Reporter’s Notebook: Small Brewers with a Big Stake in Beer

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“Local” means all sorts of things to people.

When it comes to locally-made goods, it could be from your neighborhood, your city, your county or your state. It could be anything within a 50-mile radius. Or even 100 miles.

No matter what your personal definition may be, one inarguable fact is that small brewers making local beer are a big deal these days.

In April, I shared some behind-the-scenes photos and info about Bear Creek Brews, a tiny professional brewery situated on 38 acres of forest in Bear Creek, NC. Kegs and bottles produced at Bear Creek are sold quickly at just a few bars and restaurants in neighboring towns, delivered by owner and brewer Dave Peters. It’s beer made and sold within roughly 20 miles and has earned Dave a strong relationship with beer drinkers in his community.

bear creek brews-office
The office at Bear Creek Brews. See other photos and learn more in this post.

Today, Bear Creek Brews is part of a story you can now read online from All About Beer, in which I explore the role nanobreweries play in today’s beer industry.

At the end of 2014, the Brewers Association estimated nearly 3,500 American breweries – they’re currently opening at a rate of almost two a day. Given the sheer volume of businesses, you can imagine that the idea of serving and focusing on the immediate, local community is becoming more important, which is one of the reasons I was interested in writing this story.

We often hear about the “beer bubble” and hitting saturation points for the amount of breweries and beer we can handle, but from my prospective, it’s an entirely local proposition. If a business wants to start and stay small, which offers a variety of benefits, then perhaps it’s easier to handle a greater number of breweries. Maybe we’re just shifting back to a pre-Prohibition culture, where breweries and bars were very much a neighborhood thing.

In my reporting for a different story, I came across Steve Chernoski, a beer enthusiast who lives in Lambertville, NJ. He set a personal goal in 2015 to only drink beer made within 250 miles of his home or wherever he may be vacationing with his wife. He wanted to do it to support local economies, shrink his carbon footprint and highlight the benefit of what local businesses have to offer.

“Of the independent hometown brewers I’ve meet, many of them see themselves as stewards of the community,” Steve said. “A place for ideas to be born and for good vibes in the towns.”

Which is a mindset I’ve increasingly seen not just from people drinking beer, but from those who are making it as well.

As the beer industry grows and evolves, the idea of “local,” in terms of personal connection and literal production, seems poised to play a more important role. Which is why I’m excited to have a front row seat for the rise of the little guys.

Read my All About Beer story about nanorbreweries here.

Related: North Carolina’s Smallest Brewery

Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac


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