do just that.

What’s so special about local beer? Let’s hit the jump and find out.

Mystery Brewing's White Tiger
Mystery Brewing’s White Tiger

Here in North Carolina, Mystery Brewing has become one of my favorite local choices. But, the beauty of their beer doesn’t end there. The company recently released a one-off batch called White Tiger to benefit – you guessed it – a local charity. Why is this special? Because while local beer offers a means to bring people to one spot, something like this emphasizes the importance of that action. It showcases the camaraderie not just between the creators and consumers, but why it’s important for there to be community in the first place. People helping people.

White Tiger up close
White Tiger up close

As for the beer? The pale ale-wit beer hybrid was something special. A heavy dose of carbonation emphasized summer-like esters of banana, tropical fruit and a touch of clove. There was lots of lemon zest freshness to help aromas of pepper and cardamom really pop, all coming together to create a great floral bouquet.

Like Mystery Brewing, Fullsteam Brewery is no stranger to the idea of local. They use local ingredients, often foraged by local residents. It’s a pretty impressive list, especially when you consider the brewery is still young as a business. They don’t sacrifice the ideals of brewing locally and helping local people out at the risk of saving some money:

Our mission is to craft a Southern Beer Economy, supporting local farmers, neighborhood foragers, and agricultural entrepreneurs through the act of commerce. We don’t buy local because it’s trendy. We buy local because Southern ingredients give our beer distinct character and the act of local commerce creates jobs and wealth for North Carolina farmers and food producers.

photo(1)One of their recent locally-crafted offerings is Fruitcake … The Beer, which used locally foraged figs and chestnuts which were also roasted locally. Aged in bourbon barrels, the sweetness of the figs and earthy flavors of chestnuts were able to cut through the liquor heat just enough to make this a perfect holiday beer – tinted a Christmas amber/red color, no less.

But of course, my favorite aspect of local beer is not the brew itself. It’s the amount of pride associated with having that beer come from a local business run by local people you may just know. When The Missus and I have visitors from out of town, the first thing we do is show off our favorite local bars and restaurants that serve food and drink made from local ingredients and crafted right here in Durham. It’s exciting to saddle up at the bar for the first time with a friend and gush at how great it is to have local options that continually innovate and blow you away with quality products.

This is not necessarily something you can get from going macro in your beer choices. This is something special. This is a sense of community.

After all, that’s what beer is all about, right?

+Bryan Roth


9 thoughts on “A Few Words on … staying local

  1. You’re spot on about the history of beer being local. Back in the 1800s you couldn’t keep beer cold enough during transport. AB was the first to develop and exploit that hence their initial success before and after prohibition.

    This may surprise many but Cincinnati has a booming local craft scene with, I think we’re up to, 13 breweries including the largest Sam Adam’s distribution plant in the country. Like you said it’s great to be able to bring out of town visitors to a local brewery and have them sample great stuff they can’t get anywhere else.

    1. One of things that always fascinated me about British beer history was the brewery-owned pubs that popped up everywhere, giving few options of quantity, but lots of quality in creating community.

      I’m enthused that this kind of thing is coming back, although in a much different way. Especially in Cincy.


  2. Mystery Brewing is a mystery to us in charlotte. We have heard of it, but don’t know where it is from… nor is it widely found.

    1. Looks like you can find it at a few Charlotte locations: http://www.mysterybrewing.com/our-beer/find-our-beer/

      Although, that certainly means it might be hit-or-miss about regular availability. Definitely worth the search, though! Fullsteam, too.

      Cheers and happy New Year’s!

  3. You have been a prolific poster lately. Despite my hardened capitalist exterior, I have to admit my soft spot for local, small business. That Fullsteam Fruitcake sounds really freaking good.

    A new brewery, Bluejacket, is opening up in SE DC that will be mainly saisons and wild stuff. They have been doing collaborations with other breweries until they get up and running, but they already have a “sidewalk series” where they use ingredients foraged from DC. There are of course a number of DC essences that I am assuming/hoping they will avoid.

    1. Thanks for the kind words. There’s a couple of new or soon-to-be-new breweries in NC that are following the same saison/wild trend, which strikes me as the new, hip thing for breweries opening in recent months. That, and handlebar mustaches. Can Bluejacket make a handlebar mustache beer?

  4. That was what I loved about England when I hit the Island 12 years ago but now with 50 pubs closing every week, local will be a distant memory.

    I confess as well when an out of towner visits my neck of the woods, I love to play host to my local beer bars and breweries.

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