Session #61: Local Beer

The full title of this month’s ses­sion, host­ed by Hoosier Beer Geek, is What Makes Local Beer Bet­ter? Well, that’s a hard ques­tion to answer, because we don’t always think it is.

If you’re lucky enough to live in a good beer hotspot local beer can be very good indeed. Even when it doesn’t taste good, it can be Good because it is envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly and each pint arrives with a halo of com­mu­ni­ty and a ‘sense of place’.

On the oth­er hand, local­ness can become just anoth­er mar­ket­ing gim­mick to help sell real­ly crap­py beer.

For exam­ple, if we were more cyn­i­cal, we might think that some of Cornwall’s micro­brew­eries were delib­er­ate­ly tar­get­ing the ‘gullible’ tourist mar­ket:

Brew­er: I thought I’d start a brew­ery.
Brewer’s chum: But you only make crap­py home­brew! Hon­est­ly, that last one was undrink­able. And your fermenter’s next to the manure pile.
Brew­er: Don’t wor­ry! All I need to do is put some­thing Cor­nish on the label, say it’s made near a farm, and sell it by the box to cor­ner­shops near camp­sites. The Emmets‘ll lap it up, and by the time they realise how bad it is, they’ll be back in Lon­don.

Some­times, local beer is real­ly about sell­ing the local­i­ty, with the beer as an after­thought. And, of course, the same wheeze is prac­ticed, albeit with more gloss, by some big­ger brew­eries too.

12 thoughts on “Session #61: Local Beer”

    1. It is aston­ish­ing, isn’t it, how awful Doom Bar is and yet how superb almost every­thing else Sharps brew tastes? I’ve come to think I sim­ply *don’t like* Doom Bar – for what­ev­er rea­son (and I think, part­ly, ubiq­ui­ty means it’s in some crap pubs). But I don’t have a down­er on them as, say, I do on GK (where – to go back to anoth­er recent B&B theme – I blame the yeast).

      1. I was speak­ing to Stu­art the oth­er day, he still stands by it as his faourite and I couldn’t prize a “sec­ond-favourite” from him!

  1. Steve – Oh dear! Didn’t mean to sound jad­ed. There are some pret­ty bad “gift shop” brew­eries down here. Also we thought per­haps peo­ple were get­ting bored of our con­stant praise for the Star inn at Crowlas…

  2. I can’t say I have come across this, but liv­ing in Wilt­shire and drink­ing from Oxford to Bris­tol I am prob­a­bly spoilt for choice with “real” local brew­ers

  3. I think I’ve had a cou­ple of local brews that had to have been fer­ment­ed next to a manure pile…or maybe the burn pit. Either way, good point.

  4. And yet, there are some that are just per­fect, with­out real­ly need­ing to be.

    Vis­it­ing the Peaks last year, I was delight­ed with Chatsworth House’s brew­ery Peak Ales. Clas­sic but superbly made and deli­cious best bit­ters and a very good pale. Now they real­ly don’t need to make such an effort (the tourist pound would keep that going no probs) but they are. Hats off.

    A brew­ery that seems to hit a sweet spot of local brand­ing and inno­va­tion is (also Peak coun­try) Bux­ton. Their Axe Edge IPA is one of the best beers I have ever had. A rev­e­la­tion.

    I can think of one brew­ery in par­tic­u­lar that is less than con­vinc­ing, mar­ket­ing itself almost exclu­sive­ly on its locale – Cam­bridge Fel­lows brew­ery (which also might get a cou­ple of (dis)honourable men­tions on Pump­clip Parade).

  5. Peo­ple are get­ting smarter about beer and the good brews seem to sell out ear­ly. Word of mouth trav­els fast my friend.

  6. I’d love to say local beer is bet­ter but it real­ly does depend on where “local” is. If you hap­pen to live near a great brew­er then you’re in luck. The prob­lem is, most times, peo­ple don’t live near a good local brew­er. Not to say they aren’t out there. You just have to find them.

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